Saturday, December 31, 2016


It's tree-felling season here aboard the Colonel's vast holdings at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

Not since the Colonel completed the mission of preparing a unit for deployment, and brought them all home safe again, has he found something so satisfying as building something with wood harvested and milled on his own property.

When the Colonel first purchased his sawmill -- SemperFilet -- he believed he was doing so to free himself of the grip of the local lumber yard.  He even thought he might save some money in the process.

Did he?  Eh..., probably not. Chainsaws and sawmills don't run on air...

But he did fill his days with a really cool hobby.

The Colonel has always loved trees.  He was a tree-climber when he was a kid -- loving the semi-escape of earthboundedness that hauling oneself up a ladder of branches to a lofty perch provided.   In the top of a tree, the Colonel gained a vantage from which his imagination could run wild.

No telling how many enemy planes he shot down, mountains he climbed, or whales he spotted spouting.  

But, nowadays his admiration of a tree takes on a wholly different aspect.  The Colonel can't look at a sizable tree without estimating its yield in board feet.

Now, before any of the half dozen of you who the Colonel counts as his readership get the idea that the Colonel is engaged in some wanton timber wastage, slashing and burning through his forest in a way that would make a passel of hippie-offspring snowflakes picket his operation, let the Colonel assure you that his is an entirely sustainable operation.

In point of fact, the Colonel's personal forest is growing far faster than his harvesting. He has even allowed former pasture land to return to woodlot.

Some might sarcastically observe that trees are now growing in his former pastures because the Colonel is slovenly in his bush-hogging.  They would be right.  But, there is a method to his laziness. In a couple of fields where once flat prairies of grass grew, small oaks now dot.  They are less than a decade old, but someday the Colonel's great, great grand progeny will lounge under their expansive canopies.

Back to the reason for the season.

Felling large trees is hot, dangerous work.  Mostly dangerous.  But, that's the kind of guy the Colonel is.

The mature trees on the Colonel's hit list are protected in the warmer months but hordes of Colonel-hating insects and fork-tongued folks with no shoulders.  So, the Colonel waits until the winter months, when all of the Colonel-hating denizens are underground, to do his lumber-jacking.

If you have never felled a large tree with a chainsaw, you just haven't lived.  Nothing gets the blood pumping like cheating death and dismemberment at close range.

A large tree is a living thing that doesn't die easily.  One doesn't just march up to a tree and quickly slice it off at the base.  The tree fights back.  And, if you are careless with it -- underestimate its strength and heft -- it'll kill you.

The Colonel approaches tree-felling like a military operation.  There's a planning phase in which the following questions are answered:  A) In which direction do you want the tree to fall?  2) In which direction do you want unimpeded rapid escape?  

Answering question A helps answer the second.  Once you decide in which direction you want the tree to fall, you must plot primary and alternate rapid escape azimuths.  (* Important safety tip:  Ensure that rapid escape azimuths do no coincide with direction of tree fall.)

Once planning is complete, the Colonel conducts a preparatory phase wherein he clears paths for both tree fall and rapid escape.  (* Another important safety tip:  Avoid roads and power lines as tree-fall directions.  Cars and electricity don't mix well with tons of falling timber.)

Rapid escape azimuth planning must also include primary and alternate chainsaw flinging positions.  Rapid escapes from the death throes of a mighty tree are hard enough as it is.  Attempting a rapid escape from the death throes of a mighty tree while still lugging a running chainsaw only complicates the matter, unnecessarily.  

Felling a mighty tree in a desired direction takes several cutting steps.  First, a horizontal cut less than halfway through is made at the base of the tree facing the azimuth of desired fall.  A second, diagonal, cut is made connecting to the first cut, resulting in a cake-slice (tree-felling always makes the Colonel hungry) piece that should, if you have cut precisely enough, fall out easily. (The Colonel is never precise, so he always carries a sledge with which to beat out the slice.)

Remembering a mighty tree is a living thing that will fight him to the death, the Colonel conducts each of the steps above and below in a modified sprinter's crouch.  There are often false starts in the escape azimuth race -- a mighty tree will complain at your assault, issuing starter's pistol cracks.  The Colonel usually gets in a pretty good country crossfit workout when felling a mighty tree, replete with upper body chainsaw flings and false start sprints for life.

Once the tree fall direction cut is made, the real fun begins.  When you start the felling cut on its back side, a mighty tree gets the message that you aren't just whittling your initials and, indeed, intend to kill it.  A mighty tree will endeavor to return the favor.  Ergo, the need for primary and alternate chainsaw flinging positions, and primary and alternate escape routes.  A mighty tree will fall, but it will fight to the end, striking back at you with one or more death throe nods to Newtonian Physics. 

Oh, and when a mighty tree gives up its structural integrity to the vertical, its fall is irreversible.  There is no pause button to mash so that one can quickly move one's pick-up truck.  Don't ask how the Colonel knows this.   

There aren't many feelings the Colonel has had in his feelings-full life that compare to the sight (and survival) of a mighty tree crashing to the horizontal.  Unfortunately, because the Colonel's keen appreciation of the latter most often results in a chainsaw fling and 100 yard dash (and because the Colonel's 100 yard dash time has slowed significantly over the years) he often misses the former. 

There's no mistaking the sound, however.

Particularly, if you forgot to move the truck.   

Monday, December 26, 2016

Different Year; Same Old Song

The Colonel has never been one to ascribe particular emphasis to the concept of a "new year."  Adding a sequential numeral to the current calendar track of Earth's revolution around the Sun -- arbitrarily offset as it is from the seasonal planetary wobble track -- just seems such an inane reason for hope, let alone celebration.  

Ebullient wishes of "Happy New Year" and solemn signatory to revolutionary personal resolutions based on the beginning of a dozen segments of an archaic numeration of the passage of planetary rotations, each loosely connected to the cyclical passage of the largest satellite through Earth's shadow, seems -- dare the Colonel say it -- idiotic

Seriously.  Why do we do it?

It really is just an arbitrary cause celebre.  But, the Colonel guesses that if you need a reason to party, the beginning of a new calendar year is as good a reason as any.

Still, if one is hard up for a reason to party, why not celebrate New Month?  Why wait a whole year to wish others health and prosperity, to resolve change of behavior, or to countdown in eager anticipation of something entirely new than the moment before.

Heck, why not celebrate New Week?  Well, the Colonel guesses many people do -- partying on New Week's Eve (Saturday night).

But, the Colonel's original point is that there is placed, in his not so humble opinion, far too much import to the midnight demarcation between the last day of December and the first of January. 

Now, the Colonel will admit in this year's case that there is ample motivation to place it firmly in the soon-forgotten rear-view.  The year 2016 hasn't been a banner year as far as years go.  Oh, it started off rosely enough -- the Colonel's Ole Miss Football Rebels appeared in (and won) the Sugar Bowl for the first time since Eli's  and Peyton's (aka Traitor Manning) daddy was slinging the pigskin in red and blue.  But, shortly thereafter the year took a nosedive.

There were a few personal mountain tops -- chief among them celebration (with a two-week Mediterranean cruise) of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's 40th anniversary of wedded bliss with the Colonel -- but, the lows far outweighed the highs.

Actually, it's better said to say "the losses far outweighed the gains."

By the time the year began to wane, the Colonel had lost a promising young grand nephew, one of his domino playing buddies, and the finest father-in-law for which a man could ask.  And more potential personal losses are mounting up.

But, to look to a new calendar year for relief of the grief of the old is empty-headed at best.  

Grief is a constant in the condition of man.  There will always be losses, until the day one becomes the loss of another.  A new calendar year will not bring back lost joy. 

So, party hardy this coming Saturday night, if it brings you happiness.  The next day will not bring you any more joy than the previous.  Neither days, weeks, months, nor years -- cold calendar calculations at best -- bring joy.  

One's spiritual condition is not calendar dependant.  It is foolhardy to place hope for happiness in the mere passage of time. 

Sometime toward the end of the next calendar month the Colonel will complete yet another air-breathing trip around the sun.  Don't get him started on the inanity of celebrating birthdays...     


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

No Regulation without Representation

Included in the foundational document of our great nation -- the Declaration of Independence -- is a long list of grievances which provided the reasons on which the Continental Congress based its declaration that,

"these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do."

Midway through that list of grievances is the following:

"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."

Were the great men who affixed their signatures to that document -- mutually pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor -- to see the huge and onerous regulatory apparatus that today sends hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance, they would no doubt exclaim in unanimous exasperation something along the lines of:

"We thought we won the war!  Nothing has changed!  In fact, things are much worse than under King George!"  

Or words to that effect.  The Colonel imagines the Founders would use far more colorful and impactful language than his meager attempt at channeling -- as was their genius.  

No doubt those great men would be apoplectically appalled at the overbearing governmental (Federal, state, and local) bureaucracy that controls every aspect of the American citizens' lives today, no matter how well-meaning the bureaucrats' intentions.  

Bureaucracies nearly always begin with the best of intentions -- to save us from ourselves.  Bureaucrats nearly always end up expanding their power and justifying their existence with more and more regulations.  Bureaucracies become principalities in and of themselves, answerable to none but themselves.

Our elected representatives, at all levels of government, create and empower these bureaucratic principalities, and then allow them to run roughshod over the rights of those they are elected to represent -- in effect, abdicating their responsibilities and betraying their oaths. 

Were the great men who affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence -- mutually pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor -- to speak to our situation today, the Colonel fervently believes they would say,

"No regulation without representation!

Those great classical liberals (not to be confused with today's statist socialist progressives we call "liberals"), upon seeing the state of regulatory affairs in their United States, would no doubt tear the powdered wigs from their heads and wail in mourning, reprising Charlton Heston's final line in the cinematic classic "Planet of the Apes,"  

"You maniacs!  You blew it up!  Damn them!  Damn them all to hell!"

Or words to that effect.  The Founders were far more eloquent and far less profane than 20th Century movie script writers.

It should be pointed out at this juncture that objective historians note that the standard of living and range of rights enjoyed by mid 18th Century Colonial Americans were, in fact, far higher and more expansive than those of the average Londoner at the time.  Current demographers and social scientists make a similar claim about the standard of living and rights of American citizens vis-à-vis the rest of the world.  But one should never confuse the cleanliness and security of one's cage with the blessings of freedom and self-determination.

It was personal and commercial freedom, relatively unfettered by bureaucratic regulation, that catapulted a colonial back-water to hemispheric dominance in little more than four generations and to world power in little more than four more generations. 

For the last four generations, the American Republic has stagnated under a blanket of bureaucratic control that keeps it warm and safe, but stifles the growth that comes only from rising to challenges. 

Truly making America great again will mean sacrificing the Republic's social security (not be confused with the agency of the same name) in the short term, for the sake of long-term growth-inducing challenge.  Therefore, the first action of the new Presidential Administration and the Congress, must be, not just token regulatory reform, but full-scale bureaucratic house-cleaning.  Strip it down to the bare bones.  Eliminate any regulation, and its parent bureaucracy, that sacrifices individual and commercial freedom at the alter of transitory security. 

Then, watch the American Republic soar.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Allow the Colonel to make this crystal clear right up front:

When he voted in the Republican Primary, Donald Trump was the Colonel's 17th choice.

That's right -- the Colonel would have voted for Gilmore over Trump. To be brutally honest, the Colonel has never liked Trump.  Never have been a big fan of ostentatious narcissistic bullies.

And, the Colonel will freely admit that he way underestimated Donald Trump's ability to mount a winning presidential campaign -- even against the most flawed Democrat Party candidate in history.  The Colonel, as many of you who frequently waste precious rod and cone time perusing posts hereon will remember, early on endorsed a Rubio/Kasich ticket that he believed had the best chance of both defeating Hillary Clinton (in the Electoral College count) and effectively governing over the next four years.  And, after watching Trump's performance in the "debates" (a term defined, in the current American lexicon, with less firmament than a newborn's diaper deposit), and his inability to resist spending political capital on defending himself against attacks designed to do just that, the Colonel was convinced the polls were all wrong.  The Colonel didn't believe that the race was going to be any closer than about 15 points.  

The Colonel was wr...

The Colonel was wwrr...

The Colonel was wroooo...

The Colonel misunderestimated.  (It's a word -- just ask W)

Look, the Colonel gets it.  The Donald tapped into a seething reservoir of discontent.  He said what 60+ million American citizens wanted to hear. But, that doesn't make the Colonel trust him any more than he trusts a threatened copperhead not to strike.

And, while the Colonel is decidedly not a practitioner of the unmanly art of political correctness, he is uncomfortable with Trump's rhetoric.  Just as uncomfortable as he is with the divisive rhetoric, and tenuous grasp on the truth, of the current temp help in the Oval Office.

For the Colonel's many friends who are currently toasting with tankards of Trumpade: he hopes you are right.  He hopes President Trump will restore Constitutional governance to our great Republic.

But, the Colonel has learned from painful experience that "hope" is not an effective strategy, nor even a satisfactory operational or tactical course of action.  The Colonel fervently believes that the future greatness of our Republic lies not in the hands of an extra-Constitutional strongman, but in a chief executive whose every action is bound by a strict interpretation of the Constitution to which he or she solemnly swears his allegiance and defense.  The Colonel is not ready to place complete trust in Trump's willingness to abide strictly by the Constitution while he endeavors to deliver on his promise to "make America great again;" whatever that means.  The Colonel fears that Trump's narcissism and the counsel of sycophants will win out over strict Constitutional governance just as surely as it has in Obama's case.

But, we could have been in far more worse hands come January.  A Hillary Clinton presidency, with certain attendant corruption the likes of which have not been seen since the Grant administration, was a prospect too horrible to entertain, even for a plurality of the voters in several states that went for Obama two elections in a row.   

For that reason, he will admit, the Colonel was a sniff short of giddy as the elections results trickled in last Tuesday.  He may not have been on the Trump Train, but the Colonel was for dang sure not looking forward to the certain full-scale assault on the Constitution that would have continued under a Clinton administration.  

Bottom line:  The Colonel's actual declaration of the Tallahatchie Republic is on hold.  But, Trump had better watch his... actions. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Morning with Martha

It may seem that it was way too early to laugh, but the Colonel and his lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, and her twin sister, the courageous and skilled Miss Linda, couldn't help it.  

It also may seem that making the Colonel's recently-widowed mother-in-law the object of our collective mirth was the absolute height (depth?) of inappropriate behavior.  You would probably be right.  But, don't judge just yet.

See, the Colonel's father-in-law, the man whose every waking moment for the past decade has been consumed with providing constant care to his bride of over six decades, was relieved of that duty by his heavenly commanding officer and called to his eternal home earlier this week.  The man had more than fought the good fight; lapped the field in the good race; pulled...  you get the picture.

He more than rated his relief.

And, as he fought for his last breaths, the Colonel leaned in close and made him a solemn promise.  He could go.  The Colonel would take over.  Miss Martha would be well taken care of. 

This morning, the strong and serene Miss Martha had an appointment with an oral surgeon.  Not. A. Problem.

The Colonel has this.  Besides, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and her sister, the highly experienced registered nurse were on hand to provide support as required.

Reveille went off as planned.  That was the last thing that went off as planned.

Shortly after the Colonel marched down the passageway banging on hatches and announcing the end of the nightly rest period, he retired back to his rack to wait for the women to clear the shower facilities.  

The Colonel awoke an hour later to a strangely quiet house.  

Reveille had failed to launch.  The rocket was not only still on the pad, it was cold and empty of fuel.  No venting of gasses.  No countdown.  No...  you get the picture.
The Colonel's next actions were reminiscent of those of the first class porter on the Titanic post berg-bump. Only with a little more alacrity and alarm.  

Bedroom doors in the house have now been sufficiently tested for impact resiliency.

Being now an hour behind his carefully choreographed operational plan of the day, the Colonel began closely supervising every aspect of three women's morning preparation.

That went about as well as you would expect.  The Colonel retired once again to his rack to wait out the firestorm of indignation his efforts had ignited.

When the smoke cleared, the Colonel ventured out to see how well preparations had progressed in his forced absence.  He arrived in the kitchen just in time to hear the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda ask her sister, the highly experienced registered nurse,

"You didn't give her the whole pill, did you?"

"Yes," the highly experienced registered nurse answered stiffly.  "Why do you ask?"

"Read the directions on the bottle," the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda said, her voice rising a half octave with each word.

The Colonel saw a situation developing and inserted himself into said situation for the purpose of situation dissipation.  "What's the problem here, ladies?"

"Oh, no," the Colonel's sister-in-law, the highly experienced nurse, exclaimed.  "The bottle says give her half a pill!"

"Half a pill of what?," the Colonel inquired.  

"Valium!"  Both women exclaimed together.

"Valium," the Colonel asked. "Valium, Valium?"

The Colonel looked over at his mother-in-law.  A sleepy smile looked back.

"Let me get this straight," the Colonel attempted to clarify.  "You gave her a whole Valium when the prescription said to just give her half a Valium?"

"Yes!," said the twins.

"Yesh," said the twins' mother.

Needless to say, things were going widely astray of the Colonel's carefully choreographed plan, and they weren't going to get rounded up anytime soon.

The next forty-five minutes, during which the Colonel and his "helpers" got the strong and serene Miss Martha into the car, drove a half-hour to the oral surgeon's office, got the strong and very serene Miss Martha out of the car and into a wheel chair, wheeled the strong and serenely zonked-out Miss Martha into the reception area and then down to the operating room and into the operating chair, was nearly a scene-by-scene recreation of the cinematic tour de force "Weekend at Bernie's."  

The Colonel would like to report that unlike the scenes in which Bernie's head constantly hit hard objects, the strongly drugged and very serene Miss Martha suffered no such indignities.

The Colonel would like to report that, but he can't.

At one point the Colonel attempted a "dead-man lift" he had practiced countless times during his infantry days.  Unfortunately, his infantry days were a couple of decades ago and his "dead-man lift" was a bit out of practice.  

The Colonel dropped his mother-in-law.   

He'll rot in hell, he knows.

The Colonel's prayers this evening will include sincere apologies to his hero father-in-law.  Somehow, he thinks that, just maybe, the great man was watching with a smile on his face.  Of course, the Colonel knows today's antics will be added to the long list of such episodes his father-in-law took such great joy in retelling about his jarhead son-in-law.  

Fair enough.

The Colonel wishes to assure his meager readership that no mothers-in-law were actually harmed in the making of this blog.    



Saturday, October 01, 2016

Mr. Jack

One of the best men the Colonel has ever known -- and he has been privileged to lead a life full of great men -- has lain in a coma for the last seven weeks.

The call came at dinner time and within 20 minutes the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was out the door and on the road, driving most of the night to get to his bedside.  

Her father -- hard as a set of woodpecker lips -- had dismissed for weeks the headache he chalked up to his chronic sinus issues.

It wasn't his sinuses.  It was a bleed on the outside of his brain.  It had gone on for weeks.


Weeks in which this tough old man continued to do his duty.  You see, he is his wife's primary care-giver and that is his all-consuming passion.

Weeks in which he ignored the pain and continued to drive Miss Martha to appointments and tend to her every need.

He mentioned his pain to his doctor and asked for some sinus meds. The doctor, who had treated him for decades, saw something he didn't like and sent him for a CT scan.  The results put him immediately in ICU and surgery soon thereafter.

Following surgery, he was awake, but very agitated.  He knew he had responsibilities and he was not going to stay in bed.  The doctors sedated him so that he would rest and recover.

He has had only one very brief moment of consciousness since.

And, now, the doctors say complications are setting in, and Mr. Jack's body is failing him fast. 

The Colonel writes this quickly this morning.  He doesn't want to wait until later to write what's on his heart.  The Colonel worries that his quick, feeble words won't do the great man justice, but it can't wait.  

Some men live their entire lives and never know for sure whether anything they ever did really made a difference in their world. 

Some men live their entire lives making sure everybody knows the difference they are making in their world. 

Jack Cannon was the rare man whose impact was felt literally world-wide and yet never once sought recognition.

In the summer of his 16th year, the Colonel and his best buddy started chasing two of Jack Cannon’s greatest accomplishments – his twin daughters, Brenda and Linda. When Jack realized he couldn’t chase them off, he "adopted" them. Jack and Martha had invested their lives in their girls and they weren’t about to let a couple of knucklehead boys mess that up.

For the next three years the Colonel had a ringside seat watching Jack and Martha fight the good fight -- raising their daughters to love the Lord above all else, giving them every reason in the world to love their family above all else on earth, and setting the highest examples of integrity, selflessness, service, and devotion.

Jack Cannon was many things to many, many people.

To some he was a teacher. The Colonel was but one of his many formal and informal pupils. His lessons, both practical and spiritual, were simple and yet life-long.

To the pastors in whose churches he served as a worker, deacon, and administrator, Jack Cannon was always the “go-to guy.” If something needed to be fixed – he fixed it. If a project needed leadership – he led. If a softball team needed a coach – he coached and played. Jack Cannon plugged in and performed at 110% at any and every task no matter how large or inconsequential.

When the Colonel first met him, Jack Cannon was a major in the United States Air Force. One of the great works of God in the Colonel's life was His orchestrating Air Force assignments that placed SMSGT Gregory at the same base in the Panama Canal Zone, 
at the same time, with Major Cannon. 

Jack had come to Panama straight from a year flying dangerous missions in Vietnam. His flying skill was so widely recognized that he was requested by name to serve as the pilot/air crew commander for the general commanding the Air Force’s Southern Command. In that capacity, Jack flew all over Central and South America, and would return from each trip with a small souvenir for Martha and the girls and harrowing tales of flights in and out of challenging airfields for the Colonel and his buddies.

Jack loved flying. Perhaps the cruelest thing the Air Force ever did was give him his last assignment at Tyndall Air Force base --command of the, then, Transportation Squadron – a non-flying command. Jack could have been bitter; could have just coasted in the job. But, as much as Jack loved flying, he was even more committed to doing the best job possible no matter the assignment. The Transportation Squadron was not doing well when he took over – by the time he left it was the best transportation squadron in the Air Force, having won awards that said so.

Jack had several medals and commendations for his heroism and skill as a pilot. His awards from his time in Vietnam, however, were shrouded in a bit of mystery. In Vietnam, he flew a top secret electronic counter-measures aircraft – the EC-47. Not until the Colonel was commissioned years later and held a security clearance did Jack tell him any details of his missions in Vietnam. Later, when the Colonel held a top-secret clearance, he tried to get Jack a copy of one of his awards from the Air Force and was rebuffed – it was still too highly classified, nearly 30 years later.

But, that was okay with Jack. In fact, that was the way he conducted most of his service to others his whole life.

One year around Christmas, the Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda were visiting her parents and Jack said to the Colonel, “C’mon, got a project.” Most times “a project” was fixing something at the church. This time was different. The church had collected baskets of food to give out to needy families and the "project" was to deliver some of them. Simple enough; ring the doorbell, hand them the basket and get a whole load of “feel good” about how wonderful we were giving them food. 

But, no. That wasn’t Jack’s style. He waited until he knew the people weren’t home and then he and the Colonel snuck in, put the food in the cupboards and fridge, and left without leaving a sign. Oh, and the Colonel was the one crawling through an unlocked window to gain access.

With Jack Cannon there was never any doubt. 

There was never any doubt about his intentions.

There was never any doubt about his word.

There was never any doubt about where he stood -- always clearly in the bright daylight of ethical conduct and always on the right side.

There was never any doubt he loved the Lord.

There was never any doubt that Jesus’ teachings and commands were his guides.

There was never any doubt that the Holy Spirit filled his heart and soul. The gifts of the spirit were more evident in his Christian walk than in any other man the Colonel has ever known. There is not a shred of doubt in the Colonel's heart that Jack Cannon will soon be worshipping at the feet of Jesus for eternity.

There was never any doubt that he loved his family. Martha and the girls were his greatest treasures. He and Martha raised two amazing daughters – two of the most fearless, most fiercely loyal, and yet most kind-hearted women the Colonel has ever known. They are, in character, spitting images of Jack Cannon. 

In the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, the Colonel sees her father every day, and that’s a very good thing.

God has blessed the Colonel's life with scores of great leaders and great men of character – none more influential than Lieutenant Colonel John W. Cannon, United States Air Force. 

Thank you, God… and… Thank you, sir.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Only the Constitution

An old high school chum, who, following graduation from the Air Force Academy, served a distinguished career in defense of our nation, reached out to the Colonel recently.  Though retired from active military service, he continues to serve his nation mentoring future military officers.  He asked the Colonel for suggestions in that regard.

The Colonel is certain it was a pro forma request made more out of his abundance of politeness and friendship than out of any serious regard for the Colonel's not-so learned opinions.

But, the Colonel gave him a reply all the same.  

The Colonel's snap answer was that he considered "integrity" to be the most important core value of a commissioned officer, and that the most important foundation stone in an officer's professional knowledge base was at least a working knowledge of the Constitution of the United States, to which every officer solemnly swears an oath of allegiance.  

Here the Colonel would add a little meat to the bare bones of that snap answer.

The Colonel first swore to support and defend the Constitution nearly half a century ago upon entry into the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps as a midshipman.  He took the same oath at his commissioning as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, and again at each promotion to the next rank:

           "I, Thomas E. Gregory, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all  enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter.  So help me God." 

Please note, as key to this entire discussion, that an officer swears allegiance to no other entity in his or her oath of office -- only the Constitution.

Yet, the Colonel will bet you a punch in the jaw that not more than one in a hundred military officers has ever read the Constitution for comprehension, let alone have a working knowledge of the document to which they have sworn their honor and lives to "support and defend..., against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
Here, the Colonel must admit that his own, admittedly limited, working knowledge of the Constitution was gained very late in his military career.  It is now a matter of personal chagrin that he so blithely swore an oath of allegiance to a document he really knew very little about.  Oh, he understood the general concepts around which the Constitution was formed and the general form of government and its operating principles delineated therein, but that's like an airline pilot being satisfied with the general knowledge that his aircraft has wings and propulsion for the purpose of generating lift.  

The Colonel has come, albeit far too late in his life, to the conclusion that the most critical document on any U.S. military officer's professional reading list is the United States Constitution.  He remembers clearly the admonitions of his professional military mentors to remain apolitical and to devote himself strictly to the study of political objectives only as they applied to his translation of those objectives into battlefield successes.  The Colonel is afraid that most officers regard study of the Constitution to be outside of their professional military purview because "that's politics." But, the Constitution itself is apolitical, in the partisan interpretation of that concept.     

To be sure, the language is antiquated, and the concepts of federalism and guaranteed basic individual rights may seem outdated now nearly two and a half centuries since Madison, Hamilton, and Jay put them in writing.  And, many find fault with the original document for some of it's flaws with regard to slavery, and other important issues on which it was originally silent.  But, the genius of the Constitution is that included within it are mechanisms for correction and update.  It is here that the Colonel takes great umbrage with those who maintain that the Constitution is a "living" document open to judicial interpretation to suit the prevailing public will.  Such adherence to judicial activism as the guarantor of the "constitutionality" of unaddressed, yet publicly perceived "rights" ignores the very mechanisms of the Constitution that allow for "constitutional" address of those rights -- namely the process of Amendments.

Understand this:  The courts are NOT the ultimate guarantors of the rights of citizens of these United States and the constitutionally correct operation of their federal government.  

The commissioned officer corps of the nation's military is.  

No others who take the oath of national office, do so apolitically. At least no others possessing the wherewithal to employ irresistible force against "...all enemies, foreign and domestic."  

The Colonel does not mean to advocate military intervention in the political affairs of the nation.  At least not lightly.  But, if the U.S. military's officer corps is indeed the ultimate guarantor of the individual rights and the operational form of government embodied in the Constitution, it has a sacred, sworn, responsibility to act in the defense of that Constitution.  Such action might only need be the occasional subtle reminder to the people's elected temp help in the Oval Office and in the halls of Congress, that the nation's military leadership has but one master -- the Constitution.  But, politicians should know, deep in the recesses of their self-serving hearts, that America's military is not their play-thing.  America's military is their minder, and it will act to preserve Constitutional governance, if it must.   

An officer so grounded in the Constitution, to which he or she swears sole allegiance, would also have no other more sacred, sworn, duty than to immediately return constitutional governance to the people's representatives from whom it was so grievously usurped as to require military action in the first place.

That is the genius of the commissioned officer's oath of office.       

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

2076; A Dream

The Colonel dreamed last night; a dream as vivid and real as a documentary. The year was 2076. The Colonel, at 120, though chair-bound, was as clear of eye and as sharp of mind as ever – thanks to corneal transplants and a microchip behind his left ear.

In his dream, the Colonel’s progeny – six generations and nearly 300 in all -- had gathered to celebrate his birthday. As was his custom, following a personal key lime pie and cake for the masses, the Colonel slammed his palm on the table and announced, “Everybody outside on the porch. It’s story and game time!”

Helped to his rocking chair on the front porch, the Colonel took his seat and surveyed his family spread out on the lawn. “Well, what’ll it be? What story do you want to hear?”

A chorus of children’s voices exploded in shouts of favorites. The adults smiled and laughed at the calls. The Colonel’s fanciful tales had entertained his children for nearly a century.

And, then, one child’s voice lifted above the others, “Tell us a history story, Colonel!”

Ignoring the looks of abject horror suddenly etched on the faces of the adults – his fanciful tales were over relatively quickly; his history lectures, not so much -- the Colonel smiled broadly, leaned forward in his rocker, and fixed his approving eyes on the child after his own heart, “What history do you want to hear, young man?”

“Tell us about the Tallahatchie Republic, Colonel!”

The Colonel sat back, fixed his gaze on the middle distance, and rocked his chair slowly, “That is a name the Colonel has not heard in a long time.”

An impertinent voice from the front row chirped, “Why do you always call yourself ‘The Colonel?’”

The Colonel’s Lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, seated in her rocker to the Colonel’s left, hushed the child, “Quiet, sweet boy, the Colonel will talk himself to sleep shortly and then y’all can go play.”

The Colonel continued to gaze into the middle distance.

“Tell your history story, dear,” the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda encouraged.

The Colonel continued to gaze into the middle distance.

“Dear? Colonel? Hey, knucklehead!"

“Huh?,” the Colonel snapped his head around. “What, now? Is it nap time?”

“Not yet, dear. Tell your story, first,” the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda cooed.

“Well, then, where were we?” the Colonel asked his audience. “Oh, yes, the history of the Tallahatchie Republic. Well,” he settled back in his rocker, “in order to understand the history of the Tallahatchie Republic, we need to understand the things that led to the establishment of the Tallahatchie Republic. The first thing that really got things going was the election of 2016.”

“A billionaire real estate tycoon and reality TV celebrity won the presidency in 2016. Donald Trump was behind in the polling until the debates. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, coughed incessantly during the entire first and second debate, and was so obviously medicated in the third, that public opinion swung narrowly in Trump’s favor.“

A hand shot up, “what’s TV?”

“Television. That reminds the Colonel; he wants your undivided attention. Turn off your game feeds.”

The kids grumbled and whined, but all blinked twice and gave their undivided attention to the Colonel.

“So, anyway,” the Colonel continued, “Trump’s behavior in office was even more divisive than his predecessor’s and the mid-term elections in 2018 returned the Democrats to power in the House and Senate. Trump addressed the nation the next night on TV from the White House, expressed his disdain for the ‘rigged system’ that not even he could surmount, and announced his resignation. Trump concluded his address with the statement, “I’m tired of living in this dump. I’m outa here.”

“Vice President Mike Pence was sworn in as President the next day and, in accordance with the requirements of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, immediately submitted for Congressional approval his choice of Senator Ted Cruz to be his Vice President. The Senate debated the issue for three weeks, and then adjourned without decision; leaving the issue for the new Senate to address. The new, Democrat-controlled, Senate refused to even allow debate on Pence’s pick for three months. In April of 2019, President Pence was found dead in his bed of an apparent suicide. Evidently, he had smothered himself with his own pillow.”

“The next in line for the Presidency, per the Constitution, was the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the nation’s first woman president. Her pick of Corey Booker for Vice President was immediately approved by Congress.”

A hand shot up from the masses at the Colonel’s feet.

“Yes, Number 231?”

“Is that when you declared the Tallahatchie Republic?”

“Nope. Be patient, little one. We’ll get there.”

The Colonel continued his lecture, “President Pelosi’s first months in office were marked by passage of more legislation forwarding the socialists’ agenda than seen since the FDR administration. The Hate Speech Elimination Act made all but the most “progressively-themed” speech illegal, effectively shut down conservative talk radio, and even private expression of conservative thought. The remaining Republicans in Congress never even mounted any opposition – the majority of them were never really conservative, anyway. A challenge to the law was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote (Trump’s ‘mainstream compromise’ justice pick in early 2017 sided with the majority who found an unwritten Constitutional right to not be offended based on the also unwritten Constitutional right to privacy).”

Another hand shot up, “Is that when you declared the Tallahatchie Republic, Colonel?”

“Nope. Not yet.”

“The next bill signed into law by President Pelosi was the American Safety & Security Act which outlawed private ownership of handguns and any long gun with a magazine capacity greater than two rounds. A court challenge based on the 2d Amendment was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote. When local law enforcement authorities, particularly in the South and Mountain West refused to confiscate illegal weapons, Congress passed and Pelosi signed the American Safe Policing Act which federalized all law enforcement in the nation.”

“Bet that’s when you declared the Tallahatchie Republic, huh, Colonel?”


“Did they come get your guns, Colonel?”

“Oh, they came. They even searched the house and property, but didn’t find a firearm anywhere. The Colonel told ‘em that somebody must’ve broke in and stole all his guns. When they asked how come the Colonel hadn’t reported it, he told ‘em he was now because he just noticed they were missing.”

“Where’d you hide, ‘em, Colonel?”

“Why, the Colonel is surprised at you, Number 252! He would never do anything illegal,” the Colonel grinned conspiratorially. “Anyway, there must have been a very active gun-theft ring hereabouts because folks all over told the Feds the same thing – they had just noticed that morning that their guns had all been stolen during the night.”

“What happened, next, Colonel?”

“Well, things muddled along for several years. Most folks were smart enough not to openly defy the Feds, particularly after the Little Rock Massacre. The Democrats renamed their party the Democratic Socialists and doubled down on their governing philosophy of paying for huge social programs by taxing the wealthy and corporations at rates over 90%. The US military was slashed by two-thirds and defense spending diverted to expanding social programs. The economy was in a depression by the summer of 2024. If a Republican party had still existed at that point, they might have mounted an electoral challenge and gained control of Congress and the Presidency. But, the Democratic Socialists had too much of a stranglehold on the reins of politics – nearly 70% of the voting population was dependent on government assistance.”

“Is that when you declared the Tallahatchie Republic, Colonel?”

“We're getting close, youngster. Hang in there.”

“Does anyone know what happened in the fall of 2024?” the Colonel asked.

“Oooh, oooh, I do, Colonel, I do!”


“The Triple Whammy!”

“That’s right, smart guy! The Triple Whammy. Within two months’ time, three major natural disasters struck the Continental United States. First, a Category 3 Hurricane roared up the Eastern Seaboard and came ashore just south of Atlantic City. A 25-foot storm surge and torrential rains inundated the New York metropolitan area. By the time the storm curved out to sea north of Boston, ten million people – most packed in cities -- were without power, clean water, and, after three days, out of food. As the Federal government scrambled to respond, it quickly became clear that major active duty military resources were needed. An air-heavy joint task force was formed. Helicopters were the key. From ships at sea and from points outside the affected area a steady stream of rotary wing aircraft flew in supplies. It wasn’t near enough, and within a week, the region was in open rebellion. President Pelosi declared martial law, and directed three army and one Marine division to occupy the region.”

“Three weeks after Hurricane Maureen hit, the Big One – a long forecasted 8.0 earthquake -- struck Southern California. The immediate death toll was greater than any other single event in the history of the nation. The Port of Los Angeles – the nation’s largest – was practically destroyed. Infrastructure providing transportation, power, water, and food resupply was cut in numerous locations throughout the region. Strong aftershocks stymied recovery efforts. President Pelosi didn’t wait for the riots this time and immediately declared martial law in the region. The nation’s remaining military resources flowed to Southern California.”

“And, then, we got hit. Right before Thanksgiving, an earthquake struck along the New Madrid Fault. Memphis virtually collapsed and burned. St. Louis suffered severe damage. And, just like when quakes struck along the New Madrid Fault in the winter of 1811 and 1812, the aftershocks over the next couple of months were just as strong as the initial quake. Bridges across the Mississippi River were dropped from St Louis to Vicksburg. In the area where Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas come together, bridges across smaller rivers and ravines collapsed. Highway overpasses collapsed. Vehicular traffic throughout the region was limited to local runs, but that didn’t matter -- within a week gas and diesel at stations was gone.”

“So, the president declared martial law here and you declared the Tallahatchie Republic, right Colonel?”

“Nope. President Pelosi didn’t bother to declare martial law this time. In fact, she practically ignored the fact that the Mid-South region needed help. Actually, she didn’t have much choice. There wasn’t much relief left to provide, nor any troops left for occupation duty.”

“Because things only got worse to the north, and the Mississippi bridges were down, the only directions that folks who were able to get out of Memphis could go were South and East. Within a week of the Thanksgiving Temblor, nearly a half million refugees were walking out of Memphis. Desperate for food and water, they looted every town in their way. When some small towns armed themselves with the firearms that miraculously appeared after being reported “stolen”, their ad hoc and disorganized defenses temporarily slowed but didn’t stop the flood. In fact, resistance only served to harden and organize large groups of refugees into armies in their own right.”

“Why didn’t the police and sheriffs stop ‘em, Colonel?”

“Stop ‘em? Heck, a lot of former law enforcement officers were leadin’ ‘em. They had hungry kids, too.”

“What happened when they got here, Colonel?”

“Well, let’s just say we had two things in our favor -- Time and the Tallahatchie. Although phone landline and cell communications were down, and radio and TV were off the air, we were hearing some scattered news from folks around here who were in ham radio contact with folks to the north. We had an idea that bad things were coming, and we had a little time to get ready. The Tallahatchie River forms a great natural barrier just north of us. The north – south highway bridge over the Tallahatchie was down. We had just enough time to get organized and set up listening posts and quick reaction platoons to respond to attempts to cross the river. After a couple of sharp fights, the bad guys moved farther east along the I-22 corridor and overran and occupied New Albany and Tupelo.”

“Why didn’t the state government and the National Guard come help?”

“Well, the Governor did exactly what the Colonel would have done in his position. He conserved his limited manpower and resources and established a defensive line a third of the way down the state, from Greenville in the West to Columbus in the East along the connecting US Highway 82. He established refugee camps at the intersections of north-south roads and 82 and waited for the refugees to come to him. Those stuck in the no-man’s land in the northern third of the state had two choices – run south, or stay and fight. A lot of folks sent their families south and stayed to fight for their homes.”

“Why didn’t you just take the refugees in and help them, Colonel?”

“We couldn’t and they wouldn’t. We didn’t have enough resources to share and they wouldn’t have shared if we offered. Look, the Colonel knows this is hard for you kids to understand. Those of you born since the middle of the century have never known a time of want. But, during the Thirties and Forties it was a different story. A couple of global pandemics and a regional nuclear war hit the world’s population pretty hard. You are lucky to be alive in this time of peace and plenty.”

“Yeah, my granddaddy tells me that all the time, Colonel. But, we want to hear about when you declared the Tallahatchie Republic.”

“Well, youngster, the Colonel will tell you. By late winter of ‘25, things had gotten pretty bad in No Man’s land. The ‘Gee Army had marched south out of Tupelo in February, surprised the State’s defenses at Columbus and swept West along Highway 82 through Starkville and then fanned out to the south, pillaging as they went. Heck, when they hit Columbus they even had a couple of tanks. The Governor panicked and pulled his forces south to set up a defensive ring around Jackson.”

The Colonel took a deep breath and gazed off into the middle distance. “Hard times. Scared, hungry men will do just about anything.”

There was a nervous shuffling among the crowd at his feet as the Colonel continued to stare silently into the middle distance.

“Dear,” the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda asked, “what are you looking at?”

The Colonel waved his hand dismissively, “Lookin’ into the middle distance for effect, dear. Please stop interrupting the Colonel.”

“Well, wrap it up. The natives are getting restless."

The Colonel turned back to his audience. “Shortly after the Second Battle of the Tallahatchie, and with no help coming, we had decided that we needed to get a bit better organized. Most of the folks of any means down in Oxford had already evacuated south. Those left in town sent some emissaries up here to talk to us. They offered manpower in return for food. There was a bunch of folks around here that wanted to treat the folks from Oxford like we had treated the Memphis refugees, but a few of us realized we needed an army large enough to defend the farmers and their crops if we were going to survive. As the logic of the idea sunk in, folks started to call for declaration of an autonomous city state. They asked the Colonel to command the army. The Colonel deferred to another younger, recently retired Army officer and offered to be the Baron von Stuben of the army.”

“Barry von who?” chirped a lad.

“Baron von Stuben was a Prussian mercenary who showed up at Valley Forge and trained Washington’s army how to stand and fight the British in open battle. Without Baron von Stuben’s work, it is very doubtful American’s would have won their independence from Great Britain.”

“So, we organized and trained an army, a regiment of which marched south in early March of ’25 and caught the bulk of the ‘Gee army in front of the Jackson defenses. They tried to squirt out of the trap to the southeast, but our regiment swung around on their flank in a classic pursuit operation and killed or captured most of ‘em.”

“So, when did you establish the Tallahatchie Republic, Colonel?”

“The Tallahatchie Republic? Oh, the Colonel declared that way back in ’16 when the Ole Miss administration stopped the band from playing Dixie.”                

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Run, Walk, Crawl

The Colonel hates, has always hated, and will always hate, running.

The Colonel's hate had ample opportunity to take shape and intensify into a black storm of absolute fear and loathing during his nearly three decades of association with an organization obsessed with running.

The Colonel will never forget -- he has purposefully dedicated one of the remaining clumps of cognitive cells in his gray matter to the task -- his first Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT).  The shocking pain, breath-taking nausea, and morally degrading fear that washed over him was like no other experience in his theretofore unchallenged life.

And, that was just upon hearing the PFT requirements.

The insane men in insane haircuts wanted the Colonel, then a lowly midshipman 4th class in the NROTC program at Ole Miss, to do as many situps as he could in two minutes, immediately thereafter jump up on a pullup bar and do as many pullups as possible, and then...  oh, the horror at the remembrance... run three miles in under 28 minutes.   

The discussion went something like:

"Three miles, Sarge?  Are you kidding the Midshipman?  Couldn't we just jog once around the track and multiply the time by 12?"

"My name is Gunnery Sergeant McLain!"  The Purple Heart scar on the Marine's cheek flashed white in contrast to the angry flush on his face.  "You may call me 'gunny', but never call me 'sarge'!" 

"Yes, sir!"

"Sir?," a look of pure, unadulterated disgust, that the Colonel was later to realize was a look perfected to an art form by all Marine senior NCOs, washed over the Gunny's face,  "Don't call me 'sir' either.  I work for a living."

"Yes, Gunny!"

The Gunny surveyed the skinny runt in front of him, resplendent in his cut-off jean shorts, faded hang-ten t-shirt, and low-top Converse All-stars; and the practiced look of pure, unadulterated disgust softened to a look of disdain one normally uses when scraping something smelly off the bottom of a shoe, "There ain't no track, short round.  Just follow the herd."  
"Follow the what?"

"Look, knucklehead.  The 3-mile run course starts here in front of McCain Hall, around the Grove and across University Avenue to All-American Drive, then over to Coliseum Drive and out to Highway 6.  Then take the highway -- stay on the shoulder and watch out for the 18 wheelers -- back east to Old Taylor Road and then back up to, and across, University Avenue.  The finish line is back here where you started."

"That's just three miles?  Sounds like a tour of the entire county.   The Midshipman just got here yesterday and had a hard time navigating the two blocks here from the dorm.  How's he supposed to remember those directions?"

"Follow the herd, knucklehead."    

At the start command, the herd broke from the starting line like a herd of spooked wildebeests.  The Colonel was so startled he actually looked behind to find the lion.  He turned to the front to see the gaggle speeding away from him at an alarming rate and broke into a sprint to close the gap.


Within a quarter mile, the Colonel had closed the gap but was completely gassed.  The pack had settled into an energy conserving pace, but the Colonel was already drawing on reserves.

The next twenty-five minutes passed in a sweaty haze of unimaginable leg pain, respiration racing to match a racing heart, and heavy self-recrimination for accepting an NROTC scholarship from the Marine Corps.

The turn onto Old Taylor Road leading back onto campus and the finish line would have been a welcome sight but for the fact that Old Taylor Road was more like the sloping legion-built ramp at Masada, climbing steeply for a good half-mile.

Reaching the top of that excruciating climb was no relief.  The next quarter mile to the finish was lined with upperclassmen who, upon finishing their runs, had circled back to cheer on the rest.  Their shouts of encouragement infuriated the Colonel -- how could they be standing, let alone whooping and hollering, after completing the death run?

At the finish line, the Gunny awaited, stopwatch in hand. 

"Twenty-five, fifty-five!  Twenty-six!  Twenty-six, ten!  Twenty-six-fifteen!"

The Colonel crossed the finish line, veered off into the Grove and collapsed on the grass.  Death would surely come quickly and he wanted his last moments spent looking up into the trees.

"Get up, short round!," the Gunny yelled.  "Walk it off!"

Walk it off?  The Colonel was near death.  Even if he didn't die, he was certain that he'd never walk again.    

The next day, death having granted him a reprieve, the Colonel was bee-bopping through McCain Hall on his way to class -- Naval Science 101 -- when a long arm reached out from the office of the Marine Officer Instructor (MOI) and pulled him unceremoniously front and center of Captain Gerlach's desk.

"Morning, stud."

"Good morning, sir!"

"You really tore up that PFT yesterday didn't you, stud?"

"Uh, yessir.  Passed it with flying colors."

"Not hardly, stud.  Lessee, 57 situps, 9 pullups, and a 26:15 run.  Good enough for 3rd Class, but that isn't good enough for a Marine officer.  You need to be shooting for maxing out the PFT -- 80 situps, 20 pullups, and a sub-18 minute three mile run."

Captain Gerlach saw the look of disbelief on the Colonel's mug and laughed, "Gregory, how much do you weigh?"

"Uh, one twenty-five, sir."

"Well, stud, you will have no problem maxing the PFT."

The good captain was wrong.  The situps and pullups turned out to be no problem, but the run time only got under twenty minutes once -- three years later for the final PFT at OCS.  It wasn't for lack of trying -- on both the Colonel's and the Marine Corps' part.  In those days the Marine Corps was the world's largest running club.  In those early days in the decade of Reagan, there wasn't funding for much training other than physical training.  Marines ran everywhere.  

Marines didn't walk anywhere -- you either ran or "forced marched."

The only thing the Colonel hated more than running was forced marching.

At any rate, after thirty years of running, and hating every minute of it, the Colonel gave himself the best retirement gift he could think of -- no more running.

These days, the Colonel walks.  There's purpose to his walks -- but they aren't forced marches.  He's not going to walk anywhere anymore where he can't look around and enjoy his surroundings. This morning the Colonel's walk took him out onto the county road which passes his vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere and runs from his drive northward through the Holly Springs National Forest toward the Little Tallahatchie River bottoms.

The road is paved -- barely.  Narrow, winding, and shaded by towering old growth oaks and pines, it is all but guaranteed to grant the Colonel complete solitude for an hour.  Rarely, a car or pick-up passes.  

He rarely experienced the elusive endorphin fueled runner's high in all of his runs.  But, the Colonel's walks flood his senses and spark his memories.  Amazing, the thoughts that leap from synapse to synapse when the only sensory inputs are the sights and sounds of a walk in the woods.

The Colonel will walk until he has to crawl.  He guesses the point is to keep moving forward, while not forgetting what's around and behind.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Spidey Sense

The Colonel spent the weekend in a fever-induced hallucinogenic haze.  The massive swelling and intense pain (Category 6 on the Saffir-Simpson Nietzsche-Gregory Suffering and Whining Scale)  around a small site on his lower back led him to surmise that he had been bitten by a spider.  The fevered visions of webs shooting from his wrists seemed to verify that suspicion. 

The Colonel could have gone to the local hospital's emergency room, he guesses.  But he ain't smart and you can't make him.  Instead, he gutted it out for 48 hours and went to his personal physician's office first thing this Monday morning.  

The nurse practitioner who saw the Colonel took one look at the festering, swollen wound on the Colonel's back and immediately left the examination room, returning five minutes later in a full hazmat suit.  This did not particularly alarm the Colonel -- the Comely and Kind-Hearted Miss Brenda has a hazmat suit she dons frequently to do the Colonel's laundry.

"Colonel," she breathlessly declared, attempting mightily to maintain her medically professional demeanor, "I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like this."

"Oh, really?"  The Colonel was suddenly infused with a sense of perverse pride at his evident specialness.

"Well, you are in luck, Colonel.  I just so happen to be an arachnid bite expert, and based on the circumference of the site and the massive swelling, coupled with your fevered hallucinations, I think I know exactly what bit you."

Oh, really?"  The Colonel was intensely interested to hear the identity of the critter that had demonstrated the temerity to bite him.

"Yes.  I believe that you were bitten by the exceedingly rare Mississippi brown-spotted three-fanged vampire jumping spider."

The Colonel, who had theretofore been proudly presenting his formerly well-muscled back, turned to look her dead in the eye.  Even through the distortion of the hazmat suit's plastic face plate, the Colonel could see that she was maintaining a straight face.

The Colonel played along. "What's the prognosis?"

"Ordinarily, instantaneous death.  But in a small minority of cases, long-term lingering suffering."

"Well," the Colonel responded, "been there, done that.  Living through the Obama presidency, after all."   

The nurse practitioner broke out a hypodermic needle that was last used to harpoon a sperm whale, and injected a whale-boat load of steroids into the Colonel's formerly well-toned gluteous maximus, handed him a prescription for some more pharmaceuticals, and sent him on his way with wishes that he would feel better soon.

"No chance of that," the Colonel intoned in parting.  "Have you seen who is likely to be the next president?"    


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Constitutional Governance, For a Change

Recently, the chief political correspondent for The Colonel's Corner -- the Colonel -- sat down for a wide-ranging on-the-record conversation with Brenda Cannon Gregory (aka: the Comely and Kind-hearted Miss Brenda), the woman whose write-in candidacy for President is sweeping the nation like a cool breeze soothing a slumbering electorate in the midst of a hellish election nightmare.  What follows is the verbatim transcript of what one hopes will be the first of many such candid and illuminating conversations over the course of the next eight and one half years.

TCC:  "Mrs. Gregory, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions."

BCG: "My pleasure, Colonel.  And, call me 'Miss Brenda.'  I know we'll have to retrain you to call me 'Madam President' after the election, but for the time-being it will be less taxing on your pea-sized brain to keep it simple."

TCC:  "Uh, okay...  So, Miss Brenda, let's dispense with the pleasantries and get right to the subject.  How would you describe your philosophy for governance as President of the United States?"

BCG: "The Constitution; the whole Constitution; and nothing but the Constitution."

TCC:  "Would you care to elaborate on that?

BCG:  "Not particularly.  Besides, what part of those simple ten words is so hard to understand?"

TCC:  "Well..., I, uh...  Okay, um, well.., how, then, would you say that your governing philosophy differs from Barack Obama's?"

BCG:  "Who?  Oh, you mean Valerie Jarret's spokesperson.  Look, I'm not basing my campaign on the failures of the current administration.  I will say this for Mr. Obama, he reads out loud extremely well."

TCC:  "Will you be using a teleprompter in your speeches?"

BCG:  "Why?  None of my speeches will ever be longer than a minute or two.  If you can't make your point quicker than that, you don't have a 'point.'"

TCC:  "Makes sense."

BCG:  "Look, forty years living with the Colonel has trained me to keep it short and simple."

TCC:  "Heh, heh..., wait, what?"

BCG:  "Next question!"

TCC:  "Yes, ma'am!  Um...[the Colonel shuffles through his stack of notecards], okay, let's talk about what you see as your priorities as President."

BCG:  "The first constitutionally-mandated responsibility of the President, as chief executive, is faithful execution of the law as found specifically expressed in the Constitution, and as enacted by legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President."  

TCC:  "Do you believe in the use of Executive Orders."

BCG:  "Only as a means to enforce a specifically expressed Constitutional requirement, or to enforce an Act of Congress.  Not to create law.  Any other use of Executive Orders is an expression of dictatorial powers not expressly given the President by the Constitution, regardless the well-meaning intent or efficacy of the order.  If I see something that I think needs to be done, that is not currently expressly authorized by legislation, I will work with the the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader to have legislation passed to address the need."

TCC:  "Miss Brenda, executive orders and bureaucratic regulations over the last three decades have resulted in trillions of dollars of cost to the American taxpayer..."

BCG:  "And that's what I'm talking about.  Look, I'm sure that the originator of every executive order and non-legislated regulation believes that they are doing good.  Some may even be able to prove that their idea, in the form of an order or regulation, satisfies a critical requirement or provides a solution to a pressing problem.   But, good intentions, or even proven effectiveness and efficiency is not an excuse for extra-constitutional activity by our Federal government.  That's what I mean when I say "...and nothing but the Constitution."

TCC:  "Are you saying that Congress would do a better job at regulation than a professional bureaucracy?"

BCG:  "No! Not at all.  But, that's not the point.  The point is, as our nation's founders meant when they went to war for, among others, the principle of "no taxation without representation," that there should be no federal regulation without representation.  In other words, the Constitution gives the power of regulation expressly to the Congress.  There is no Article in the Constitution establishing an unelected bureaucracy with the power to indirectly tax the citizens of the Republic."

TCC:  " 'No regulation without representation'.  Catchy.  Mind if I make some money putting that phrase on bumper stickers?"

BCG:  "Be my guest.  The best economic stimulus is unfettered entrepreneurialism."

TCC:  "Can I put that one on a bumper sticker, too?"

BCG:  "You're a businessman?  Thought you were a free-loading journalist..."

TCC:  "Who are you calling a 'journalist?"

BCG:  "Next question!"

TCC:  "Yes, Ma'am.  What is your policy on National Defense?"

BCG:  "National Defense is best considered as a series of concentric rings, beginning first with the national security decision-making and policy apparatus and then second with the interior of our national territory and working outward.  Electing me will take care of the first ring.  Secondly, an effective American national defense for the 21st Century requires development of 21st Century internal infrastructure.  To begin with, our critically vulnerable power grid must be immediately shielded to protect against catastrophic failure, whether as a result of a man-made or solar attack.  Our highways, bridges, railways, and air traffic system, once the envy of the world, are now woefully behind and crumbling.  I will work with Congress, and the states, to fix our infrastructure and push it into the next century.

TCC: "But, won't the cost of such programs be prohibitively expensive, given the fact that our nation already has a 20 trillion dollar debt?"

BCG:  "Thought we were talking about national defense?  You want to talk about economic policy, now?

TCC:  "Uh, no..."

BCG:  "The next concentric ring out from infrastructure is borders.  The most compelling case for a 'clear and present danger' facing citizens of the United States is uncontrolled migration across not just our land borders, but via our ports and airports.  I believe that that vast majority of the people coming into our country illegally are otherwise law-abiding and can be productive members of our society if integrated and assimilated properly.  But, if only 1% of the nearly 1 million coming to our shores each year are coming with criminal malice aforethought that represents a light infantry invasion each year the size of the operating forces of the entire United States Marine Corps."

TCC:  "Ooorah!"

BCG:  "You really should do something about that cough, Colonel.  Sounds terrible.  As I was saying, and I'm keeping this as simple as I can for you, the first component of national defense is decision-making, the second is internal infrastructure, and the third component then is border security..."

TCC:  "How would you handle immigration, then?"

BCG:  "Are we talking about immigration policy, now?  Thought we were discussing defense policy?"

TCC:  "Um, okay.  Please continue."

BCG:  "The fourth component in our national defense, the fourth concentric ring outward, if you will,  is our military.  We must continue to invest in the highest quality people and the best equipment.  And, we must ensure that our military is trained and equipped to do one thing -- win on the battlefield.  Any proposed changes to the time-tested fabric of the force should only be made if it can be proven without a doubt that the change will increase effectiveness on the battlefield.  Just maintaining the current level of effectiveness is not enough -- our potential adversaries are not standing still; they continue to grow in capabilities and effectiveness."

TCC:  "Are you concerned about ISIS?"

BCG:  "Of course.  And, we'll deal quickly and effectively with that threat.  I'll ask for a formal declaration of war from the Congress and..."  

TCC:  "A declaration of war!?!"

BCG:  "What part of 'the Constitution, the whole Constitution, and nothing but the Constitution' did you not understand, Colonel?  Look, I know that you are hamstrung by a lack of education -- Ole Miss, Troy, and the Navy War College aren't exactly noted for producing great political thinkers -- but you've got to concentrate on the bottom line of my governing philosophy.  If it isn't expressly covered in the Constitution, the President isn't allowed to do it. 

TCC:  "Okay, let's say the Congress gives you a formal declaration of war against the so-called Islamic State.  How do you attack and defeat 'em?"

BCG:  "Well, that's where all of you military professionals, on whom the nation has spent a fortune educating and training, come in.  I'll turn to the Secretary of Defense, give her the mission, and tell her to let me know when she is done.  She, utilizing the brains for which I selected her to be my Defense Secretary, will turn to the military combatant commanders and give them a mission.  Look, this ain't brain surgery.  There might be some rocket science involved, though..."   

"But, look.  ISIS is not an existential crisis..., yet.  At most, at present, it is a nuisance.  A big nuisance, mind you, what with all of the humanitarian crises fallout.  But, if we continue to attack ISIS incrementally instead of all out, we do run the risk of them getting their hands on WMD.  Then they become an existential threat.  I won't let them get to that point.  Look for a victory parade down Pennsylvania avenue some time before my first State of the Union Address.   

TCC:  "What about China and Russia?" 

BCG:  "What about 'em?  You want me to get Congress to declare war on them, too?  Now we're really talking about rocket science; not to mention splitting an atom or two.  And, that's what will keep Jinping and Vladimir in check.

TCC:  "Okay, let's switch gears and talk about the economy..."

BCG:  "It's all in the same gear, Colonel."

TCC:  "Huh?  Well, um..., What is your tax philosophy?

BCG:  "If I had my way, there would be a simple flat federal consumption tax, somewhere around 10%.  And, I would reduce taxes on corporations, which are always passed on to the consumer in the form of increased prices for goods and services, to zero.  With a zero corporate tax rate, and no corporate subsidies, the United States would become the world's business capital. Period.  Imagine the wealth flowing to the United States under that situation! 

TCC:  "I don't think that would pay for all of the current federal programs..."

BCG:  "Exactly!  I will work with Congress to phase out all federal social programs and return that responsibility to the states where it rightfully belongs per the Constitution."

TCC:  "But, the states can't afford to fund all the welfare programs."

BCG:  "Look, I know this is taxing (get it?) your mental capacity somewhat.  But, the Constitution established a governmental system known as 'federalism.'  Contrary to popular belief, the concept of 'federalism' that is the basis for our Constitution does not give the Federal government responsibility, nor even authority, for social programs.  Federalism envisions the individual states bearing that responsibility and authority.  Don't take my word for it, go read the Federalist Papers for yourself."

TCC:  "So you would have the states take over and pay for social programs in their own states.  Won't that lead to different outcomes?  Won't some states do a far better job of taking care of their resident citizens than other states?

BCG:  "Yes, yes, and yes!  Emphatically yes!  That is the whole point of States' rights under federalism and as guaranteed in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:  'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'"  The states that do the most effective and economically efficient job of taking care of their resident citizens will reap the rewards of increasing vitality and economic growth.  This competition between states will actually spur greater and greater good to the welfare of the citizens."

TCC:  Thank you so much for your time, Miss Brenda.  Can we finish by quickly addressing your immigration policy? 

BCG:  I fervently believe in the motto: e pluribus unum.   Out of many, one.  The reason the American Republic stands as the greatest nation the world has ever known is attributable to three facts.  One, our republic was founded on the greatest social compact ever devised by man -- the U.S. Constitution.  Two, that Constitution provided the umbrella of personal freedom and limited government under which a continent brimming with world-class resources was conquered.  And, three, that continent was peopled by representatives of humanity from around the globe who found unprecedented freedom of expression, and who were drawn together as one people yearning for the exact same thing for themselves and their progeny -- Freedom.  We still stand as the globe's greatest expression of that most shared of human traits -- the desire to live in freedom.  Our constitution still stands as the world's greatest guarantor of freedom.  We should celebrate that, and we should share it.  My immigration policy, indeed, my entire foreign policy, constitutionally in concert with Congressional action, will seek to share the unmatched level of God-given human rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States to all people, on our territory and on theirs.