Wednesday, February 23, 2011

American Hero v. African Zero

Forty-three years ago a real American hero faced off against a punk young aspiring dictator at the gates of a United States Air Force base in the North African desert.  The punk came very close to dying at the hands of the United States Air Force for the first, but not the last, time in his worthless life.    

In August of 1969, then Colonel Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr., USAF; Tuskegee airman and Korean and Vietnam veteran; was assigned as Commander of Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya.  Less than a month into James' tenure at Wheelus, a small group of junior military officers led by a 27 year-old army captain named Muammar Gaddafi staged a coup d'├ętat against Libya's King Idris.  Gaddafi wasted no time consolidating his power and soon turned his eyes on the American military presence in Libya.

On October 18, 1969, Gaddafi rode with a column of armored vehicles to the main gate of Wheelus Air Force Base and ordered them to drive through the base in a show of force.  Instead of leading the column onto the base, the coward Gaddafi dismounted outside the gate and waited for their return.

Colonel James, alerted to the intrusion, strapped on a sidearm and raced to the gate.  In a scene straight out of the western movies of the era, Chappie and Gaddafi faced off in the dusty road.  Gaddafi's hand rested on the butt of the pistol at his side.  James ordered Gaddafi, "Move your hand away from that gun."  The punk blinked and complied.    

Colonel James was later quoted as saying that if Gaddafi had tried to pull his gun, "it would never have cleared the holster."

Chappie James' outstanding service to his nation culminated at the rank of General.  He died on February 25, 1978, only a month after his retirement from the Air Force.

Noted for his stirring speeches on Americanism and patriotism, there have been few men with as much zeal for this great nation before or since Chappie James.  Excerpts of his speeches have been read into the Congressional Record.  James was awarded the George Washington Freedom Foundation Medal in 1967 and again in 1968. He received the Arnold Air Society Eugene M. Zuckert Award in 1970 for outstanding contributions to Air Force professionalism, citing his service to the nation as a "... fighter pilot with a magnificent record, public speaker, and eloquent spokesman for the American Dream..."

General James' patriotism, selfless devotion to duty, and steadfast belief in American Exceptionalism stands in stark contrast to the so-called "leaders" of this generation whose fundamental view of the American Republic is as a source of power to be accumulated for nefarious gain.

The Colonel prays to be a MAN like Chappie James.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Manure Manipulation

The Surgeon General of the Tallahatchie Free State has determined that harvesting manure in a high wind is hazardous to one's self esteem.

The Confederate Concrete that passes for soil here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere is conducive only for the growing of loblolly pine trees and kudzu.   The Colonel is convinced that when human-kind gets around to terra-forming Mars, loblolly pines and kudzu will probably be the only thing that will grow there initially.  Scrape the scraggly weeds off the ground around here and in the right light you would think you were looking at the red-tinted barren landscape pictures beamed back Earthside from Spirit and Opportunity.

For the LSU grads who might stumble upon this blog while searching for uglier clothing to wear to a football game, allow the Colonel to explain that last sentence with a minimum of polysyllabic words.  

We launched a rocket.  It had a little rover on it.  No, not a dog.  A robot.  The rover's name was Spirit.  It landed on Mars.  It took pictures.  It sent those pictures back to Earth.  Mars is red, not purple and yellow.

That's right folks, LSU fans are indeed from another planet, but not Mars.

As he was saying, before he digressed and wasted even more of the valuable rod and cone time of the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon, the Colonel, if he intends to grow anything other than loblolly pines and kudzu in the Confederate Concrete that passes for soil here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, must amend the Confederate Concrete that passes for soil with extra organic material. 

The Colonel's compost bins serve the soil amendment need, but require amendment themselves.  The Colonel thought that table scraps would suffice.  He was wrong.  Between children and chickens, nary a scrap escapes ingestion.

Fortunately, eggs aren't the only thing that proceedeth from the nether region of a Rock Island Red.  Prodigious amounts of fertilizer proceedeth as well.  Still, until the Colonel can grow his chicken herd appreciably, the amount of fertilizer that proceedeth, exceedeth not, yea, even approacheth not, the compost pile amendment requirements to turn leafy matter into compost with which to amend the Confederate Concrete that passes for soil here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

A neighbor has a cow flock.  One cow will process considerably more fertilizer than a whole herd of chickens.  So, with long-handled shovel in hand, and his rusty red pick-up truck--Semper Fillit--strapped to his backside, the Colonel proceeded to pasture yesterday morning, before the rain started. 

From previous experience, the Colonel has discovered the indisputable scientific principle that cow manure is infinitely more scoopable before a rain, than after one.  Unfortunately, the Colonel's previous manure harvesting experience was limited to the issue of moisture content.  He had no experience with regard to climatic conditions involving high rates of regional atmosphere exchange.

Blissfully happy in the knowledge that he had timed his manure harvest at a time at which cow patty moisture content was low, the Colonel began to rapidly scoop and sling manure into Semper Fillit's beckoning bed.   The term "ignorance is bliss" describes a time-constrained concept.  Bliss is not the word with which the Colonel would describe the effects of ignoring wind direction when shoveling and slinging dried cow manure.  

Unless bliss means covered in powdered cow manure.   

If so, the picture in the margin alongside the dictionary definition of the word bliss is of the Colonel standing with shovel in hand, looking around to see if anyone other than Bessy just saw the you-know-what hit the fan.   

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hezekiah's Revival

The Colonel has been praying, more and more fervently of late, for spiritual revival; in his nation, in his church, and in his own heart.  Bible study in 2nd Kings this Sunday morning was on topic and on target.

In the 18th Chapter of 2nd Kings, the writer introduces us to Hezekiah, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and in verse 3 tells us that "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as...David had done."  Because the vast majority of the Hebrew kings that followed David and preceded Hezekiah turned farther and farther away from God, it seems that Hezekiah must have experienced a personal revival that allowed him to lead a national revival.

We can learn three things about revival from Hezekiah's experience as king.  

First, revival requires us to challenge old "religious" practices.  In Verse 4, the writer says simply that in addition to tearing down all of the idols of other religions that had proliferated throughout Judah and pulled the people away from the commandments of God, Hezekiah "broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made."   

When the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness had been beset by deadly poisonous snakes, God had instructed Moses to lift up a bronze snake on a pole so that the people bitten by a snake might look upon it and be saved.  The Hebrew people had kept the bronze serpent icon for generations and had begun to incorporate it in religious ceremonies, burning incense to it like any of the other idols representing other gods.  They had fallen into the habit of a "religious" practice that incorporated a cherished icon, but in their tradition-following had lost sight of God, faith in Whom was their salvation, not the icon.  God had not intended them to worship the bronze serpent.  He had intended for them to exercise faith, instead of attempting to remedy the snake bite by their own actions.  Hezekiah saw that this traditional religious practice was no longer about faith.  We all have traditional religious practices that allow us to put a "check in the box" and which shortstop our worship and communion with God.  

Second, revival allows us to conquer old adversaries.  Verses 7 and 8 tell us that, "...the Lord was with [Hezekiah]; he was successful in whatever he undertook," and that he "...defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza..."   From the time the Hebrew people entered Canaan, the Philistines, whose territory stretched along the Mediterranean coast, were a mortal enemy.  After the passing of Solomon, whose father David had slain the great Philistine warrior, Goliath, the Philistines had begun to retake lost territory and to make bolder and bolder incursions into Israel and Judah.  Like sin in our lives, the Philistines crowded in on the Israelites and their oppression grew greater and greater.  Hezekiah's Revival turned that tide.  Spiritual revival reconnects us with the unconquerable power of God, and His power alone gives victory over the old adversaries--sin--in our lives.

Third, revival awakens Satan; but God is greater.  While Hezekiah was leading Judah in revival, the corrupt and ungodly king of the northern kingdom of Israel continued to lead his people further and further away from God's commandments.  The ascendant Assyrian Empire to the northeast overran Israel and carried away the vast majority of the people to exile in the far eastern territories of Assyria.  When the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, advanced on Judah and demanded the surrender of Jerusalem, Hezekiah consulted God's prophet, Isaiah.  Through Isaiah, God promised Hezekiah that if he would refuse Sennacherib and lean on God instead, then the Assyrian threat against Judah would evaporate. 

Understand Hezekiah's strategic military position:  The Assyrian Empire was the dominant military force in the region at the time, employing technologically advanced armament and highly evolved tactics and operational art.  Judah was no match for Assyria.  Sennacherib held every advantage, but one.  Verse 6 tells us that Hezekiah "...held fast to the Lord."  The Assyrian threat to Jerusalem ended just as God through Isaiah had foretold--Sennacherib returned to his capitol after a signifcant portion of his army was destroyed by what God's word tells us was "the angel of the Lord" (2 Kings 19:35) and was assassinated by a couple of his subordinates. 

When we fix our eyes on God's will in our lives and recommit to His leadership, our faith can be tested by what seems insurmountable odds.  When Hezekiah was faced with the, to-this-point undefeated, Assyrian war machine and turned to God for help, Isaiah prophesied that "By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord.." (2 Kings 19:23).  Sennacherib's messengers had relayed a scornful threat, declaring that Judah's God was no greater than all of the gods of all of the other nations that had fallen quickly to the Assyria sword.  God was insulted.

Don't know about you, but when his God is insulted, the Colonel gets well out of the line of fire.                

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Battalion, Third Marines -- 14 Feb 1997 to 14 August 1998

Fourteen years ago today, the United States Marine Corps made yet another in a decades-long continuous string of bad assessments of the Colonel's ability and potential and gave him command of an infantry battalion.  In front of a thousand Marines and a somewhat lesser number of family, friends, and dignitaries, the Colonel and his predecessor enacted a time-honored ceremony marking the change of command and speechified regarding the occasion.

The Colonel gave one of the most remarkable speeches of its kind ever heard anywhere on the planet, before or since.  With soaring rhetoric, sprinkled with humor and emotion, he touched on timeless themes of thanks and expectations.  It was inspiring.  

The Marines in the ranks heard:  "Blah, bablah, bablah, blah, blah, blah."  

The Marines in the ranks were thinking:  "Here we go, again."  

These Marines had just recently returned from a six-month deployment to Okinawa, Japan.  Nearly a quarter of them would be leaving active duty within the next few weeks.  They were the lucky ones.

Life in a Marine infantry battalion, even in peace-time, is an incredible grind in which a training schedule chock full of ever-increasing physical and mental challenges prepares the Marines and their leaders for a deployment date that looms on the calendar like the date of execution in a death sentence.  Commanders in charge of the training schedule talk in terms of "crawl, walk, run."  For the Marines, it's a daily sprint.

Most officers take the task of preparing their Marines for the upcoming deployment and the grim possibility of combat with the utmost seriousness, leading and challenging their subordinates to reach levels of physical and moral courage beyond the imagination of mere mortal citizens. 

Some officers view their time in command as a golden opportunity to make a name for themselves and boost the upward trajectory of their careers.   A few of these do a good job of masking their intentions.  Many over-play their hands and expose themselves as self-serving.

Then, there are the few who cannot believe their incredible good fortune, given their obvious lack of ability and self-determination that they have achieved their terminal rank.  These recognize the enormous reservoir of talent on which they have been placed afloat and realize that any success they achieve in command will only come from below.    

The Colonel believes he was one of the latter.  

The Colonel's good fortune was to be placed in command of a battalion of officers and men whose professionalism and great ability required that he only recognize the fact and act accordingly.  No idea or talent of the Colonel's was greater than the thoughts and abilities of the Marines over whom he had been placed in command.

When one sees magnificence in his organization, he is best served to not to overshadow their brilliance.

Over the years of his career, the Colonel had the good fortune to work for many great commanders who tried to teach him how to seize the reins of an organization and crack the whip.  Unfortunately, whip-cracking never was a talent the Colonel mastered.

The Colonel is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt in his minuscule military mind that the only reason he refers to himself today as the Colonel and not the Lieutenant is due to the fact that there were corporals and sergeants and lieutenants and captains in his various commands who were much better than he. 

It's days like today, whose dates have seminal significance in the mushy amalgam of under-used cells lying fallow in the recesses of his brain-housing group, that the Colonel misses his Marines.

Even if they were happy to finally see him go at the change of command ceremony marking the end of the Colonel's tenure.

Semper Fidelis, Marines!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Constitutional Adoption

More colorless frozen precipitation fell and accumulated yesterday, here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.  In response, the Colonel declared a state of emergency for Eegeebeegee, the capital of the Tallahatchie Free State.  Said SOE carries with it far-reaching executive powers with which the Colonel took the opportunity to enact regulation unlikely to pass legislatively any time soon.

First order of business was the adoption of a formal constitution.  Upon establishment of the Tallahatchie Free State, a government formed as much hand-on-wallet as tongue-in-cheek, the Colonel appointed himself chair of the Constitution Committee and charged himself with writing a formal constitution by which the Tallahatchie Free State would be governed and the inherent rights of the citizens thereof would be protected.  

The Colonel has been busy, what with all of the critical critter control and forest management requirements of his vast holdings.  So busy in fact, that the draft of the proposed Tallahatchie Free State constitution so far consists only of a preamble.

Well, really just a preamble of a preamble.

Okay, really just the first word: "The..."

Look, constitutions are important documents.  One doesn't sit down to draft such an important document and just crank out drivel.

Cranking out drivel is the preserve of bloggers, as the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon are frantically aware.

But, let's cut to the chase, shall we?  No self-respecting republic goes about in public without a formal constitution with which to cloak itself.  

Therefore, under the regulatory powers vested the Colonel by the state of emergency declaration, the Tallahatchie Free State adopts the constitution of the United States of America, verbatim.

Shouldn't be a problem... the United States government isn't using it at the moment.    

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Fragile Flakes

The forecasts by the weather-guessers indicate that the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere is in store for yet another (the fourth such visitation so far this winter) measurable snowfall. The first flake is yet to fall, but schools are letting out early, grocery stores are experiencing runs on bread and milk, and coeds down at the Harvard of the South are driving their Lexi into ditches all over campus.

A month ago, the snow accumulated to nearly a foot here aboard Eegeebeegee, the capital of the Tallahatchie Free State. The Colonel layered up, donned his boots, and slogged the quarter mile down his drive to the county road to survey conditions. As he stood roadside and peered north and south along his only connection to civilization, the Colonel calmly assessed the situation and came to a rational conclusion...,

"Holy cow! We're stranded way out here in the middle of nowhere! There's a foot of snow on the road and we're cut off!"

Upon arrival back at the Big House, the Colonel unlayered, composed himself, found the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda in her favorite room--the one the greatest distance from the kitchen--and announced his assessment of the situation...,

"Holy Cow! We're stranded out here in the middle of nowhere! There's a foot of snow on the road and we're cut off!"

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda sighed in the way wives of certified idiots respond the world over, smiled sweetly at her certified idiot, and reassured him with the words wives of certified idiots the world over use to bolster their certified idiots' fragile egos.

"Get a grip, you idiot! You'll frighten the children!"

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda knows exactly how to bolster a fragile ego.

The Colonel thinks he'll keep her.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda knows the Colonel will "keep" her. Once you have invested nearly four decades being "kept" by, and training, an idiot, there's just no future in starting over with a new one.

In the time it has taken the Colonel to compose this missive, the reading of which by the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon will by this time have produced mild panic attacks most often associated with the realization that one has wasted valuable rod and cone time, snow has begun to fall here aboard the Colonel's vast holdings.

Lots of snow.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda is already sighing in anticipation of the Colonel's next flakey pronouncement.

Friday, February 04, 2011

55 is a Speed Limiter

Here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, the eyes of American football fandom are firmly fixed on the playing this weekend of the most anxiously anticipated gridiron contest of the season. The Colonel refers, of course, to the First Baptist Church of Abbeville Youth versus Adult flag football game.

And, unlike the other big game this weekend, the Y v. A tilt will take place where football began--on grass (or a muddy, brown facsimile thereof). Outdoors.

No glitz. No glamour. All Glory.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda has agreed that, to protect his fragile ego, the Colonel may start the game Saturday morning--with the proviso that she reserves the right to bench the Colonel at any moment, to include immediately after kick-off, in order protect his even more fragile body.

There was a time, long ago in the halcyon days of his youth, that the sight of a tightly spiralling football arcing to a point in space and time soon to be occupied by the Colonel's hands focused his attention and quickened his anticipatory heartbeat like nothing else, save the sight of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.

Nowadays, the Colonel gets all the heartbeat quickening he can stand just climbing a flight of stairs.

There was a time, long ago in the halcyon days of his youth, that, given a step in the clear, the Colonel's jets could zoom him upfield at the speed of heat; defenders strewn in his wake.

These days, the Colonel has a hard enough time generating enough forward motion to outrace an odor.

In all likelihood, the flat-belly playing quarterback for the adults will look for other flat-bellies to whom to pass the football. That's probably a good thing. The Colonel embarrasses himself regularly enough without assistance.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Exception to the Rule

Revolutions have a nasty habit of throwing and trampling the first rational riders who leap upon their backs and seize the reins of change. More often than not, the outcomes of popular, "democratic" uprisings take trajectories bent to nefarious actors' whose thirst for power subverts the popular will. Here in these re-United States, our pampered population is blissfully unaware, or uncaring, that our own revolution, and it's eventual constitutional conclusion, was the great exception to this rule.

Part of the reason for this, the Colonel believes, is that our late 18th Century separation from Great Britain was less revolution and more civil war. A sampling of public opinion at any point between 1770 and 1780 would have revealed an American population deeply divided on the question of separation from Britain. Indeed, given the fact that most Americans, particularly those south of Boston, were, at best, ambivalent on the question, those in favor of independence were in the minority. At any one time during the conflict, Loyalist American colonists serving in British-raised militia and line units, or even in the British Army and Navy itself, nearly equalled the number of those serving in rebel militia or in the Continental Army and Navy.

Frankly, we have Great Britain to thank for the fact that our nascent nation was as ready as it was for self-governance. The Colonies had been mostly governing themselves more-or-less "democratically" for decades prior to their declaration of independence from the British Crown. And, we have a war, centuries-on at that point, between Britain and France to thank for the paucity of forces and poor Army leaders the Crown dedicated to putting down the rebels in America.

Still, the American "experiment" in democratic republicanism was a much nearer disaster in its infancy than most modern Americans know. There were ample bad actors around at the time who wished to hijack the American revolution. Were it not for the principled idealism of the majority of the first generation of our leaders, and the fact the the material lives of the vast majority of American colonists changed little in the initial transition from crown colony to independent nation, the outcome could have been far different.

So, what to think of the popular uprisings simmering across the Middle East?

The Colonel is not optimistic about the chances of Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, or any other kind of secular democracy taking hold. He sees no George Washington, nor Simon Bolivar for that matter, in the lead.

The Colonel believes that best these re-United States, and Israel, can hope for is that Mubarak in Egypt and Abdullah in Jordan can keep from becoming unhorsed before other rational riders are ready to grasp the reins and gentle the steed.

The Colonel knows, however, that hope is not a strategy. This will not end well. There will be no exception to the rule in Egypt.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Plague, plague!"

The Colonel's friendly neighborhood pharmacist tells him that there is no such thing as a "touch of the flu." Far be it from the Colonel to disagree. The Colonel won't go so far as to honor the bug that took up residence in his respiratory system with the title, influenza. And, while he has felt a whole lot better than he felt the past several days, he certainly has felt a lot worse.

For example, there was that time that he caught "the crud" on that big ugly gray floating prison the Navy euphemistically refers to as an amphibious ship. The Colonel was so sick that he was afraid he was going to die. And then, it got worse, and the Colonel was afraid he wouldn't die.

The Colonel has ingested enough pharmaceuticals over the past 96 hours to put down a horse. He's not sure whether the dream he had yesterday about a dragon and a woefully ineffective fire extinguisher should be notched up to the effects of fever or drugs.

Don't know if the hoarseness the Colonel is experiencing is from the coughing or from the requirement his family has placed on him to precede his entrance into any room with loud announcements of "Plague...plague!"

The really great part of all of this pestilence is the recovery period, replete with technicolor expectoration and delirium tremens as the Colonel's body withdraws from the drugs.

So, the Colonel has that to look forward to...which is nice.