Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Colonel's Year in Review

It is one of the things I dislike the most about the end of a year. Everyone of any self-considered importance assaults our awareness with an anthology of annualized review and remembrances. Each brings to us a breathless recap of the momentous events of the ending year, bearing bias and little brains as backup material. And, as a special bonus, each year whose numeration ends in the numeral 9 is proclaimed as the "end of the decade," necessitating a breathlessly brainless and biased recap of the last ten years' "important" events. So we have that to look forward to this year. Never mind that the current decade does not actually end until midnight on the 31st of December 2010...but, that's grist for another post.

Needless to say, those of us with no lives (and that includes the three of you who have absolutely nothing better with which to occupy your senses than to regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon) will have eyes glued to the tube as some windbag (the Colonel knows windbags, being a prominent one his own self) winds down the year/decade with prejudiced recollections, replete with arched eyebrows and disapproving vocal inflection when describing the demise or accomplishment of a productive member of society who happens to be a conservative, or worse, a Republican--and lavishes praise on the "world-changing" impact of deviants like Michael Jackson. The Colonel would have you, instead, consider the year's events as they transpired here aboard Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, situated at the northern end of southern nowhere on the periphery of the middle of nowhere.

The Colonel's Year in Review:

January 1st, 2009. The Colonel awoke clear-minded and relatively pain-free after a good night's rest preceded by a quiet non-alcoholic evening with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda watching Ilidia Batatcha review the most momentous events of 2008.

January 2nd, 2009. In the 73rd playing of Cotton Bowl, and in the last such named post-season match-up to be played in the venerable Cotton Bowl Stadium, the 25th (BCS) ranked Ole Miss Rebels of the vaunted Southeastern Conference defeated the 8th (BCS) ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders of some little known collection of teams out west. In the highest scoring Cotton Bowl in history the Ole Miss Rebels continued their long and storied domination of the aforementioned little known collection of teams out west, having last trounced a team, Oklahoma State, from said little known and lowly regarded conference in the 2003 Cotton Bowl.

January 26th, 2009. The Colonel celebrated the completion of 53 solar revolutions standing hours on end waste deep in a cypress swamp whose liquid foundation hovered barely a quarter degree above the freezing mark on Herr Fahrenheit's scale, in vane hope of contributing to the noble cause of defending the northern end of southern nowhere from the annual mallard reenactment of Sherman's march to the sea. The Colonel has always been a sucker for lost causes...

February 2009. Sucked...

March 2009. Didn't suck so bad...

April 22nd, 2009. The Colonel celebrated Earth Day by harvesting timber aboard Eegeebeegee and turning it, with the help of his brand new personal saw mill, Semper Filet (not to be confused with his pick-up truck Semper Fillit, his trusty tractor, Semper Field, and his dearly departed boat, Semper Fish), into a few board feet of lumber and a prodigious amount of sawdust.

July 4th, 2009. The Colonel commemorated the 146th anniversary of the fall of Vicksburg to Grant and celebrated the 233rd anniversary of the independence declaration of the since-re-United States (see events surrounding the fall of Vicksburg to Grant) by loading the worldly possessions of Number 1 son and his family into the world's largest U-Haul truck and subsequently leading the exodus from bondage in the Scumslime State to freedom in the promised land on the shores of Lake Brenda at the northern end of southern nowhere just west of the middle of nowhere.

July 31st, 2009. The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda celebrated the 33rd anniversary of her marriage to the man of her dreams, the dashing rake, the man, the myth, the legend... The Colonel. The Colonel celebrated said anniversary in much the same way he has celebrated every day since securing his bride in the bonds of holy matrimony--in amazed appreciation of a good and gracious God whose second act of unmerited love toward this colossal sinner was to place the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda athwart the path of my hitherto errant life.

September 18th, 2009. The Colonel returned from a week-long excursion to the Ozarks and declared definitively that he shall never initiate an overnight leave-taking from the comforting confines of Eegeebeegee as long as he shall live...or until the comely and kind-hearted puts her dainty foot down...which ever comes first.

October 6th, 2009. The Colonel celebrated completion of his second favorite person's 4th air-breathing circle round ole Sol. Master Caleb, first of the Gregory men in his generation, is accumulating worldly wisdom at a much more accelerated pace since his escape from the Scumslime State and subsequent arrival at the center of the universe here at the northern end of southern nowhere. The hope of 21st Century Civilization is fast learning the manly arts only practicable in a rural setting. Freedom cannot be truly appreciated until one relieves himself, without fear of neighborly recrimination, at any place of one's own choosing in one's own expansive back yard--for example.

November 10th, 2009. The Colonel celebrated the 234th birthday of his beloved Corps. Many of his fellow Marines celebrated in the midst of combating the enemies of our great republic.

December 7th, 2009. The Colonel celebrated the completion of his third favorite person's 2nd air-breathing trip around the sun. Master Taylor is taking great advantage of the wide open spaces here aboard Eegeebeegee and is fast becoming a race-runner of great renown.

My friends, the Colonel is quite sure that the last few minutes of your life have been spent in frantically bored hope that the next paragraph of this missive would in some small way improve upon the previous. Sorry to disappoint. The Colonel expects that the next year will not fulfill our lofty expectations, as well. Here's hoping I'm wrong.

That, in and of itself, will be a rare event worthy of recollection this time next year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Declare WAR or Bring 'Em Home

First reports indicate that the latest attempt to terrorize the American public by attacking an airliner over the homeland was planned, ordered, and supported by a radical islamist group operating out of Yemen. Sen. Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, assesses the threat thus: "Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war. That's the danger we face." The fact of the matter is that Yemen has been a battleground of the West's cultural war with the islamo-fascists since the last century--the USS Cole was attacked in a Yemeni port in 2000, killing 17 Americans.

The Colonel's personal frustration with this issue is rooted in the strategy (and that is stretching the definition of the word) by which these re-United States and our (ahem) allies have pursued the amorphous "war on terror." Despite W's claim post 9/11 that the battle lines would be drawn clearly between us and those who did not wholeheartedly ally themselves with us in the fight, we have instead flailed against our enemy's tactic in a nearly single-handed, global, force-exhausting game of whack-a-mole and all but ignored the strategic centers of gravity--nation states supporting, at whatever level, the islamo-fascist movement. To use a well-worn war analogy: instead of "making Georgia howl" or "following Lee wherever he goes," as Sherman and Grant correctly attacked the Confederacy's centers of gravity; or threatening (quite convincingly, given the world's largest army and navy being built) Britain with war if they recognized the Confederacy, as the Union did to isolate the South internationally; we have chased individual rebel cavalrymen around the countryside and weakly implored governments harboring islamo-fascists to take actions which are clearly against their interests.

The clear strategic center of gravity of islamo-fascism is Iran, and Iran's ally, Syria. Instead of directly attacking this source of support of terrorists world-wide (Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Fatah, and the list goes on...) we have attempted to "isolate and encircle" Iran with neo-democratic states. The problem with this strategy is that Iran has not sat idly by while we attempted to install one of the weakest forms of government (democratic republics are, by design, weaker than the will of the people in order to protect the people) in the countries on the peripheries of Iran and Syria. Iran has continued to fund and direct the operations of its proxies both in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as world-wide. It's as if we declared war on Japan's naval aviation and kamikaze tactics post 12/7 and conducted single-carrier task force operations primarily focused on eliminating that threat at sea--without ever dropping even one 250 lb bomb on a war materiel producing factory or supporting industrial center on the Japanese home islands. Until we take this fight to Iran, we will not win the war.

We had a golden opportunity dropped into our laps several months ago when the people of Iran took to the streets in opposition to the islamo-fascist clerics running and ruining their great country. We blew it. The Iranian people now know, just as the clerics tell them, that America has gone soft and cannot be depended upon to come to the aid of freedom-seekers.

My friends, we cannot indefinitely fight this "war" as is the plan of the political elite. We will lose it. The American people were "war weary" after only a couple of years of fighting during the Second World War. We are eight years on in this struggle with no end in sight. It is a crime against our people to pour, year after year, our blood and treasure down this rat hole without a clear vision of victory.

Declare WAR and bring our enemy to their knees or bring our soldiers home.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not "Merry"

Twenty years ago the Colonel was serving as the Operations Officer for Battalion Landing Team 1/8, deployed aboard amphibious shipping in the Mediterranean for a six month tour. We were the ground combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and quite literally the tip of the American "presence" spear that has been maintained in that area since just after the Second World War. Twenty years ago this week, several other Marine officers and I were in Israel attending a planning conference for our unit's upcoming training in that country. I had been to Israel before, on Uncle Sam's behalf, but this visit was a surreal experience. While we were keenly aware that it was the Christmas season and that we were spending it away from our families, there was nothing visible in Tel Aviv to remind us.

It was one of my most memorable Christmases, nonetheless.

There were no commercial and/or secular distractions from my Christian beliefs regarding the reason for celebrating the season. No decorated evergreens. No Santa. No Rudolph. No frenzy to buy gifts. But, if one was observant of the countryside (as is this curious geography nut) on the commutes from downtown hotel to rural training areas, one could see people engaged in activities whose technology and technique had not changed for millennia. For this man, it was one of the greatest feelings of nearness to my God that I had ever experienced.

It has been thus for me ever since. The more I resist the will of merchants, family and friends to "get in the Christmas spirit," the closer I draw to Jesus and His will.

At the risk of incurring the wrath, disdain, or even mild displeasure of those of you for whom the cheery greeting means everything to you this time of year, the Colonel does not wish you a "Merry Christmas." Not if by "merry" you mean so absorbed in the giggly, brainless fluff of the season that you find no time for quiet, reverent reflection on the unfathomable love that God showed man with the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son.

Here's wishing you a very reflective Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tea Party Problematics

On this date in 1773, the colonial caper known as the "Boston Tea Party" took place in Boston Harbor. The event has reverberated through the years as "Americans objecting to taxation without representation." The truth is a lot more complicated and a lot less noble.

In truth, taxes levied on the British Colonies in America by the British Parliament did indeed raise the question of "taxation without representation." According to the British Constitution, British subjects could not be taxed without the consent of their elected representatives in Parliament. Since the British colonists in America did not vote for, nor have, representation in Parliament, political rabble-rousers in the colonies argued, with increasing vociferation, that Parliament's taxation of the Colonies, such as was the case with the Stamp Act, was "unconstitutional." In response to the outcry from the Colonials, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1765 but maintained, in the Declaratory Act of 1766, that they had the right to raise revenue in the colonies. The irony is that any of the taxation Parliament attempted to impose on the American colonies was much less of a tax burden than that paid by citizens back in the British Isles.

Even more ironic is that the "Boston Tea Party" was in fact a reaction to lowered taxes on tea imported to Britain and then exported to America by the East India Company. British law, in granting a virtual monopoly on the British tea trade, required the East India Company to bring the tea to Britain first (in order to be taxed) and then auction the tea to middlemen who then shipped it to America. The taxes imposed and the cost incurred to make this indirect delivery to the colonies in America, meant that the Dutch could smuggle (a costly enterprise, considering the risks of confronting Britain's naval patrols) tea into American (as well as Britain's) ports and sell it much more cheaply than could the East India Company. When Parliament's Tea Act of 1773 reduced the taxes to undercut the Dutch smugglers and eliminated the requirement to auction the tea to middlemen, it directly impacted on the profits of American merchants who sold the smuggled tea. And, many merchants who had heretofore legally sold East India Company tea, were not given consignee commissions by the East India Company which could now ship its tea to America on its own right.

It was, therefore, a coalition of political rabble-rousers and undercut merchants that spawned protests against the new tea system, even though it meant that the people could now enjoy their cherished tea much more cheaply than before. Coercion--the threat of great bodily harm that was becoming an American talent--caused most of the East India Company consignees to resign their commissions and most of the tea sent to the Americas in 1773 returned to Britain in the ships whence it had come. Except, that is, for the three ships bearing tea to Boston. Seems the governor of the Massachusetts colony, whose two sons just so happened to possess East India Company tea consignee commissions, was not a man to back down in the face of threats. While every other colony's consignees had resigned their commissions, Governor Hutchinson's sons did not, and three ships bearing tea were tied up in Boston Harbor by the middle of December amid a standoff between the governor and colonists who refused to allow the tea to be unloaded.

British law allowed customs officials to confiscate cargoes for which import duties had not been paid within 20 days of arriving in port. When the first tea-bearing ship, the Dartmouth, arrived in Boston in late November, the local cabal of political rabble-rousers and undercut merchants called a mass protest meeting at which chief political rabble-rouser Samuel Adams led passage of a resolution calling for the Dartmouth's captain to return his ship and cargo to England. This impromptu congress also assigned a guard to prevented unloading of the Dartmouth, and Governor Hutchinson refused to allow the Dartmouth to leave Boston and return to England. With the deadline for paying the import duties looming and the possibility of custom officials seizing the Dartmouth's cargo, Samuel Adams was rousing the rabble at another meeting of the people on the evening of the 16th of December. At the end of the meeting, a group of men, the immediate impetus for whose actions is lost to history, disguised themselves as Native Americans, boarded the Dartmouth and two other vessels that had recently arrived bearing tea, and dumped all of the ships' tea cargo into the water.

We Americans point proudly to the "Boston Tea Party" as one of the seminal events in our revolution against British "tyranny." Many of us are invoking the event's remembrance in our protest against the current fiscal irresponsibility of our federal government's elected leadership. I'm okay with that. But, just know that no revolution, war, nor any other political movement is as pure in motive as our idealistic recollection of it years later.

Revolutions are bloody, divisive affairs. Perhaps it is better to ease our collective conscience with selective memory and revisionist remembrance.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Explosive Pride of Narcissism

One hundred and thirteen years ago today, Alfred Nobel died. Today, his mortal remains set a new grave-spinning speed world record. On the fifth anniversary of their benefactor's death, the first Nobel Prizes for accomplishments in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace were awarded. Upon his death, Alfred Nobel, perfecter of the use of nitroglycerin, inventor of dynamite and the blasting cap, and, paradoxically, an avowed pacifist, bequeathed a fund from which monetary prizes would be awarded "...to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." Nobel's Peace Prize, decided upon by a committee chosen by the Norwegian Parliament, was to be awarded to "...the person who has done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

Our young President was chosen for the Peace Prize, presumably, for his speeches. He has done nothing else of substance to merit the award. Even Jimmy Carter, as misguided in his decision-making and prone to pompous pronouncements as any President in the history of the Republic, has a resume of accomplishments (if mostly unmitigated disasters; with the one exception being his work with Habitat for Humanity) upon which one could deliberate for the purpose of such an award. President Obama has speeches.

Seems to the Colonel that President Obama could have boosted his stock enormously among adults by laughing off (and declining) the Peace Prize. He would have demonstrated that he "got it." Instead, he showed that he wanted it.

Therein lies the measure of a man.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Last Legal War

Sixty-eight years ago today the Congress of the United States fulfilled its duty under the Constitution and declared war on the Empire of Japan. It has shirked that duty ever since.

On December 8th, 1941, President Roosevelt addressed the Congress for only ten minutes. With the rest of the nation listening by radio, Roosevelt declared that the previous day's date would "live in infamy" and called Japan's strike against Pearl Harbor a deliberate, premeditated act of war. His request for a formal declaration of war by the Congress was agreed to by every member of that body, save for a lone pacifist dissenter who presumably voted his principles and did not really believe that the United States should not respond with force against the Pacific expansionists threatening our Pacific expansionism.

While the Colonel is tempted to glaze the eyeballs of you three gentle readers whose lives contain so few pressing matters that wasting time plodding through this pedantic post is of no consequence, we will dispense with the history lesson describing the geo-political tidal forces and American interventionism that alternately encouraged and then condemned Japanese self-assertion in the Orient. Suffice it to say that the Japanese leadership didn't wake up on the wrong side of their futons in late November of 1941 and launch the carrier strike force toward the Sandwich Islands on a sake-induced hung-over whim. I'm not trying to justify their actions, any more than I would attempt to justify Hitler's, Stalin's, Mao's, Johnson's, or bin Laden's. It is just important to understand that no geo-political action, no matter how heinous, spontaneously occurs independent of other factors. The only vacuums in international politics occur in the brain-housing groups of those who believe that bad actors are always "unprovoked."

However, the point of this missive is that in every instance of the use of American military power since 1945, the Congress of the United States has been negligent in the disregard of its Constitutional duty. Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution places the responsibility of authorizing and paying for war squarely on the shoulders of the Congress. The Executive Branch may have responsibility for execution of military operations to accomplish a national strategy, but it is the Congress’ role to declare that a state of war exists between the United States and another state (or non-state) entity. In this regard, Congress has been woefully remiss in its duty for nearly seven decades. In 1950, President Truman committed American forces to full scale military operations without a formal declaration of war. President Johnson did the same in Vietnam beginning in 1964. Following the Vietnam conflict, force “authorization” for which the Congress passed the unconstitutional Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Congress sought to limit a future President’s use of military force with the cumbersome and impractical (not to mention, unnecessary) War Powers Resolution, which accomplished both an unconstitutional abrogation of Congress’ responsibilities and an unconstitutional infringement on the Executive Branch’s powers. The unconstitutional resolutions “authorizing” force against Iraq in 1990 and 2003 are further cases in point regarding a cowardly Congress bowing to an over-reaching Executive for the sake of re-election.

The Colonel would not have you think that the use of force in Korea, Vietnam, and against Iraq were not in the nation’s security interests. While cogent arguments can be made on both sides of that issue, the point is regardless the efficacy of the “vital national interest argument” in a given instance, our Constitution, and the will of its Framers, is quite clear regarding the way our nation may legally go to war. The Constitution, in Article I, gives the Congress the express authority “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…” Absent Congress’ formal declaration of war, the use of offensive military force by the Executive is unconstitutional—therefore illegal, and grounds for impeachment.

The constitutional remedy for congressional constitutional malpractice is, in our democratic republic, vested in the hands of the people via the ballot. The Colonel not-so-humbly suggests we use our power accordingly at the earliest opportunity, and every one thereafter.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Flag Flap

The Colonel has never been flippant about flying the flag of these re-United States. From the long distant past of my childhood to the halcyon days of my young adulthood, I was at the receiving end of prodigious pedantry from members of a generation for whom veneration of our flag was one of the most sacred rituals of our nation's patriotic religion. Some of the most fervent posterior gnawings ever aimed my way were as a result of very slight procedural errors regarding the escort or display of The Colors. Since that early education at the hands of men who knew, I have always been mindful that for over two centuries young men and women have willingly given their lives for the freedoms and principles of the nation for which that flag stood.

Comes to the Colonel's attention this morning, this case: http://www.wtvr.com/news/wtvr-veteran-flagpole,0,2550197.story

Seems that a hero of our nation has trespassed upon the supreme authority of some power-mad home owner association president in a Henrico County, VA community. How dare Colonel Barfoot, recipient of the nation's highest recognition for battlefield valor, presume to flout the sensibility-protecting strictures against flag poles in front yards! He is permitted by the subdivision's supreme authority to display his flag in the manner prescribed for any and all other affinities--such as a banner representing a school or season. As if our nation's symbol should be equated with a square of cloth bearing the likeness of a pumpkin, hanging from a unobtrusive short pole, slanted from the front porch!

Colonel Barfoot knows whereof he speaks when he says, as quoted in the article linked above, that most people nowadays fly the flag incorrectly and disrespectfully. Most Americans have no earthly clue that the methods and manner proscribed for displaying the flag of the United States carry the weight of law, under United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10. Most Americans don't know even the basics of caring for and presenting The Colors. For example, did you know that the flag is never flown after sunset unless fully illuminated by a dedicated light source?

Colonel Barfoot should have known better than to move into a subdivision wherein his patriotism would be subject to the supreme authority of the homeowners' association. If he would like, he is more than welcome to build a home on an acre of the Colonel's spread here at the northern end of southern nowhere.

I'll even put the flagpole up for him.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Happy Birthday, Monroe Doctrine!

"Mind your own business and I'll keep my nose out of yours." This distinctly American notion, although increasingly out of practice in our scandal-driven, media circus world, has its own geo-political body of doctrine for which the principle is the spine.

On this date in 1823, during his seventh annual address to Congress, President James Monroe declared what became known as "The Monroe Doctrine" -- a set of principles for international relations, half of which was to guide the formulation of United States foreign policy for the better part of the next two centuries. Drafted primarily by future President, then Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, the policy arose from American concerns about attempts by European powers to reassert their political and commercial interests in the Western Hemisphere in general, and in territories adjacent to the nascent United States, in particular. While the nations at whose western hemispheric "meddling" the Monroe Doctrine was aimed paid scant attention to the upstart post-colonial country's declaration (we had no Navy or Army of any substance with which to enforce the doctrine), North Americans seized on the notion that the Americas, and the vast resources and space therein, were theirs for the taking and everybody else should steer clear.

What gets little attention in the Monroe Doctrine, is the other side of the coin. American presidents for the next 150 years, invoked the hemispheric non-intervention principle of the doctrine to justify the United States' actions in our hemisphere, from territorial expansion to self-defense to police actions to containment of communism. However, as Adams saw it, the Monroe Doctrine was actually a quid pro quo pronouncement that the United States would keep its nose out of European affairs if the Europeans would stay out of American affairs. From the standpoint of most European powers this was a laughable proposition--the United States was seen as a fractious collection of backward bumpkins; hardly a threat; and almost certainly to dissolve into several even weaker regional entities when the democratic republic experiment foundered. Were it not for Great Britain's tacit acceptance and enforcement (she had the world's preeminent Navy with which to do so), the doctrine would have been easily broached by any number of powers, including Spain, France, and Russia (who had designs on a frozen extension of Siberia--but for a small strait--in the far Northwest).

Up until just before the end of the century, the United States did indeed follow the isolationist strictures of the Monroe Doctrine. Then, the opportunity arose to invoke the doctrine against, and take advantage of, a weakened Spain. By the time the dust settled at the end of 1898, the re-United States were not only masters of the predominance of North America but were also in possession of colonies nearby in the Caribbean and way off to the west in the Pacific. It was becoming hard to maintain a straight face in our isolationist pronouncements and our condemnation of colonialism.

But, we persisted. Until 1917. But that's another story.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Constitutional Machinery vs Congressional Machinations

Never forget that a congress is first and foremost a political animal. While some members of a congress may place the people above their politics, and their country before their caucus, collective congresses will nearly always put priority on the accumulation and maintenance of political power. It has been so for the entire history of these re-United States.

On this day in 1824, the Congress of the United States, precisely following the Constitution's 12th Amendment, selected John Quincy Adams as the next President of the United States. It was an operational test of modifications made to the new American machine of government and it worked like a charm--for the party in power.

The 12th Amendment to the United States' Constitution, proposed by the Congress in December of 1803 and ratified by the requisite number of the States in June of 1804, corrected a couple of perceived "flaws" in the way Article II of the original constitution proscribed election of the President and Vice President via the Electoral College. Prior to the 12th Amendment; Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 provided that representatives from each State in the Electoral College, would each cast two votes for a candidate for President with the stipulation that the two could not be inhabitants of the same State. The candidate receiving a majority of the votes of the electors would be President, the next highest vote-getter would be Vice President. No majority vote was required for election of the Vice President; ties were decided by the Senate. If no presidential candidate received a majority of the votes cast by the Electoral College, Article II empowered the House of Representatives to choose the next President, from among the top five vote-getters.

One of the "flaws" in this original system was that if each member of the Electoral College voted a strict Party line, there would be a tie between the two candidates from the most popular ticket. This occurred in 1800 when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr of the Democratic-Republican (I kid thee not) party each received 73 electoral votes (against the Federalists' John Adams' 64 and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney's 63). The Democratic-Republicans bungled a plan to have one of the Electors abstain on one Burr vote thereby giving Jefferson the majority needed to be elected President. History does not record which elector failed to get or comply with the Abstention Memo. The election then went to the Congress of the United States to decide--the outgoing Federalist dominated Congress. Jefferson was the Federalists' greatest political opponent, and the Federalists in Congress voted for the more palatable and less hated Burr instead of Jefferson. The first ballot, and next thirty-four, were exactly the same. Eight states for Jefferson, six for Burr. There were sixteen States and the Constitution called for a simple majority (not plurality)--nine, in this case--to win.

Oh, and here's where it gets really salacious. Alexander Hamilton, Washington's closest aide in the Revolutionary War and greatest champion of the Federalist cause during the push to replace the Articles of Confederation with the new Federal Constitution, was a close friend of Jefferson's and an antagonist of Burr's. Hamilton, although a Federalist, campaigned vociferously for Jefferson in the halls of congress during the marathon congressional version of the movie Groundhog Day. Hamilton supported Jefferson because he was "by far not so dangerous a man" as Burr. Hamilton's animus against Burr was evidently rooted in Burr's defeat of Hamilton's father-in-law in the 1791 U.S. Senate seat race in New York. Hamilton's exertions against Burr successfully changed one Federalist vote from Burr to Jefferson on the House's 36th ballot and Jefferson was elected President. Turns out Burr was indeed a dangerous man with a long, unforgiving memory. Vice President Burr killed Hamilton in a duel on July 11th, 1804.

The other "flaw" in the original Electoral College process was the fact that the top two vote-getters for President would most likely have campaigned against each other as political rivals, even if nominally from the same party. An unscrupulous politician (excuse the redundancy) so elected as Vice President could easily undermine policies of the President or even be tempted to engineer a coup de tat to oust and replace the elected President. The Republican Jefferson had found himself in just such a position of opposition when he had been elected as the Federalist Adams' vice president in 1796. The Twelfth Amendment, by providing for the election of the President and Vice President as a combined party ticket, theoretically at least, eliminated this possibility.

Which brings us to the Presidential Election of 1824. When Federalist John Quincy Adams (son of the second President), populist Democrat Andrew Jackson (the hero of the Battle of New Orleans), Georgia's William Crawford, and Kentucky's Henry Clay (and Speaker of the House), all failed to garner the necessary majority of the votes of the Electoral College, the newly adopted Twelfth Amendment came into play:

"The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice...," and "...The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President..."

In plain Murican: If no candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives picks the President from among the top three vote-getters for President, and the Senate picks the Vice President from among the top two vote-getting VP candidates. Interestingly, there is no requirement for consideration of party or ticket. So, in a case where different parties controlled the House and Senate, a President and Vice President could, in theory, be elected from different parties. Imagine, if you will: President Obama and Vice President Palin... In fact, such a dilemma very nearly could have arisen in 1992, when early on (before Ross Perot exposed himself as the whack-job that he is) it looked like there would a be a possibility of none of the three tickets (Bush-Quayle, Clinton-Gore, and Perot-Stockdale) winning a majority of the Electoral College vote. With the House then in the hands of the Democrats and the Senate majority held by the Republicans, all kinds of strange combinations can be imagined to have resulted!

In the 1824 presidential election, Andrew Jackson garnered 99 electoral votes. John Quincy Adams got 84. One hundred and thirty-one was the number of a majority and so the 12th Amendment was invoked.

And, here's where it gets salacious, again. Jackson was a visceral and vocal opponent of many of the Federal institutions created over the first couple of decades by the Federalists (Washington, Hamilton, et, al.). He was a popular military hero and feared by the establishment. Henry Clay, whose votes in the Electoral College had prevented either Adams or Jackson from getting a majority, threw his weight (he was Speaker of the House, remember) behind Adams and convinced the House to elect Adams over Jackson, in contravention of the will of a majority of the people of the United States. Clay was rewarded for this act by appointment as Adam's Secretary of State.

Congresses always act in their own interests. Important point to remember as the Health Care Reform debate swirls.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Economic Electrons

Today is Cyber Monday. This productivity-sapping, at-work, on-line Christmas shopping day rivals Black Friday in the lemming-like behaviour of humans swept up in the holiday shopping frenzy and rushing over the cliffs of rampant, credit-fueled consumerism. By the time this post joins the crowd of trons taxing bandwidth, on-line retailers will have a good idea whether this holiday shopping season will be a successful one for them, and economists will have a good feel for whether our spending will boost the economy, or if we'll be mired in a moribund recovery. I'm betting on the latter. It's not that I want the recovery to be a slow, painful experience. I'm just a student of history, and history tells us that consumer-driven commodity/asset bubbles drive recoveries. Unfortunately, the soap-slick on the deck from the popped housing and credit bubbles is going to make getting back on our feet much, much harder this time around.

The Colonel is, as may surprise many of you (at least two of the three of you who regularly subject yourselves to rod and cone wastage perusing posts hereon), a huge fan of the electronic technology that allows me to sit here at my computer and do my shopping. No need to subject myself to the sanity-testing inanity of parking lot bumper cars and shopping cart traffic jams. No need to stand in line at the cashier behind a crowd of teenagers whose vocabulary is restricted to the words "like," "dude," and "I'm all." No screaming snot-nosed miscreants announcing their parents' inability to grasp even the most rudimentary elements of imposing their will on a child and instilling a modicum of discipline. No slack-jawed, dull-eyed, un-caring cashiers dumping my treasures in flimsy plastic bags, one per bag, until a modestly-numbered list of purchased items swells in crinkly crush to fill an entire shopping cart with land-fill bound, petroleum-based baggage and packaging.

The Colonel is content to test the claims of Life Lock and and answer the question: "What can brown do for you?" When the rumble of a delivery truck up my gravel drive announces the arrival of my cyber-bought booty, I might even put on some clothes and go out and meet the man in the van.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bloody Betio

It was an unnecessary battle that had to be fought, in a necessary war that needn't have been. The vengeful victors of the Great War imposed a punishing treaty on Germany in 1919 and one of the punishments was to strip Germany of its colonial possessions in the Pacific. Japan filled the colonial vacuum and occupied islands and atolls across the western Central Pacific. One of these was Betio in the Tarawa Atoll. In the run-up to its war with America, Japan began to heavily fortify its ring of protective islands and Betio was such a bulwark in this maritime Maginot Line that the Japanese commander boasted that it would take a "million men a thousand years" to wrest the speck of coral from him.

Thirty-five thousand Americans, the Second Marine Division and elements of the Army's 27th Division, commenced their assault on Betio sixty-six years ago this morning and took just 76 hours to secure the island. The cost was horrific. A thousand Marines died at Tarawa. Nearly 700 US sailors died ferrying the Marines ashore. Of the Japanese garrison, only 100 were taken prisoner.

After the war, the commander of the invasion force, Lt Gen Holland M "Howling Mad" Smith, wrote the following about the battle in his controversial memoir "Coral and Brass":

"Was Tarawa worth it?" "My answer is unqualified: No. From the very beginning the decision of the Joint Chiefs to seize Tarawa was a mistake and from their initial mistake grew the terrible drama of errors, errors of omission rather than commission, resulting in these needless casualties." [We] should have let Tarawa 'wither on the vine.' We could have kept it neutralized from our bases on Baker Island, to the east, and the Ellice and Phoenix Islands, a short distance to the southeast."

The assault on Tarawa was the first truly opposed landing by American forces on Japanese held territory. A year earlier, at Guadalcanal, the First Marine Division had caught the Japanese by surprise and landed unopposed to seize the airfield on that vital island astride the sea line of communication north of Australia. If the ensuing series of bitter battles on that island spelled the end of Japan's march south in the Pacific, the taking of the Tarawa Atoll signalled the beginning of America's march westward across the Pacific to bring the war to Japan. While Tarawa may not have been strategically important from a location standpoint (Smith's point above), the assault itself provided enormously important tactical and operational lessons that paved the way for successful amphibious assaults against fortified defenses in both the Pacific and European Theaters over the remaining two years of the war.

The Colonel joined the Second Marine Division in January of 1979, thirty-five years after the blood-bath on the beaches of Betio. As I sat in the passageway outside the office of the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Marine Regiment, waiting on my opporturnity to report in to my first operational assignment as a Marine, I had time to scan the paintings, plaques, and pictures on the bulkheads. Opposite me was a painting of Marines wading ashore at Tarawa. I was overwhelmed, and am still awe-struck, by the bravery of those men who waded into the meat-grinder on the beaches of Betio.
Throughout my time on active duty as a Marine, the thought was never far from my mind that, as General Lejeune wrote in 1921, before the heroics and sacrifices of the Second World War, "In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term Marine has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue. This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps."

Not many of the survivors of the battle for Tarawa are still with us. And, true to the virtue of their generation, they would disdain any recognition on this day. All the more reason to give it.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Death Before Bowing

The Colonel has fumed and fussed electronically with friends for several days regarding the image of our President (the democratically elected leader of the greatest nation on the planet) bowing before the hereditary Emperor of Japan, penning explanations of the two century old American tradition of not bowing that arises from our Constitution's explicit prohibitions regarding titles of nobility. But there was something else so fundamentally disturbing about H bowing that I could not put my finger on it. That is until the Colonel's brother wrote, "One can only imagine the feelings of the Greatest Generation as they see him bowing to the emperor of the nation they fought and defeated in the Pacific. And what about the families of those who paid the ultimate price?" Then I knew why the bow bothered me so much.

Excerpt from the account of 2nd Lt. Ben R. Morin, US Army:

"In late March, 1942, Ben and the other [American prisoners of war] were sent to Tarlac. It was there that they came under the control of the Japanese military governor Capt. Tsuneyoshi. He later became the commandant of Camp O'Donnell. The first night at Tarlac, Capt. Tsuneyoshi sent two NCOs into the jail to persuade the POWs to bow. Ben recalled being slugged and beaten. In response to this, the POWs met and decided that it would be best to bow if they hoped to survive. The next morning the POWs bowed to the Japanese. To them, they had achieved a small victory because the Japanese had to use force to make them bow."

Excerpts from "The Watcher," by Peter vanRuyter Schoeffel:

Stratton was all bones, but for a persistent little pot belly. He was so bony he could barely sit or lie down. He could put his thumbs and fingers together in a circle and run them all the way from his ankle to his upper thigh. A half-inch shy of 6 feet tall, 100 pounds. Still, he could get beyond hunger, into some place where the pangs merged into the dull ache of daily existence. But thirst? Three days without water, and you’d kill your grandmother to get hers. In 1967, after some three months of torture, Stratton was photographed at a Hanoi news conference as he bowed deeply to all four corners of the room in front of his captors. The iconic image went around the world. Bowing was a matter of honor to the Vietnamese; a lackluster bow was excuse enough for another round of beating. His bowing, he says, was meant as an exaggerated, cartoonish gesture of defiance. But in America, some wondered if he had been brainwashed, or fallen in with his captors, though those rumors lessened as word of the prisoners’ sufferings leaked out. And upon his release from Vietnam, a wire service reporter wrote that “Stratton’s gaunt, stooped figure and haunted expression” had become “a symbol of the plight of the American POWs.”

Still, the suspicion lingered far longer than that, even as McCain, shortly after his release, took pains to clear Stratton’s name. “He stood up for me when other people were saying things,” Stratton says. “When I was down, people kicking me, he stood up for me, and he didn’t have to. He gained nothing.” As for his captors, Stratton figures most were just doing their job. But every day he sees the thick rope scars they burned into his forearms. His forgiveness knows bounds. “There are two or three, if I saw them today, I’d kill them

The foregoing are but two of tens of thousands of stories from Americans who suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of their captors and yet knew at their very core that to bow was un-American. Untold numbers of Americans were summarily executed by their Imperial Japanese Army captors for their refusal to bow. American prisoners of the North Vietnamese communists, like Stratton above, endured fierce torture before they broke and bowed. When Stratton was trotted out before international visitors to the "Hanoi Hilton" he knew that if he were filmed bowing, it would be an obvious sign back home that the Vietnamese communists were torturing and attempting to brainwash the Americans they held.

Bile rises in the Colonel's throat each time he sees the images of President Obama bowing before Saudi and Japanese royalty. I am personally offended that my representative to the rest of the world is so narcissistic, vain, and pompous that he believes he knows better than the rest of us. His actions are clearly calculated not for American consumption, but for the world's. In a sense that should be the way it is when our president travels abroad.

One wonders what the rest of the world really thinks when Obama abases himself and his country.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Presidential Obsequity

Our president is making the rounds of Asian capitals this week and the first photo the Colonel saw from his sojourn was of H bowing very low before the Japanese Emperor. One wonders if the Saudi king, for whom our president "didn't bow," is miffed at this. Frankly, the Colonel was almost willing to give H a pass on the Saudi bow; chalking it up to a reflexive action reflecting our President's childhood indoctrination in an Indonesian madras. Old habits are hard to break. But, the bow before the Emperor of Japan cannot be explained as anything but a calculated show of deference. The irony is that the Japanese emperor ought to be bowing to American presidents. Were it not for American grace, unprecedented in the history of victorious warring nations, at the end of WWII, the present emperor's father, Hirohito, would have been hanged, as was the fate of his war minister, Tojo.

President Obama's evident disdain for American tradition and time-honored protocol has the Colonel wondering just how far all of this will go. What America-demeaning gesture or self-serving apologetics will be employed in the next capital on his overseas schedule? Having an affable bumbler like our previous president making personally embarrassing gaffs abroad is one thing. Reducing our great nation in the eyes of others just to gain favor is quite another, and constitutionally unacceptable.

The irony of all of this foreign royalty reverence is that it runs diametrically opposed to the egalitarian ideals inherent in socialism and liberalism (if a difference can be discerned between the two). In this is manifest the vacuous nature of the political positions staked out by those on the left. Were liberals true to their ideals, they would be howling in protest at an American president fawning over representatives of the last vestiges of hereditary royalty on the planet. Instead, they will defend the obsequious actions of our president abroad as pragmatic steps to curry favor with peoples whose opinion of us must be softened.

It's enough to drive this old centurion crazy--if he weren't already several rounds short of a full magazine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Hope in Dixie

The inexorable, common sense-sucking gravity of the political correctness black hole pulled another victim past its event horizon this week and the law of unintended consequences is poised to assert itself in response.

The new chancellor at Ole Miss is getting quite an education in his first few months in office. One of the first lessons has been: "Never issue ultimatums to spoiled fraternity boys." Bowing to what the Colonel suspects was very little pressure from a small handful of wadded-panty simps worried that the University's reputation was being adversely effected by the student body chanting "The South will rise again!" at the conclusion of "From Dixie with Love" (an awful admixture of "Dixie" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"), Chancellor Jones warned that if the students persisted in the chant, he would ask the band to stop playing the tune. Need the Colonel tell you how the students reacted?

So, amid a football season that has fallen dramatically from the hyped heights of preseason hope to the near despair of cruel reality, a fresh controversy has bubbled up from the cauldron of resentment and disappointment. And, despite the best intentions of those whose naive wish is for a bland society in which no one's feelings are ever hurt and no one's delicate sensibilities are ever the least bit bruised, there is going to be a whole heap of hurt feelings and bruised sensibilities before this unnecessary brouhaha blows over.

Turns out that Chancellor Jones has a talent for recruiting. The only problem is he is recruiting for those mouth-breathing, pillow case-wearing, pit bull-raising, knuckle-dragging, uneducated, ignorant, village idiot, trailer trash buffoons who march under the banner of the Ku Klux Klan. By drawing attention to an innocuous, if offensive to a small minority, chant, and by making such a public spectacle of banning the song at whose end the chant occurs, Jones has played right into the hands of the sheet-wearers and they have seized on the controversy to grab some free publicity and recruiting air time. The Klan has announced that they will be on campus, in full regalia, for tomorrow's football game against Tennessee and next week's game against LSU. Just what we need.

Not 14 months ago, Ole Miss and Oxford, garnered positive national attention beyond our wildest hopes as we played host to the first presidential debate. As hard as some in the effete, intellectually-challenged yankee liberal media tried to find it, there was none of the un-reconstructed ugliness upon which they had hoped to report. But, this morning the Colonel is certain there is hand-rubbing glee erupting in editorial board rooms from Boston to New York at the prospect of pictures of the Klan marching through the Grove tomorrow morning.

The sad thing is the sentiment behind the chant, "The South will rise again!" was clearly not racially motivated. It was a matter of plain old regional pride. The Colonel knows full well that the simple-minded, sheet-headed, non life-having, eighth grade-educated segregationists use the phrase. They also use the phrase, "God Bless America." Are we going to stop saying that as well?

That is the problem with black holes--once you start feeding one, its appetite becomes insatiable.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day Salute

For over four years, the "Great War" churned the fields of France and claimed the lives of 9 million soldiers and 10 million civilians. At 11 AM "French Time" this date 91 years ago--11 November 1918--an armistice ending the fighting went into effect. As the guns went quiet at the appointed hour, observers at the front reported an unbroken cheer that rose from both the Allied and German trenches and ran the length of the line from the Vosges Mountains to the Baltic Sea. An entire generation of French and German men had been bled white--each of those nations sent nearly 80% of their men between the ages of 18 and 49 to battle. The United States entered the war officially in its last year and suffered nearly 117,000 killed in action.

The next year, November 11, 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." In 1921 Congress passed legislation approving the establishment of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The dedication ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was held on November 11, 1921 and that date was declared a legal Federal holiday to honor all those who participated in the war.

In 1926 Congress resolved that the President should issue an annual proclamation calling for Americans to observe Armistice Day, and in 1938 passed legislation making every 11th of November the legal Federal holiday, Armistice Day. Because the United States Constitution does not grant the Federal government the power to establish national holidays (only holidays for federal workers and the District of Columbia), that right is reserved to the states. However, most states followed the Federal government's lead and declared 11 November a holiday to honor all of the Americans who had fought in the First World War.

With the advent of the hostilities that consumed the world in the late 1930's and early 40's the "Great War" soon lost its claim on greatness and became known as the First World War. During the Second World War, the world's total population was just shy of two billion souls. Total deaths attributable to the war by its end have been estimated to have been somewhere between 62 and 79 million. The United States suffered nearly 417,000 military deaths.

On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the legal federal holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran's Day--a day to honor all U.S. military veterans, separate and distinct from Memorial Day (the much more solemn and important day on which we commemorate the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrificial price for freedom in our nation's wars). In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law making the fourth Monday in October the new date for the observance of Veteran's Day. The new date, which took effect in 1971, was recognized by all of the states except Mississippi and South Dakota. Over the next four years, 26 more states asserted their holiday rights and changed the date of their state observances of Veteran's Day back to the 11th of November. Congress followed suit and passed legislation in 1975 returning the Federal observance of Veteran's Day to November 11 beginning in 1978.

It is appropriate on Veteran's Day to salute, recognize, and remember any American who has honorably served or is serving in the armed forces of the United States. The Colonel wishes to extend particular thanks to three members of his immediate family(SMSGT Vernon Gregory, LTCOL Jack Cannon, and MAJ Bruce Gregory) whose combined career uniformed service to their nation in the United States Air Force totals nearly two thirds of a century.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 10, 1775

Thirty-five years ago the Colonel was introduced to the solemnity and tradition of the celebration of the Marine Corps' birthday. That year it was the 199th anniversary of a resolution in the Continental Congress that "two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines..."

A part of that first ceremony, and every one in which I participated every year thereafter was the reading of General John A. Lejeune's 1921 birthday address to the Corps. There has never been a better summation of what it means to be a Marine. On this the 234th anniversary of the founding of the Corps, the Colonel republishes the 13th Commandant's message below:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term ‘Marine’ has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ since the founding of the Corps

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ascendency Correctness

The Colonel, as the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and anyone who has spent five less- than-quality minutes in my presence will readily attest, is not the least bit sympathetic, empathetic, or sensitive. If you look at the words insensitive and boor in your pictorial dictionary, you will see the Colonel's likeness in the margin. So, I am not at all qualified to opine on the subject of political correctness. But, I won't let that stop me.

For the first three decades of my adult life I had the great fortune to belong to an organization for which my talent for unfeeling actually kept me in good standing. I will not blame the Marine Corps for my character flaws--I had them when I joined. But, while the rest of the population of these re-United States plunged headlong into the idiotic deep-end of the political correctness pool, my comrades in arms and I splashed comfortably in the shallows. You are, in great measure, a product of your environment, and we Marines are a shallow bunch.

I did not fully understand nor appreciate my fortunate membership in the Corps until I spent three para-military years with the Air Force half-way through my military career. Marines approach interpersonal relationships the same way we take on enemies--direct, nose-to-nose, and with language whose color puts rainbows to shame. The first time I had a, what I considered mild, discussion with a fellow instructor at the Air Force's Command and Staff College, I was reported to our senior officer for, I kid thee not, "verbal abuse." The amazing thing was, I was being as conservative in my spoken judgement of my adversary's character as I could possibly be--there were none of the references to illegitimacy or unnatural acts that were mainstays of communication between Marines. Nevertheless, I learned quickly that I was living in a whole new world.

Since I hung up my spurs and took off my uniform (what the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda referred to as my "power suit") six years ago, I have been immersed in the social re-education effort of everyone and anyone who knows and/or loves me. I am reminded to "smile" even when I am having the best time of my life and think that I'm displaying way too much emotion as it is. I am admonished when the directness of my speech has been misinterpreted as "ordering" or "yelling" (I only wish that some of my family could have actually witnessed the Colonel in true form and full throat, so that they would have an accurate data point against which to accuse me of "yelling.")

All of the rant above is prelim to the Colonel's latest beef with the political correctness bent of my alma mater. Over the past couple of decades, the administration at the Harvard of the South (Harvard benefits from a reciprocal agreement which allows them to refer to themselves as the Ole Miss of the North), has systematically dismantled and banned nearly every tradition enjoyed by Rebel fans at ball games. Beauregard's battle flag flies no more, Colonel Reb strides no more, and "Dixie" has been polluted by the admixture of strains of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." All of this to avoid offense to the sensibilities and feelings of others. Okay, I get all of that. But the latest tradition to fall prey to the inescapable gravity of the black hole of political correctness foretells just how far all of this is heading.

At the end of one of the Ole Miss marching band's pre-game songs the music lends itself to the chant "the south shall rise again." And, can you believe it, there are some folks who take offense at that notion. These yankee-sympathizer pinheads cannot, for the life of them, dispel the thought that somehow, someway, the Confederacy, complete with brigades in butternut, will reform and reinstate the institutions for whose abolition the War Between the States was fought a century and a half ago. Never mind that today racial intolerance and enmity is far more pervasive and segregation far more prevalent in Chicago, Boston, and New York than in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Baton Rouge.

Frankly, one need only take a cursory look at the social and economic vibrancy of the New South to see that the South has already risen. What the wadded-panty political correctness crowd can't see or can't accept is that a claim regarding the South's ascendancy is not about return to a race-based society. When the student body chant's the "south will rise again!" it is about PRIDE in a region that has dumped its putrid past in the compost pile and sprouted new growth upon which the fruit of prosperity clings.

Get over it, people. Sheesh!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Archimedes v. Newton

It's raining here, again. However, the clouds that had incessantly drizzled liquid sunshine across the kudzu-clad hills here at the northern end of southern nowhere for the past three months, dissipated long enough this week to allow the gooey clay to solidify back to its confederate concrete consistency and erase the standing excuse the Colonel had leaned on to delay turning a couple of massive southern red oak logs into lumber. Earlier this summer, Semper Field (my trusty red tractor) and I had dragged the two behemoths up to the vicinity of Semper Filet (my trusty orange saw mill). Before I could start wrestling the logs on to the mill, the rains began and the ground in my lumber yard assumed, and maintained for weeks on end, the sort of muddiness through which I slogged more often than I care to recall during my time in the Corps and now slog only on cherished trips to resist the annual waterfowl invasion. So the logs sat there, taunting me--until yesterday.

These particular logs came from two hundreds year-old southern red oaks felled at the back end of my yard two years ago by the tornado that roared through this neck of the woods. They needed some trimming with a chain saw in order to fit on my mill and I sculpted them so that they would roll, as easily as something weighing half a ton will roll, up the ramp to the rails of my mill. Applying a little bit of leverage, and not a little bit of strain on my infantry-ravaged lower back, the Colonel cajoled the first log up and into position. A couple of runs of the saw down the log provided the all-important first flat edge. I then unclamped the log and attempted to spin it, applying the aforementioned combination of leverage and strain, to put the flat edge against the supports on the far side of the mill rails.

Half-ton logs do not spin.

I backed off, pried the log jack pole from the clenched and cramped fingers of my left hand, laid it carefully in its ready position, lightly removed my headgear, and scratched my head thoughtfully with the unafflicted fingers of my right hand. Had you been there to observe this sequence you might have believed that what you saw was the Colonel stomping around flinging pole and hat in widely separated directions at great velocity. You would have been mistaken--every action undertaken was well thought out for the effective period of a nano-second and with the purpose of maintaining extraneous materials at sufficient distance so as to eliminate trip hazards around the mill.

By the time I regained use of the formerly clenched and cramped fingers of my left hand, and recovered my ball cap from its primary ready position twenty feet up in a nearby pine, a solution to my problem had taken root in the amorphous goo lying fallow in the recesses of my brain-housing group. I retrieved my log jack from its primary ready position twenty yards out in the weeds, applied copious amounts of the aforementioned leverage and strain to each end of the log, and moved it, one millimeter at a time, back toward the near side of the mill rails. When satisfied that the log was positioned appropriately, I prepared to roll the log.

For some reason, during the six and a half hours spent millimetering the log into its present position, I had lowered the log supports on the far side of the mill rails. They had probably gotten in my way as I circled the mill applying leverage and strain to each end of the log--can't remember; the excruciating pain in my lower back has the curious effect of inducing amnesia. And since I didn't remember lowering the log supports, I can't possibly be expected to remember to raise them again, now can I?

With a mighty heave and a pain-diminished war cry, that, although meant to sound more like a rebel yell, came out closer to a whimper, I levered the log...and it rolled...and it kept rolling. Had I not been suffering from lower back pain induced amnesia and remembered to raise the log supports that I had forgotten that I had lowered, the log would have rolled nicely into place with the newly-sawed flat side snugly against them. My arms-raised cheer of exultation as the log began to roll, discontinued as the log continued. Unchecked by the aforementioned forgotten and unraised supports, and propelled by a combination of old man umph and Archimedian leverage, the log demonstrated that Newton's first law of motion still governed. The concussion caused by the log's impact with the ground on the far side of the mill separated the Colonel from terra firma by an estimated three inches and set off car alarms as far away as Holly Springs.

The time spent retrieving my log jack and hat from their secondary ready positions provided sufficient opportunity for a thorough after-action review and development of an acceptable course of action for repositioning the log from its resting place alongside the far, and wrong, side of the mill to its appropriate place on the mill rails. For the sake of brevity, said course of action involved rolling the log farther away from the mill, moving the log ramps to the other side, and a reapplication of leverage and strain. Oh, and remembrance of the critical nature of the log supports.

I now have some beautiful oak boards. If it doesn't stop raining, I may be building an ark with them soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Promise Keeper

The Colonel identifies with the middle American frustration explained in this article by Pat Buchanan http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=113463 Contrary to the inciteful blather of the hustlers who keep a race card at the ready up both sleeves, President Obama is fulfilling Dr. King's dream of an America where a man is judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. In this case, H's political character is clearly out of step with the constitutional republican (little r) ideals upon which this nation was founded. Even more frustrating to the Colonel is the fact that our President and his Congress are joined in their disdain for the Constitution by the majority of those who make up the Republican "opposition" in that Congress.

When the Roman Senate, two millenia past, strayed from the principles upon which the Roman Republic was founded, a military man rode a combination of his battle-winning popularity and the Senate's unpopularity to dictatorial power--and Rome's glory, stripped of the principled pride of the people by a succession of despots who pandered to the baser instincts of the masses, faded and contracted until Rome, once the greatest nation on Earth, finally fractured into feeble feudal city states at the mercy of the unchecked invasion of other peoples. The Colonel makes no racist rant here--I am nothing if not a student of the tides of history and the unbroken record of one people sweeping aside and supplanting another. When a nation weakens its resolve in "tolerant" compromise of its founding principles, and attempts accommodation of its trespassing neighbors, that nation loses its very soul. When a nation allows its political leadership to disregard its founding principles in order to alleviate the "suffering" of a current crisis, that nation takes the first (and difficult to reverse) steps toward dictatorship and greater privation.

To scoff at the notion of the possibility of these re-United States falling prey to the dictatorial ambitions of the proverbial "man on horseback" is to turn a blind eye to the multitudinous lessons of history. Rome itself had existed as a democratic republic for twice as long as our nation, with far greater traditions of enlightened governance than ours. And yet, at its zenith, Rome lost sight of its moral compass and fell prey to the pandering promise of increased prosperity--ironic, in that Rome's prosperity had no peer at the time.

Know this: the Colonel's oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," taken long ago in his youth, was not a temporary, conditional promise forsaken with the hanging up of the uniform. An oath is a life-long commitment. I will fight you--self-serving politician or self-proclaimed military messiah--should you decide to disobey our Constitution. No threat intended--I just made a promise I intend to keep.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Frost Foretelling

First frost here this morning. As annoying as it is to have to scrape the stuff off of a windshield, there is something wondrously anticipatory about the first frost of the season. The sight of sunrise over ice crystals for the first time in six months triggers a hard-wired reaction in God's creation. The first frost changes things and changes our outlook. The first frost, and it's accompanying chill, serves to dispel any lingering denial regarding the demise of summer. The first frost tells us it is time to get our winter preparations in high gear.

Oh, I know, you folks up there in enemy territory and out west have been dealing with snow already so having to deal with a little frost is a yawner. But here at the northern end of southern nowhere snow is a very big deal and some winters a heavy frost is as close as we'll get to enjoying a true winter wonderland. From the way the temps have flirted with record lows this fall, however, the Colonel's sneaky suspicion is that Global Warming will take a vacation this year.

Not only has the temperature flamed out faster this fall, but we have been drenched by nearly incessant rains for the past two months. The Colonel is not the brightest bulb in the lamp, but it doesn't take an astrophysicist to realize that connecting the dots on the X axis = moisture, Y axis = temperature graph creates a line that plunges below the blue line labeled "Froz Precip" in the not too distant future.

Frankly, I get all of the cold and white stuff I want by reaching into the freezer for an ice cream sandwich. Several winters in Norway (and visits to Minnesota to train for those winters in Norway) broke me of all fascination with sub-zero temperatures and deep snow. But, while my wattage may be relatively low, the filament that is my cognitive reasoning center remains unbroken and marginally functional enough to illuminate the need to be prepared for the white stuff regardless my disdain for it.

Said preparations include bush-hogging the tall grass that has grown over the slope adjacent to the Big House that accomodated a redneck water slide this summer. Given a snowy covering, that slope should serve quite adequately to introduce the Colonel's grandsons to the joy of sledding.

Let it snow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Boom Day

Twenty-six months previous, a similar aircraft had dropped a world-changing single bomb on, and obliterated, a Japanese city--on this date, sixty-two years ago, a B-29 Super Fortress bomber dropped a winged rocket over a dry-lake bed in Southern California and obliterated a barrier to manned flight.

On board that winged rocket, test-pilot Chuck Yeager felt the gut-wrenching lurch as his craft fell away from the B-29 mother ship. With a flip of a switch, the X-1's rocket engine roared to life and sent the craft zooming to 40, 000 feet and into the record books. Several other test-pilots had timidly approached the speed of sound in similar experimental aircraft, but had backed off as the shock waves at the transonic zone buffeted them and reinforced the belief that an aircraft would be torn apart attempting to pass through the so-called "sound barrier." Yeager, who had conquered fear and 13 Luftwaffe pilots at the controls of a P-51 fighter over World War Two-torn Europe, fearlessly pushed the X-1 up to and past the speed of sound. A sonic boom announced his achievement to those monitoring his flight from the ground.

Yeager's war-time combat heroism and post-war flight test achievements were largely forgotten and eclipsed by the space race that began in earnest a decade later. Although arguably one of the most qualified test pilots in the country, he was not chosen for the budding astronaut program. He completed his career as an Air Force officer in 1975, retiring as a brigadier general.

Chuck Yeager is one, on a short list, of the Colonel's personal heroes. The Colonel, sole arbiter and exclusive authority in such matters here aboard Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, situated at the northern end of southern nowhere, does hereby declare this day, the 14th of October, Yeager Day.

Now, let's go see about setting some land-speed records on a tractor...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

War-Winnin' One O' One

The Colonel is a long way from, and well out of the loop of, the current discussions regarding the appropriate strategy for the continuing campaign in Afghanistan. All the better. The view from outside of the Beltway--more specifically, from the Marse Robert Memorial Rocker on the front porch of the Big House at Eegeebeegee--is not clouded by the politics of the moment nor the calculations of the cost in political capital.

While there are innumerable ways to lose a war, there is only one sure way to win one--total, unwavering commitment of resolve and resources until the enemy completely capitulates. Anything short of complete capitulation, both by the enemy's fielded forces and by the enemy populace is neither victory nor satisfactory; the consequences of short-sighted compromises in the name of immediate peace are most often the long-term lack thereof. Attempting to fight a war "on the cheap" will get you, at best, a cheap imitation of victory--witness our slow backing out of the saloon doors in Iraq. The options bandied about in Washington today for the way forward in the Af/Pak campaign sound to the Colonel like the latter two thirds of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The US commander on the ground in Kabul has what seems a sound strategy and a modest resource requirement to eke out a long-term draw against the extremists. His request for more forces has been met with dismay by the short-sighted peace-niks and pompous pin-heads advising the President, even though McCrystal's requested reinforcements would only forestall a Taliban resurgence--not defeat it.

It is reported that Vice President Biden is championing a strategy of attempting to win the war from the air. The airpower zealots who have obviously gotten his ear have been pushing the theory--still unproved after nearly a century of experimentation--that any political and/or military objective in war can be accomplished via just the right application of airpower alone. While the Colonel is an airpower enthusiast of the first order, it is abundantly apparent to anyone who has any dust on his boots, that airpower, the marvelous tool that it is, is still only "a" tool and not "the" tool in war-winning kit bag. Those who advocate limiting contact with the populace on the ground and relying on "surgical" strikes against the enemy would have us forever treating symptoms and not ever practicing the preventive medicine needed to control and defeat the contagion.

Were I Commander-in-Chief of these re-United States, this nation would be, briefly and brutally, AT WAR. Actually, "would have been" is more accurate. This war could have, and should have, been brought to a victorious conclusion nearly five years ago. And to all of those who are appalled at my continued suggestions that a brutal war should be waged against the nations even nominally supporting the Islamic extremists who declared war on us, I would point out that we firebombed and nuked German and Japanese civilian targets in the Second World War to bring about the complete capitulation required for victory in war..., and those two nations have been among our closest friends and allies since.

I'm just saying...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Beat 'Bama!

It's "Bama Week" here at the northern end of southern nowhere, and the Colonel is fighting the urge to allow a smidgen of fanatical optimism to take root in a psyche long-bruised by my Rebels' historical inability to sweep back the Tide. The last time I attended an Ole Miss win over Alabama was thirty-three years ago--the '76 season. The man in the hound's tooth hat was still coaching. On that glorious evening in Jackson, Bear Bryant's birthday, we hung on for an improbable 10-7 victory that was the unforgettable highlight of an otherwise very forgettable season. We stayed in the stands for nearly an hour after the game alternately singing "Happy Birthday" to the Bear and chanting "We Beat Bama!" until that delirious ditty lost all meaning and our voices lost all timber. It was so sweet.

This coming Saturday afternoon, the Rebel faithful will straggle into the stands after partying hard in the Grove ("We might lose games, but we ain't never lost a party!") and unite in our hatred (it's a hard word, but accurate) of Alabama. The odds, and the officials, are always against us when we take the field against 'Bama. But, before the boys in blue line up for the kick-off, we'll allow our hopes to rise high as we holler "Hotty Toddy." It'll likely be all down hill from there on--and most of the student section will be back in the Grove partying before the third quarter ends.

But, maybe... just maybe, the stars will align like the St. Andrew's Cross in our banned banner. Just maybe, our overfed kids will find a way to stop theirs. Just maybe, lightning will strike. Just maybe, I'll be happy as well as hoarse on Sunday morning. Maybe, just maybe... But, probably not.

I know, I know; call me "Mr. Negative." But you know I'm right...

To paraphrase Marse Robert: "It is good that Rebel football is so horrible, otherwise I would grow too fond of it."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Been There, Done That, Staying Put

The Colonel recently returned from a week-long visit to Branson, Missouri, and is hereby declaring all of the boxes on his bucket list checked. I've travelled enough and seen enough for a dozen lifetimes, and my desire to roam beyond the confines of the county into whose clay I have driven my tent stakes has eroded to a point less than a quark from vanishing. I do not wish nor intend to spend another night away from home, this home, ever again.

Excuse me if this sounds a trifle truculent, but I ain't budgin' and I think I've earned the right. I've had more than a hundred different mailing addresses in my life. I've wandered and slumbered on every continent except Antarctica, and the pictures I've seen of that wasteland don't exactly stir any desire to book tickets on the next flight south. Sure, there's a lot of things I haven't seen and places I haven't been--but, I've seen and been to more than any other man of no means could expect.

I've climbed the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, scaled summits in the Sierra Nevadas, hiked to snow capped peaks in Norway, and trudged up the slopes of dormant volcanoes in Hawaii. The only height I wish to conquer from here on out is the hill up to the Big House from the back forty.

I've stood on the lock gates astride the Panama Canal; in the square at Marrakech; on the beach at Diego Garcia; in Tiananmen Square under the portrait of Mao; on sacred ground at Iwo, Anzio, Shuri, Antietam, Shiloh, Yorktown, and Gettysburg; at a guard post in the Korean DMZ; on the Great Wall; in the shadow of Fuji; at the ruins of the Roman Forum; in awe in the Sistine Chapel; and in line at countless chow halls and field messes. The only place I want to spend time standing from now on is in the stands of Vaught-Hemingway.

I've surveyed vistas of God's creation (and often man's impact thereon) from Hong Kong's Victoria Peak, from the North Shore of Ohau, from the summit of Stone Mountain, from the slopes of Moana Loa, from the Kahukus and the Koalaus. I’ve marveled at the Aurora Borealis north of the Arctic Circle, gaped at the Grand Canyon, sighted Hannibal’s Alpine traverse, pointed out Pike’s Peak, flown low over glaciers on the slopes of Denali, and dawdled along the Blue Ridge and through the Smokies. The only view I wish to take in from now on is that from one of a row of rocking chairs on the front porch of the Big House here at the northern end of southern nowhere.

I've sailed the North Atlantic in winter; bobbed about in the Mediterranean; criss-crossed the Pacific; thumbed my nose at the Soviets in the Sea of Okhotsk; sweated circles in the Indian Ocean; been hazed from polliwog to Shellback on the Equator near Singapore; been becalmed in the Sargasso Sea; marveled at flying fish in the Philippine Sea; sailed the Straits of Malacca, Hormuz, and Gibraltar; paddled the Rapidan, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Chagres, Ocoee, Tallahatchie, Oakmulgee, Alabama, and a dozen other lesser streams. The only other bodies of water I wish to displace from now on are the Tallahatchie, Sardis, and Lake Brenda.

I’ve slept in a jungle hammock in Panama; in the mud at Quantico; in the swamps of Lejeune; in the sand of Oman and Somalia, on rice paddy dikes in Thailand, Singapore, and Korea; in the snow of Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, and Norway [and maybe a neighboring country--I can neither confirm nor deny, but as far as I could tell we skied off of my map and the border ran down the East side...]; in troop berthing on an LST; in a dozen different junior officer staterooms on a dozen different amphibs; in hundreds of hotel beds from flea-bag to five-star; in tents of every description, in sleeping bags, on pine straw, in hay lofts, at the wheel, and on my feet marching to chow at O dark thirty. The only place I want to sleep from now on is in the big bed at the Big House at Eegeebeegee.

I’ve flown in a fighter, in military cargo aircraft of all types, and logged more hours in the back of helicopters than most of the pilots had flying them. I’ve ridden in jeeps, trucks, half-tracks, DUKWs, Amphibious tractors, landing craft of all types, humvees, tanks, and hover craft; on horses, camels, elephants, and one very large dog. From now on the vehicular conveyances on which I want to embark are my tractor, Semper Field, and my truck, Semper Fillit. I will make the occasional exception to drive the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda’s car, when allowed.

I’ve rappelled off of waterfalls, fire towers, buildings, cliffs, and across a dance floor (there is photographic evidence of the latter that will remain locked in my desk drawer until long after my death). I’ve fast-roped from a CH-53E onto the crowded, rolling, and pitching deck of a merchant ship at sea and leaped from helicopters into snow banks and swamps. I've skied down snow-covered mountains and glissaded down scree slopes on two continents, and slid down muddy slopes on two more. The only heights from which I intend to negotiate an ascent from now on are deer stands and toilet seats.

I’ve heard the holler of howler monkeys on Barro Colorado island in Lake Gatun, the scream of a Jaguar on an un-named islet in Madden Lake, the call of a kookaburra in the Australian Outback, the protest of a camel outside my tent in Oman, the roar of Harriers launching from the flight deck over my stateroom, the echo of my voice from a nameless canyon in Tunisia, the whistle, blare, and babble of countless ship's 1MC interrupting my thoughts and ordering my days, and the staccato of muzzle blasts from a hundred rifles on my flanks. From now on all I wish to hear is the whistle of ducks' wings, the crunch of a deer stepping under my stand, God's word preached well and often, and Miss Brenda telling me she [still and inexplicably] loves me.

As long as I have the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda at my side, and fifty-seven acres on which to roam, I have all the space and excitement I need for the rest of my ride around ole Sol. Join me--it may be the only way you'll ever see me.