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 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."