Thursday, February 25, 2010

Colonel Rebel Redux

The Colonel is about to do something he hasn't done in many years, and swore a solemn oath he wouldn't do ever again. He's about to volunteer.

The balance of the meager readership of this egregious waste of rod and cone time is painfully aware, based on the repeated references thereto, that the Colonel didn't go to college. He went to Ole Miss. And now, the Colonel's Alma mater needs him. The Colonel realizes that even with his prodigious skill set and talent tonnage, the challenge at hand is too much for one man. The issue at hand requires a national response. Therefore, early this frosty morn, the Colonel gavelled into emergency session the Congress of the Tallahatchie Free State for the express purpose of debating and deciding the extent to which the TFS will entangle itself in the affairs of Rebel Nation. The Colonel was authorized to draft the following Tallahatchie Free State Peoples' Proclamation, which was approved by unanimous and wildly cheering acclaim of the representative of the people of the land at the northern end of southern nowhere--namely, the Colonel.

Whereas: The University of Mississippi, hereinafter referred to by its politically incorrect and racially charged epithet--Ole Miss, lost it's 70 year-old mascot at the hands of the cruelly ruthless and ravenously relentless lady assassin--Polly Tickle Creckniss; and

Whereas: Ole Miss will, for the foreseeable future, maintain the nickname Rebels, pending, of course, another attack by Ms Creckniss and her mindless minions; and

Whereas: Rebel Nation has suffered the indignity and dishonor of no mascot representation on the fields, courts, and diamonds of athletic combat, lo these many seasons; and

Whereas: The spineless administration of Ole Miss, under the spell of Athletic Director and suspected Sith Lord, Darth Boone, has gone so far as to hire a yankee public relations firm from, of all hated places, New York City, to find a replacement mascot immune to the slings and arrows of Ms Creckniss and her mindless minions; and

Whereas: Any Ole Miss Rebel mascot proposal so developed in enemy territory will be detestable and utterly unacceptable to southern sensibilities; and

Whereas: The current underground student movement at Ole Miss to draft the honorable Rebel Alliance leader Admiral Ackbar will, in the cruel light of day, be found wanting, in that, a) the cost of the Admiral's commute from his home in a galaxy far, far away will be less sustainable than the cost of Obamacare, and b) the royalties exacted by George Lucas would necessitate ticket price inflation to unacceptable levels given the fact that it's hard enough to get fans to attend a Rebel athletic event as it is; and

Whereas: The requisite qualities, skills, and abilities, of an acceptable Ole Miss Rebel mascot include, but are not limited to, a) Mississippi roots and representation, b) patriotic service, and c) connection with the "rebel" concept; and

Whereas: The above requisites are satisfied in the person of the Colonel (Ole Miss alum, career military officer in the service of the re-United States, and operational call sign: Rebel);

Now, Therefore, The Colonel, Sole Representative of the People of Eegeebeegee, by virtue of the authority vested in him by the laws of the Tallahatchie Free State, situated on the kudzu-clad hills at the northern end of southern nowhere, does hereby proclaim solidarity with the counter-revolutionary elements of Rebel Nation and not-so-humbly offers himself as the new Colonel Rebel, without requirement of any present or future emolument (save, of course, upgrade of his present season-ticket seating in the nose-bleed section on the 10 yard line of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium).

In Witness Whereof, The Colonel, acting in complete consonance with the expressed will of the people of the Tallahatchie Free State, has hereunto set his hand this 25th day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the establishment of the Tallahatchie Free State the second.

I'll keep the phone lines open...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turning Points

June 14, 1775 is officially recognized as the birthday of the Army of the United States. However, this date, February 23, in 1778, should be celebrated as the date that the Continental Army became a modern, professional fighting force. It was on this date, 232 years ago, that Friedrich Wilhelm Augustin Ludolf Gerhard von Steuben (aka: Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge and offered his services to General George Washington.

The Continental Congress authorized the raising and organization of the "Continental Army" on the 14th of June in 1775, and in so doing, took responsibility for the other bodies of colonial troops in the field opposite British regular, mercenary, and loyalist forces. The next day, George Washington (at the insistence of John Adams that at Southerner be so chosen to broaden the appeal of the theretofore largely New England rebellion), was appointed "General and Commander in Chief" of all the forces of the colonial rebel alliance. With minor, but much heralded, exceptions, George Washington and his ragtag army (an army in name only) stumbled, staggered and ran from defeat to defeat at the hands of the highly disciplined British. Were it not for the incompetence and sloth of their most senior leadership, the British should have easily crushed Washington's force and the rebel movement in the first two years of the "troubles." In the early winter of 1777, as the British army occupied the rebel capital, Philadelphia, Washington and less than 12,000 revolutionaries encamped on high ground within a day's march of the city at a place called Valley Forge. By February of 1778, Washington's force had been so depleted by disease, starvation, and quite-understandable-desertion that he could barely muster half that number of effective fighting men, and could have been easily routed by a British commander not so abhorrent of the "uncivilized" idea of fighting in winter.

Enter Baron von Steuben. A soldier of fortune with a somewhat checkered past and a falsified pedigree, von Steuben was possessed of a rare talent much needed by Washington--he was a master trainer. His service in several different armies in Europe had exposed him to the best and worst of professional armies and von Steuben had developed his own vision of a battlefield-mastering military force that was more modern than any in Europe at the time. In Washington's beleaguered force at Valley Forge, von Steuben found a lump of clay, unbound by tradition, with which he could could fashion a vessel for the receipt of his discipline and visionary fighting style.

When he arrived at Valley Forge, von Steuben first cleaned up the camp. As the army had theretofore wallowed and sickened in its own filth, he insisted that common latrines be dug, and that they be situated on the opposite side of the camp from the troop kitchens. Having taken these and other like measures to care for the health and welfare of the men, he next embarked on a program to "train the trainers." As he could speak little or no English, the "Baron" drafted a field manual in German, that Washington aides Hamilton and Greene translated. He then handpicked a company of 120 of the "best and brightest" and drilled them relentlessly until they could not only perform von Steuben's battlefield tactics flawlessly, but could now, in turn, train others. This development of subordinate leadership in the ranks, responsible for the care and training of other soldiers, can be seen as the forerunner of the professional non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps in today's U.S. Army in particular, and the U.S. military, in general. The efficacy of his fighting style was evident in the predominant colonial victories thereafter, and von Steuben's "train the trainers" approach is still the model for professional military forces the world over.

Another February 23rd is arguably the most important date, after November 10th, 1775, in Marine Corps history, and is also arguably one of the most important dates in U. S. history. On February 19th, 1945, two divisions of U.S. Marines landed on the beaches of a strategically located Japanese-held volcanic island called Iwo Jima. In the brutal fighting that ensued, nearly seven thousand Americans gave their lives to wrest the island and its vital airfield from the Japanese defenders. Four days into the battle, and a month before final victory would be declared, a patrol of Marines scaled the summit of the island's creator volcano, Mt. Suribachi, and raised the Stars and Stripes. The flag was a small one, and the powers that be demanded that a larger one be raised to replace it. This second flag raising was captured on film by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. That image, of which it was said by the editors of US Camera Magazine, "recorded the soul of a nation" was sent home to a war-weary America and seized upon by a desperate Roosevelt administration.

By 1945, the American people felt pretty much tapped out by the war against Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. Sales of war bonds, the proceeds of which were needed to finance the gigantic war material effort, had been disappointing. The last three of six war bond drives had fallen significantly short of their goals. While the flag-raising on Iwo Jima had not been a turning point in the battle (it had provided a momentary lift to the spirits of the men who would fight on for 31 more days), Rosenthal's iconic photograph of the second flag raising on Iwo's Mt. Suribachi proved a turning point in public sentiment on the home front. The Iwo Jima flag-raising image re-captured the American sense of patriotic duty, and the ensuing seventh war bond drive exceeded its target substantially.

In remembrance of these two momentous dates in the history of our nation, the Colonel--sole arbiter of such decisions aboard Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, a virtual republic situated at the northern end of southern nowhere and founded as much hand-on-wallet as tongue-in-cheek--does hereby declare the 23rd of February, "Turning Point Day." This day, each year, for so long as the Colonel remains in possession of sufficient cognitive cells in the amorphous goo lying fallow in the recesses of his brain-housing group with which to remember it, shall be observed in solemnity and thanksgiving for the vision of von Steuben and the view-finder of Joe Rosenthal's camera.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let it Start With Me

When you folks in Washington, D.C. find your spines and finally start making the hard decisions about the cuts to "entitlements" required to prevent the financial collapse of our nation, the Colonel wants you to start with his first.

For the honor that was his service to the United States, the Colonel receives a more than generous "retirement" from a grateful nation. In 1947, during an era when Congress conducted sweeping reformation and reorganization of the post-war military, the present military retirement system was codified. Allowing 50% of base pay, for life, to any one whose service reached 20 years, and 2.5 % more per year for every year over 20, the system was designed primarily to reward the small percentage of WWII veterans who decided to remain in the military after peace broke out. In 1947, the life expectancy of someone in his twenties or thirties making the decision to follow the calling that is military service was less than 60 years. So, had the Colonel entered service in 1940 and served until 1965 (reflecting actual service of '78 to '03), he would have been 47 years old and would have drawn his military pension for 13 years. Assuming the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda doesn't pull the Colonel's plug anytime soon (she wonders daily about the Colonel's "brain-dead" condition) he should draw a military pension for at least three times that long and maybe even twice as long as the actual time he served on active duty in his beloved Corps.

Whenever the Colonel has opined that he feels a bit guilty about taking such a pension at such an early age, his family has vehemently refuted that notion and reminded him of the entire family's sacrifice during the time of his service, and the seven figure income he would have undoubtedly commanded had he been in equivalent positions of responsibility in the private sector. Be that as it may, the Colonel decided to serve his nation, not for present or future emolument, but in large part out of gratitude for the freedoms, rights, and privileges that were the happy accident of his birth as an American in the 20th Century. The Colonel knew exactly what he was getting into when he raised his right hand and swore to give his life to "defend the constitution of the United States, against all enemies..." The Colonel knew full well that, to paraphrase General Nathan Bedford Forrest, "defending means fighting, and fighting means killing."

The Colonel's larger point is this: The elected leaders of these re-United States are presently careening wildly out of control down the financial ski-slope, having crashed through all of the gates of restraint. At the bottom of the slope awaits not an applauding throng and a medal, but a clanging gong and financial ruin. In order to arrest our descent, VERY HARD leadership decisions must be made. ALL of us will be required to sacrifice. And by sacrifice, the Colonel does not mean giving up Starbucks for McDonald's.

FDR's Social Security was intended as a safety net, not a retirement entitlement. The safety net ensured that in the highly unlikely event (at the time) that someone lived beyond the age of 60 and could no longer physically contribute to the nation's labor force, he would not be destitute. Medicare was instituted in a similar vein. Either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, to bring those two safety nets up to date with reality, or there will, soon, be no nation to lead.

Entitlements are but one portion of the federal financial equation; defense spending is another. Eisenhower warned against the rise and growth of the "military-industrial complex," and he had no clue to what gargantuan extremes his prophecy would be fulfilled. Either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, to rein in the outrageous cost of exotic weapon systems, or there will, soon, be no nation in whose defense to employ them.

Yet another part of the federal financial equation is the federal tax code--an abomination of special interest service and state behavioral control. Leaving aside the argument whether a national income tax is unconstitutional (the 16th Amendment was passed to circumvent the Supreme Court's previous decision that an income tax was unconstitutional), the federal government must have revenue if it is to fulfill its constitutional requirements. The Colonel believes that since ALL share in the benefits of a federal government, ALL should share in its funding. Progressives (read, class warfare socialists) would have us believe that it is "unfair" for the poor to pay the same percentage of their income as the rich. As a means of controlling the masses, fascism re-defines. "Fairness" is one of the first casualties of such redefinition. Politicians, of every stripe, use the tax code to influence behavior. Such shenanigans are anathema to the efficient function of a free-market capitalistic democratic republic. Rant aside, either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, to reform and simplify our federal tax system, or there will be no economy left, soon, from which to source revenue.

Finally, the free market of our capitalistic democratic republic, such as was envisioned by our founders, cannot, despite the wishes of the banking elite, function fairly if unregulated. It is one of the highest duties of our federal government to ensure that corporations and banks (the engines and financiers of prosperity) operate on a level and non-monopolistic playing field. Either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, without Wall Street lobbyists in the room, to strengthen the oversight required to enforce the rules already on the books, or there will be another, and another, greed-fueled and scoff-law-driven bubble whose burst will plunge our nation over yet another financial system precipice. Oh, and when a bank fails--let it fail. If it is "too big to fail," break it up. This ain't rocket science.

The Colonel is willing to sacrifice his ease, if our leaders are ready to make their own political sacrifices.

I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Congressional Nihilism

In recognition of the 209th anniversary of the election of Thomas Jefferson as the 3rd President of these re-United States, the Colonel this morning convened a special joint session of the Second Congress and Executive Cabinet of the Tallahatchie Free State, a virtual republic established as much hand-on-wallet as tongue-in-cheek, for the purpose of considering weighty matters of state. As is tradition aboard Eegeebeegee--capital of the TFS; situated prominently at the northern end of southern nowhere--the Colonel, the people's representative (single and sovereign), presided over the proceedings ensconced in the Chesty Puller rocker on the front porch of the Big House.

The first order of business was a report from the Minister of the Environment, the Right Honorable Idon Feelmafeet, whose observation that it was colder than an Ole Miss sorority girl's heart outside resulted in his nomination for a Mastery of the Obvious award. Said nomination will be considered at the next regularly irregular editorial meeting for the purpose of planning the next regularly irregular installment of the Colonel's Monday Morning MOTO Awards. Minister Feelmafeet also reported that the Climate Change Bill has been sent back to conference in order to further obfuscate the wording so as to make it as unintelligible and omni-applicable as possible. The Colonel approved the minister's report and ordered that at the yet unscheduled joint session of the TFS Third Congress and Executive Cabinet a report on the effect of climate change on next Fall's duck, deer and football seasons be provided.

The Minister of the Interior, the Right Honorable Sawyer N. Builder, reported on the status of Eegeebeegee infrastructure and Big House interior capital improvement projects. The Colonel congratulated the minister on completion of Phase I of the Big House Closet Remodeling Project and reminded that Phases II through IV are behind schedule and in danger of extending into the crappie and turkey seasons. A report on the progress of the bridge at Caleb's Crossing elicited similar reminders of the sure work-stoppage to occur during the March/April time frame as Eegeebeegee's permanent workforce (the Colonel) will, without doubt, break for the aforementioned holidays.

The Minister of Finance, the Right Honorable Cash N. Carry, reported that the TFS Debt to GDP ratio was at an unacceptable 35%, but on the decline. The Colonel noted with pleasure Minister Carry's report that the TFS continues to operate with a budget surplus, debt payments notwithstanding.

The Minister of Health, the Right Honorable U. R. Lukingood, reported that the prevalence of obesity aboard Eegeebeegee remains at 0%. Immediately prior to his sacking, the Health Minister opined that the Colonel, while not technically obese, was edging ever so slightly toward the upper limit of the Marine Corps height and weight standards and might consider placing himself on voluntary weight control. Upon installment of Lukingood's successor, Kip N. Matrapshut, the Colonel directed that all scales aboard Eegeebeegee be taken in for recalibration and that the larders be emptied of cookies forthwith.

Despite the presence of numerous other items of TFS business on the agenda, the Colonel summarily adjourned the 2d Congress and Cabinet joint session due to the fact that the Ole Miss sorority girl's heart had not warmed perceptively and the Colonel's coffee cup, around which his fingers were stiffly and coldly wrapped, was empty and, as a means of caffeine delivery, devoid of meaning--kinda like this post.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Brotherly Birthday Bromides

Fifty-one years ago, today, my parents, and a vengeful God, gave me a little brother. I don't know why this was considered a particularly good idea. You would think that little brothers would be given to those whose grasp of the basic concepts of younger sibling care was significantly more than the tenuous hold I had on the subject. Still, there he was. All mine.

Mine, of whom to be jealous. Mother reminds me regularly that I grew tired of her attentions to the pink, smelly interloper some time in the first 48 to 72 hours of his arrival and demanded that she "Put that baby down!" Honestly, if she had just done as I required, and ignored the thing for a few weeks...

Mine, to use as a musical instrument. Did you you know that a hammer fist to the back of a twelve-year-old produces a sound akin to that of a bass drum? And, did you know that the resulting squall from said twelve-year-old comes to a father's ear like a bugle call to action? Did you also know that fifteen-year-old percussionists make a sound akin to that of a cartoon cat with its tail on fire when punted by a father answering said bugle call?

Mine, to blame. There are things for which I should have surely roasted in parental Gehenna, but for which little brother's substitution provided propitiation instead. I won't provide specifics as there is no statute of limitations on infractions of parental laws. Suffice to say that the "Great Cookie Jar Heist" would have been adjudicated far differently had Mother been apprised of the latest forensic evidence gathering techniques.

Mine, to subject to endless tricks and treachery. "Okay, Bruce, go long. I promise to throw it to you this time."

Mine, to use a tackling dummy, punching bag, and joke butt.

Mine, to envy. Brother's wife and daughters treat him like a king. All I know is that when we were growing up, he was royal pain in the...

Mine, at whom to marvel. My brother has excelled in a technical field of work and has accomplishments and accolades too numerous to mention. All of this despite an appalling lack of education (he went to Mississippi State).

Mine, for whom to feel sorrow. He could have been blessed with an older brother possessed of empathy, patience, kindness, and a giving nature. He could have had an older brother who would have cared enough to write something uplifting or flattering about him on his birthday. He should have gotten a big brother.

Instead, he got me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Dove

One of the few bright spots in the otherwise dark and colorless purgatory that is the month of February is the presence of birds at the feeders out on the back porch of the Big House here at the northern end of southern nowhere. Were it not for the pleasure of watching the juncos, redbirds, goldfinches, and other feathered fauna, the dreary, wet, cold, windy weather that clamps a clammy hand over the clay-covering kudzu around about would be just about enough to send the Colonel howling 'round insanity's curve. I have mentioned my loathe for the despicable month before, have I not?

To paraphrase John's account of Nathaniel's retort to Philip, "Can anything good come out of February?"

The Colonel thinks not.

Rather, there is much to the thankfully short month to recommend it for placement at the bottom of any ordering of calendar counts. Go ahead, name a more vile month. The Colonel will wait...

...and wait...

...still waiting...

It's settled then. February is hereby declared the scourge of humanity.

Yeah, the Colonel heard some of you say, "What about Valentine's Day?" To which the Colonel will gently remind the three fair and gentle readers of this post, if you wait until one day a year to tell that significant other how significant the other is, the other ain't. Nor are you.

Back to ornithology (the study of birds for you Mississippi State and LSU grads).

For the past three scourges of humanity the gangs of juncos, redbirds, and goldfinches that frequented the Colonel's feeders have been joined by a solitary mourning dove. While the Colonel is not skilled nor keen-eyed enough to determine the gender of this lone Zenaida carolinensis, it has been dubbed a she and given the name: Zena. It would stretch the Colonel's already uber-elastic credibility were he to maintain for your benefit that this particular bird is the same dove that has appeared each winter. So the Colonel will only entertain that belief for his own benefit, as there yet remains just barely enough grey matter lying fallow in the recesses of his brain-housing group to maintain delusions.

Told you that there wasn't much to recommend February.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Lunar Leadership Example

On this date in 1966, the third day of February, the Soviet Union's spacecraft, Lunik 9 made the first controlled landing on the moon. Shortly after landing, Lunik 9 began transmitting photographs and television images back to Earth. Lunik 9 was preceded by Lunik 2, the first manmade object to reach (and crash upon) the moon, and by Lunik 3, the first spacecraft to circle the moon and send back pictures of the theretofore unseen "dark side" of our Earth's synchronously rotating celestial dance partner. Luniks 2 and 3 reached the moon in 1959--well ahead of any of the United States' space efforts.

In the late 1950's and early 1960's the United States lagged far behind the Soviet Union in space. While the Soviet's were committing significant amounts of national treasure to fund their captured German scientists' space rocket endeavors, the United States was spending but a pittance on our captured German scientists' rocket dreams. The Soviets' Yuri Gagarin was not only the first man in space but his spacecraft actually achieved and maintained Earth orbit. By comparison, Alan Shepard's flight three weeks later was merely a suborbital one--Shepard (on the Colonel's short list of personal heroes) essentially rode a surface to surface missile. We were way behind the Soviet's and losing ground.

All of that dramatically changed by the end of the 1960's. In 1961, a young and inexperienced President, embarrassed by domestic and foreign policy failures (the Bay of Pigs debacle chief among them), needed something around which to rally our nation. Five decades ago, this brash young American president, exuding cool matched only by the members of Sinatra's Rat Pack, threw down the gauntlet to the Soviet Union's captured German scientists, and challenged America's captured German scientists to, by the end of the 1960's, land a man on the moon and bring him safely home again. It was a staggering challenge, and it galvanized America's scientific community and captured the imagination of our people in a way rarely seen in our history.

In a speech at Rice University a few months after issuing that challenge, President Kennedy explained his rationale for embarking the United States on the mission of lunar exploration. His speech is excerpted below:

"We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a state noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.
Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nation's own scientific manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.

No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man's recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America's new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward--and so will space.
William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency...
...To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead...

...And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this state, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your city of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this center in this city.

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year's space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year--a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United States, for we have given this program a high national priority--even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold...

...Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."

Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."

It has been nearly four decades since the last men of Earth walked upon the surface of our planet's moon. Would that these re-United States had possessed presidential and congressional vision in the years since 1971 and taken the actions needed to keep the moon in the care of free nations--led, of course, by us.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Bridge Too Far

The ford ("shallow creek crossing" for you Bama grads) connecting the Colonel's westernmost field to the rest of the vast holdings that comprise Eegeebeegee has been impassable for the better part of the last year. Heavier than normal rains washed most of the rocks downstream, and just about the time the Colonel finished prying the boulders from the sucking sand and waddle-carrying them back upstream to the ford, another heavy rain swept them tumbling back downstream. Hydraulics is a fascinating power...unless it's working against you.

So, the Colonel has decided to build a bridge.

For the better part of his adult life, most of the professional study and preparation to which this Marine subjected the loose collection of grey matter laying fallow in the recesses of his brain-housing group dealt with the destruction of bad people and their things. The largest construction projects attempted rarely exceeded the complexity of assembling a bookcase out of 1 x 6s and milk crates. Engineering and erecting a bridge, substantial and sturdy enough to safely accommodate the Colonel and his trusty tractor Semper Field, certainly must seem to anyone even remotely acquainted with him to be folly in its fullest meaning. No matter--there ain't enough brain matter left to cobble together a convincing argument against the attempt.

Said bridge building project began in earnest a week ago. The near-shore bridge pier construction phase began with three behemoth (meaning: very large--for all of you LSU grads) railroad ties hauled down to Caleb's Crossing--so named in honor of the Colonel's second favorite person on the planet. Holes were excavated large enough to accommodate the ties stood on end and encased in several yards of concrete. Mind you, ALL of the digging and maneuvering of said behemoth railroad ties was done by hand. Yep, the Colonel ain't smart and you can't make him.

As the Colonel and # 2 son stood over on the far shore admiring completion of Phase I--three (did I mention they were behemoth?) railroad ties towering straight and tall and spaced five feet apart across the point where the road ended in the creek--an errant thought took shape in the few remaining brain cells in the amorphous goo at the base of the Colonel's skull. But, before he could translate thought to speech, #2 gave verbal shape to the Colonel's thoughts.

"Well, Dad, you've either made substantial progress toward bridging this creek or you've made it so that no one will ever cross at this point again."

Seems the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda gave birth to a mind-reader.