Saturday, April 30, 2005

Motel Discounts

Increasingly when I'm on the road, I stop in motels that ask me when I register if I'm a member of AARP. I guess that's an inevitable recognition of all this gray hair, the wattle under the chin and the fact that I'm not wearing a baseball cap backwards with an iPod plugged into my ears.

My usual response is, "hell no. I'm not a member of that socialist organization."

They will then ask if I belong to any other qualifying organizations so that I can get a discount. I then offer that I'm a retired member of the military, a member of the VFW, the Red River Valley Fighter Pilot's Association, the Military Officer's Association of America, the Order of Daedalians and the National Rifle Association. If none of those affiliations get a discount, I leave.

You might try it. It sure works for me.

Socialist Security Solutions

Socialist Security Solutions

If I lied to your elderly parents living on a fixed income that someone was coming to tear down their house and destroy the final golden years of their retirement, would you like me? Would you send me a check once a year for $12.50 in gratitude for the fear and apprehension I was causing? Or would you demand I tell the truth and suggest that I take my 10% discount at Motel 6 and shove it? I know the answer, but it escapes me why no one else seems to act.

AARP, the “spokesman” for the older generation of Americans has these cute TV ads, paid for by member dues, that show a plumber coming to look at a clogged drain and pronouncing, “drains clogged, guess we’ll have to tear down the house,” followed immediately by a wrecking ball crashing through the living room wall. What’s it all mean? Well, according to AARP, if the administration does something about Social Security, all of us old folks are going to be destroyed just like that house. Sorry, I’ve been listening carefully to what is being said and I don’t see that happening. It is not only hyperbole, it is blatant lying!

I watched the President’s State of the Union address and commented last February on his Social Security pronouncements (Creating the Perfect Retirement), and I watched his primetime press conference this last Thursday. It has been pretty clear throughout, that no proposal on the table is going to change, reduce, endanger, jeopardize or have any effect on any of us who are over 55 years old today. We are the people that AARP supposedly represents and that means they are lying when they suggest that our Social Security guarantees are going to be razed.

Ask someone in their twenties about Social Security. I used to do it in my political science classes during the block on domestic policy. They will uniformly tell you that they don’t expect it to be there by the time they retire. Guess what? The Social Security administration, the General Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office all agree! These are the folks that have a vested interest in seeing something done, but they are also the disaffected and disinterested demographic that isn’t reading the details, absorbing the facts or making informed voting decisions on solutions.

It doesn’t matter a whit whether the exact date of the default is 2040 or 2052, the fact is that in less than fifteen years the Social Security system will begin to take in less from workers than it pays out to retirees. And, by the 2040 or ’52 time frame, the IOU’s of the “Trust Fund” (is that an oxymoron when speaking about SS?) will be expended and the system will be unable to continue at the required benefit levels. Hey AARP, would you check some insurance tables and tell me how many of those clogged drain folks are still going to be expecting checks by then? Depressingly few I predict.

Why then don’t the Democrats and the lobbyists of AARP want anything done to fix the system before the need becomes critical? How about the loss of all of that attractive “Trust Fund” money that can be used to provide welfare handouts to the constituents who keep them in office? If we offer people the opportunity to put their own money (remember that basic—it’s your money!) into private accounts and then get that money to leave to your heirs when you die, then it won’t be available for patronage. The redistributors of wealth don’t worry about thirty years from now when they will no longer be in office. They worry about largesse from the public treasury today to keep the class envy alive and keep those lower income votes pouring in each election.

More on Socialist Security Solutions next time.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pledge Without Whom?

Few things in America are as fraught with emotional symbolism and simultaneously as totally meaningless as the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. (See how easy it is to get your attention by stirring your deep-seated prejudices?)

But really, do you think that standing up with the group before your monthly club meeting and solemnly with hand over heart reciting the Pledge makes you any more or any less of a patriot? Do we instill deep values in our children when they recite the Pledge before class in school, even in those schools without the mandated presence of that flag to which the Pledge refers? If we didn’t pledge would we be less patriotic? And, what about those critical words, “under God”? Will the republic crumble upon excision of the phrase?

I don’t know if awareness that events have taken place long before an individual’s tenure on the planet is one of the gifts of age and maturity. Yet, having been around for a while, I see the arguments over the Pledge and the reference to a Supreme Being as being so much ado about nada. The topper of the issue came late last week with a piece in the Denver Post about a secularist school teacher who wanted to impose her particular view of events on the class and got a significant backlash. She thought it more “inclusive” and less “offensive” to have the class replace “under God” with “under your belief system”….how quaint and New Age!

Godless Pledge No Winner

Let’s take a moment to consider the history of the Pledge of Allegiance. Did the Founding Fathers recite the Pledge during their Constitutional Convention as they deliberated the structure of the government? Did they Pledge before signing the Declaration of Independence or before mustering to stand before the Redcoats at Concord? Well, to be honest, no.

The Pledge to the flag was not even created until 1892. Interestingly, the author of the first incarnation of the Pledge was a Christian Socialist and chairman of a state committee of superintendents of education in the National Education Association. That’s a strange collection of political bed-fellows if we consider it. Saying Christian in the same breath with NEA/Socialist really convolutes the tongue in this 21st century.

Regardless, it seems that the nation did quite well with regard to instilling patriotism in citizens and children for the first 105 years after the Constitutional Convention. No problem along that road except for a little row about State’s Rights and a bit of secession that was quickly ironed out.

So, since the inception of the Pledge, we’ve solved the patriotism problem. No more Civil Wars, no draft dodgers, no treasonous activity, no foreign policy questions to subordinate our nationalism…..oh, there were? Well, without the Pledge it would have been much worse.

But, what about the “under God” issue? Well, while I remember it well, most Americans living today were born afterward. The phrase was added to the Pledge in 1954 at the behest of the Knights of Columbus by President Dwight Eisenhower. Why? Well, some say it was to distinguish us, in a period of cold war with the Soviets, from the godlessness of Communism. Others suggest, maybe a bit more cynically, that it was a sop to the Catholics from Eisenhower to gain him votes for the 1956 re-election campaign. Regardless, it was a late addition to the Pledge.

Having grown up with the Pledge lacking the phrase, I’ve always stumbled as muscle memory and first indoctrination in the ritual trained me in the cadence of the recitation. I still, more than fifty years later, unconsciously intone, “….one nation, with liberty and justice….” thus finishing the process a half-beat ahead of all those around me. Even when I remember, I’m not sure where the breath comes. Is it “one nation under God” or “under God with liberty…”? It’s also confusing. And in the end largely irrelevant.

My point is that we did alright before the addition of the phrase. I seem to have done OK with regard to patriotism and service to my country. Others have as well. So, what’s the issue?

Now, the issue seems to be the adoption of “God” by the fundamentalist Christian political wing to mean only a Christian God. Hence, by extension, the removal of the phrase becomes a direct affront to their religion and a bold attempt to secularize a nation “founded in Christian principles.” Hogwash.

First, let us note that God in our language is a decidedly generic noun for a Supreme Being. It is not a proper name for the deity of a single religion, but merely a deistic recognition that there is undeniably a power above us that we don’t understand. Whether Allah or Yahweh or the God of the fundamentalist Christian, the term is applicable.

Second, let us correct that poor misguided creature in Jefferson County CO who feels the need to protect the sensibilities of eighth grade students from offense at the concept of a Supreme Being.

And, third, let’s acknowledge that with or without the phrase “under God” the Pledge will be as much or as little of an impetus for patriotism as it has ever been.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Say it Loud--But Not Too Long

Being in the minority is tough. Being in the minority in a legislature is tougher still. Being in the minority and relying on emotional appeal, redistribution of wealth, a warped sense of social justice and being totally lacking in hope for a better position in the foreseeable future must be a stone-cold bitch. That’s where the Democrats appear to be these days. They don’t have many new ideas and even if they did, they’d have less than the proverbial snowball’s chance to get them enacted into policy. So, they resort to being the party of anti-ism. They are against things. Somehow trying to simultaneously obstruct every proposal put forth by the current administration and at the same time convert your nom de guerre from “liberal” to “progressive” seems a bit incongruous.

So, we’ve got the Senate dust-up regarding judicial appointments and filibustering to prevent a straight majority vote. We’ve got the main-stream media (you know who you are) tossing in the frightening concept of the “Nuclear Option” as if it were some sort of cataclysmic Armageddon for nation and the total failure of bipartisan deterrence. There seems to be little in the way of comity in the upper house of the legislature these days and virtually anyone who is offered a senior level Presidential appointment can expect to come away from the process not with new found respect and responsibility but with a total destruction of their reputation, whether or not they deserve it.

What do we know so far? Well, let’s approach the question constitutionally. Is the filibuster Constitutional? Sure. While it isn’t specifically addressed, there is authority for the legislative chambers to set their own rules for debate. Historically both houses had unlimited debate, however when the House of Representatives grew as states entered the union it became necessary to establish time limits on speeches in the larger body. But, we can probably agree that the Senate can allow longer speaking periods.

The Senate rules have changed over time also. Procedures to cut off debate are a logical outgrowth of any legislative body. And, the Constitution does provide for a super-majority in many situations. So, still no problem there. In fact, when the process for cloture was established with a super-majority, the criterion was initially a two-thirds vote. In more recent times that has been reduced to three-fifths. So, we also see a precedent allowing changes in filibuster and cloture rules. Maybe the “nuclear” option is more like a lady-finger with regard to Senate rules.

But, why filibuster in the first place? Isn’t democracy supposed to get decisions made that meet the desires of the electorate? And, doesn’t a majority in the legislature reflect the policy preferences of the majority of the people? Absolutely! The glitch is that occasionally the people need to be made aware of a situation so that they may chime in with their preferences and let their representatives know what they want done. Hence, the filibuster as a means to delay action long enough for the grass-roots movement to take hold and get the necessary feed-back to the decision-makers. Slow down the process so that they people can speak.

There is another aspect in play here. That is the power of the Senate to “advise and consent” to Executive branch appointments. This is a critical check on the power of the President. With regard to judicial appointments, the Senate has the role of providing advice to the big guy on who they think would make a good judge or justice of the Supreme Court. They can vet a list of candidates and help the President find qualified persons. Then, when the appointment is made, the Senate can certify the qualifications to insure we don’t have simply a collection of good ol’ boys or political cronies ruling in our courts. Does that extend to the authority to deny approval to anyone whose ideology they disagree with? Actually, it does. Does it extend to the authority to deny a public vote of the Senate on an appointment despite the fact that a majority of the elected members of the chamber representing their constituencies would approve? Arguably no.

While a filibuster might be a good thing in bringing controversial legislative proposals to the attention of the electorate, it is increasingly apparent that it is becoming a bad thing when it comes to confounding the power of the administration to enact the policies that the majority of the electorate indicates a desire for. The confirmation process should be a substantive discussion of qualification for a job, not a public pillorying of a candidate. It should be conducted with courtesy and respect in a professional manner, not as a platform for accusation, innuendo and political posturing. Once all sides have had an opportunity to discuss qualification, the process should be completed with a vote of the entire chamber either up or down. To delay or deny that vote, or to require a super-majority to reach the point of that vote is an injustice.

Changing the rules of the senate is nowhere near a “nuclear” move. It’s simply recognition that the needs of the nation will be better served by a process that reflects an opportunity for the wishes of the majority to be enacted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Aviation Week & Canadian Idiots

The February 21st, 2005 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology published an extensive excerpt from "When Thunder Rolled" describing a mission into North Vietnam in which we were fortunate to survive and to be about as successful as we could in a war which Washington was determined not to let us win. We killed two trains and probably a number of the enemy while simultaneously not being killed ourselves. In the process, I was growing up as a young man and learning that I could probably do more than I ever thought possible despite possessing a considerable level of fear along with a very real concern regarding my own mortality. That's the story told in the book and the excerpt has had a lot of lead-up to get to that point.

Aviation Week: Contrails Stealing Hubcaps & Killing Trains


Inevitably, such a publication engenders response. Typically it comes from folks I've known but lost track of over the years, or from someone who has read about the war, the resistance, and the response of America to her warriors during that period. Those contacts are the principle reward for writing these sorts of books, since other than folks like Tom Clancy or Stephen King, there isn't much compensation for publishing anything less than blockbusters.

Occasionally, however, I get pinged by some pacifist mis-fit, often from another nation and usually offering an overlay of their own interpretations on what I've written. That's their perogative, but the blatant stupidity often astonishes.

In the case of the the Aviation Week piece, the sniveling apologist was Canadian. You remember them, that's the nation that lives under our defensive umbrella, harbors our cowards, and undercuts our policies while providing a conduit for terrorists who don't speak Spanish to cross our borders.

This individual managed to somehow determine that the trains were some sort of Amtrak for office workers in downtown Hanoi that were simply offloading passengers on their way to some sort of bedroom burg eighty miles from the capital. I was accused of some level of war crime, "pissing myself with glee" and, of course described in less than glowing terms. The prevailing concept of the pacifist that war kills civilians and therefore is never justifiable or noble is one of the most depraved positions of the modern pseudo-intellectual. It was certainly apparent to those of us who repeatedly went into the Red River Valley that those innocents we were endangering were pretty good operators of SAM sites, radars, anti-aircraft artillery and MiG-fighters.

The whole correspondence left me once again turning to that 18th Century philosopher, John Stuart Mill who wrote:

“War is an ugly thing, but it is not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by better men than himself.”

I doubt that the Canadian would get the point, but I did and the principle has always served me well.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It’s the Free Market, Honey

In a Denver Post opinion piece this AM we’ve got two highly credentialed women lamenting the inequities of compensation in the market place. One is the president of “Business & Professional Women/USA”, the other is president of “Business & Professional Women/Colorado”. The rant relates to the fact that women get paid less than men and it just isn’t fair. No, they whine, it needs government intervention to insure that women who work here get paid the same as men who work there. At least, they suggest, governments that employ members of both genders should insure statistical equality. There oughta be a law!

"Equal Pay for Equal Work?"

Bolster an argument with numbers and you immediately achieve credibility. It doesn’t matter that the numbers might be irrelevant to the issue at hand, the great unwashed aren’t sophisticated enough to notice. For example, the two presidents cite the stat that “for every dollar a man is paid, a woman gets only 76 cents. Over the course of a lifetime, the average American woman gets shortchanged $523,000.” But taking generic wage stats by gender without considering the specifics of the job is ludicrous. I’m not the president of Harvard, so I can suggest that there are differences between men and women. Women bear children and often experience breaks in their careers. Women have spouses and in our society, often follow their husbands as they proceed along a career path, causing setbacks in their own careers. Women (and I only offer anecdotal evidence here) seem to take a few days off of work more than men.

Sure, there is still prejudice in business. Yes, there are instances of “glass ceilings” being in place. But, that isn’t corrected by legislation. It changes with changes in society and with demonstration of capability and qualification. We’ve got women in government at the highest levels—federal, state and local. We’ve got women in the military, even in combat billets such as tactical fighter pilots—and they are increasingly accepted, respected and promoted based on their performance. No pay inequity there.

Yet, the whiners want Colorado to follow in the footsteps of the People’s Republic of Minnesota which decided that the average of men’s and women’s wages must be equal. Yes, delivery van drivers (mostly male) and clerk-typists (mostly female) must be synched. Disregard that the van driver is outside in all weather, lifting packages, fighting traffic, day and night; while the clerk-typist is in air-conditioned, brightly-lighted comfort adjacent to the water-cooler and just down the hall from the lunch room hauling those neatly typed letters from in-basket to out. The jobs aren’t parallel!

Nurses in Minnesota got 12% less than “senior corrections agents” according to the lamentation of the writers—of course, the corrections officers needed to bear arms, shackle prisoners, maintain security and be prepared to defend themselves from some of the hardest criminals, while the nurses dealt with a largely passive but generally appreciative clientele. The jobs aren’t parallel!

The solution these two twits offer is a veritable litany of liberal expectation:

a) Strengthen “affirmative action” regarding job and education opportunities—does that sound like quotas or special treatment to you?

b) “Women should stand up for equal pay”….”and if necessary file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission or Colorado Commission on Human Rights.” Mommy, mommy, the big, bad boys won’t give me what I’m worth. Did we forget about the free market concept of supply/demand and the value of labor?

c) “Businesses should act responsibly” and audit themselves—can I predict that the audit would find them delinquent in their fairness? Don’t businesses act responsibly when market forces determine what they pay for labor? Aren’t they responsible enough when their decisions are based on that old motivator, profit?

d) The pair of presidents believes in “voluntary reform” but suggest that there might be a need for a “Paycheck Fairness” or “Fair Pay Act”—isn’t a fair deal what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree to? Legal penalties are called for by these paragons of feminine business sense.

A favorite question for my political science students during the block on economic policy was “what determines the minimum wage?” Inevitably they would respond with relationships to poverty levels, cost of raising a family of four, or cost of living estimates. That, of course is what the believers in the liberal agenda have instilled in the population. That is also patently absurd.

The minimum wage is determined by the value of your labor. Neurosurgeons get paid a lot because their training, skill and profession are irreplaceable. When you need one, nothing else will do. Similarly burger-flippers get paid little, because there are a lot of unskilled folks willing to do the job, at least for a short period of life. If one is willing to accept the wage, you can work. If not, step aside so the individual behind you can take the job.

If there is a justification for women at large getting paid less than men it isn’t prejudice it is the value of their labor in a free-market economy. Where the labor is of high value, there are ample stats to show that women get equal pay for truly equal work. When the presidents of “Business & Professional Women” get the basics of economics down, they will be able to better represent their constituencies.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

We'll Always Have Paris

E. J. Dionne possesses all of the intellectual arrogance on the left that William F. Buckley displays on the right, but with neither the rumpled collar nor the powerful intellect. He addresses the inheritance tax in an editorial syndicated nationwide (http://tinyurl.com/5ujx9) and suggests that repeal of this onerous burden would endanger the future of social security (as if it isn’t already on life support) and reward the nations’s bimbo-in-chief.

Let me start by stating that I’ve got no dog in this hunt. I’ve got neither a qualifying estate nor heirs so I might claim to possess a modicum of objectivity. The likelihood of my longevity reaching the point of total collapse of the Social Security system is minimal.

But, let’s consider what is going on here. We’ve got a federal tax system in this country that is undeniably progressive. The more you make, the more you pay. There are good arguments for such a policy. And, surprisingly, the progressiveness is accepted by most folks as morally correct and economically bearable. It is a responsibility of those with more to help out those less fortunate. Noblesse oblige. The question is not whether or not, but where the line should be drawn.

Since there are so many more folks who fall at the bottom of the income scale, either through lack of motivation, poor life choices, lack of preparation, failure to obtain an education, or simply circumstance, it is easy to make a popular case for getting more from “them”. And, conversely, it is hard to deny that those with more are able to exercise a disproportionate influence on the political (AKA taxing) policy makers. So, there’s a tension in the system and Dionne appeals to the populist rather than the realist in his demands. It’ll play in Peoria.

So, consider this. You work hard and are frugal. You save and invest. In the process you pay income taxes on your working wages. You pay income tax on your investments and dividends. You pay capital gains when you roll your investments over and build your estate. You do it all to provide something for your children when you go. You pay taxes all along the way and in the process you abide by the progressive tax structure, you create jobs and opportunities, you probably forego most of your own Social Security (arguably rightfully so,) and you are part of the commercial engine of success that drives our economy.

Then, when you pass on, as inevitably you must, the government wants half of what your estate is worth. That hardly seems fair despite the fact that it will mean, as Dionne points out, that someone as ignorant, d√©class√©, and repugnant (except to hormone-charged adolescent boys and World Wrestling fans) as Paris Hilton will be rewarded. And, as E. J. goes on, if the government doesn’t maintain this confiscatory policy, you will lose your Social Security which demands this blood to maintain itself.

Disregard the fact that most of the ultra-rich, like the builders of fortunes such as Hilton’s, have armies of attorneys dedicated to sheltering those fortunes from the inheritance tax. From those estates, the government Robin Hoods will get little to assuage the poverty of the masses. No, most of the impact of the inheritance tax falls upon the hard-working family farm. There you find estates of high value but low liquidity which regularly fall victim to the redistribution policies enacted by the populist “progressive” politicians. They don’t make huge sums of money in the risky business of agriculture, but they do own large tracts of land which have a lot of potential value, assuming they could be developed, sub-divided and a market existed for the homes and commercial construction. Failing to structure those estates to avoid the inheritance tax will result in a very unpleasant surprise for the heirs.

Consider this. I’ve got a good friend who owns a ranch in western Colorado. It’s a beautiful place in a rugged section of the state. Lots of high desert, some craggy canyons, loads of scrub oak and very little water. He manages a small herd of breeder cows, about 350 of them, which each drop a calf every year if the winter isn’t too hard and there’s enough rain to get some grass to sprout. It’s hard work, but it maintains a life he loves. He sub-leases a chunk to a fly-by-night operator who is trying to cull some gold flakes out of a dry lake bed and he has another company which has installed a natural gas well. The cash flow is pretty basic and depending upon the season can be a bit erratic. But, the land covers 28,000 acres and if the inheritance tax were imposed upon his demise, the only way of meeting the obligation would be sell the land at auction and lose what he has spent his life building. There’s no way his kids could come up with the extortion money that the likes of Mr. Dionne would demand. Is this justice?

Dionne writes a column with a lot of appeal, but it doesn’t pass the muster of common sense. He wants a tax on that which has been already taxed. He throws the red herring of Bimbette Hilton in for some emotional support. He stirs in a bit of class envy and suggests that it is simple greed which makes these folks want to keep what they’ve earned. He ignores the fact that little real money is generated by the “death tax”. And, he seems blissfully ignorant of the unintended consequences of the tax which leads to the break up of family farms, ranches and homes which have been built by hard work and initiative.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Deadwood Speaks

I love language. I regularly would berate my students when I was teaching political science at the local college regarding their inability to express themselves beyond incessant repetition of the basic Anglo-Saxon four-letter word. A goal to strive for, I suggested, was the ability to be able to insult someone effectively in language so subtle yet meaningful that they didn’t realize they had been dissed until the morning after. It would be better to save that basic word upon which they had become so dependent for situations in which extremes were called for. The word would then retain some impact. If you punctuate your discourse continually with the same expletive, what do you have left when the situation warrants caring enough to send your very best?

That’s why I love Deadwood. I recall my first exposure to HBO’s blockbuster and the sudden impact of the fusillade of profanity. It was shocking and my initial reaction was to consider it sensationalist at best and lacking in subtlety at the very least. But, first reaction to a gourmet meal emphasizing white truffles can be almost as overpowering. It is only after reflection on the sensory experiences that you begin to develop an appreciation for the nuances and the delicate blending of the flavors.

As a long-time resident of America’s west, it was inevitable that I would be hooked by the show. When I tuned in the second week, and coincidentally entered some discussions in a Usenet group on writing, it occurred to me that the profanity, just like the costumes, defines the characters. Those with a veneer of sophistication employ language related to their class and stature. Those in more base occupations rely on the language of their milieu. If an educated Easterner, the language is that of the civilized cities back east from whence they came. If a bar owner and whore-master, then the language tends to be considerably grittier. If an hotelier, with pretensions of sophistication, then the language is incongruously pompous while simultaneously attempting to ingratiate. A newspaper editor speaks in terms appropriate to an educated man immersed in a brutal society and trying to interpret the events in language which the common man can understand. A former lawman, striving merchant and now once-again sheriff will shift in his language from cultured when dealing with civilized people to the most base when confronting those elements of the society which only understand such terminology.

Over time, characters have developed and with that development their language has evolved to reflect the changes. This is employment of language with the greatest of skills and seldom seen in the drivel that seems to fill the majority of American entertainment. As the frail Patrician widow becomes claim-owner, permanent resident, foster parent, paramour of the sheriff and potential community leader, she evolves from the stiff, almost British constructions of her speech to the slightly rougher, yet more appropriate communication of her chosen surroundings. It’s simply brilliant.

The language, even at its crudest is not without humor. Possibly the funniest interactions in what is otherwise a very dark drama, are those between the Chinese laundry owner/Tong leader who speaks almost no English and the arch-villain with a sympathetic under-current, Al Swearingen. Poor Al tries to decipher what Wu is trying to tell him while Wu knows only sign-language and the basest insult as a noun to describe his tormenters. Al expresses his regret at ever having introduced Wu to the term and in a crude parody of the Abbott-Costello “Who’s on first” dialog they try to communicate. At first shocking, but on second glance the dialog is hugely funny and totally appropriate.

Increasingly the poetry of the language of Deadwood is Shakespearean. And, if comparing the Bard’s work one doesn’t have to stretch to draw parallels. Shakespeare always kept an undercurrent of base appeal to the unwashed in his language. References in most of his plays to the language of the lower classes can always be unearthed. While the drama itself is complex there is inevitably an inside joke to be uncovered for those familiar with the patois of the streets. Listen carefully as circumlocutions abound among the plotters in the mining camp. Things which are serious matters of life and death cannot always be spoken of openly; hence the references are increasingly oblique, subject to misinterpretation and even “plausible deniability.” Potential confusion can certainly exist, but truly masterful plotters will usually get their desired results even when dealing with the most ill-bred of functionaries.

I seldom watch TV beyond the news, sports and my spouse-mandated dose of reality shows. Deadwood, however has become mandatory viewing. I haven’t yet found myself reduced to the phrasings of Calamity Jane, however, I do notice a slight increase in scatological references when dropping in for the occasional beer at the local saloon.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Forget? Hell! Forgive? Never!

Just when I think the years have made the issue go away, there she is again, flogging her tell-all book and being fawned over by Letterman, Jennings, and all of the talking heads of “main-stream media.” Hanoi Jane is back and the headlines roar that she has finally “apologized.” But, if you read the fine print, assuming of course that anyone reads anything critically these days, you’ll see that she doesn’t apologize for giving aid and comfort to an enemy of the US in time of conflict. She doesn’t apologize for causing hundreds of my peers in the fighter pilot business who were prisoners of war being held by the North Vietnamese additional pain and suffering. She doesn’t apologize for supporting the regime that led to millions of Southeast Asians being killed because they opposed communism. She only says that it was poor judgment sitting in the gunner’s seat of a 37MM anti-aircraft cannon, laughing and grinning as she mimes shooting down an American aircraft. That was an error in judgment! A public relations gaffe, if you will. Bullshit!

I was at Korat Air Base Thailand in 1972, flying the F-4E and going to Hanoi nearly every day as an instrument of national policy. My specialty was killing SAM sites—those “flying telephone poles” that were radar guided and flew at Mach 2, tracking down airplanes and adding to the terror of war in the air. It was a definitely risky business, but it also was a satisfying mission. When we got the job done right, our force came home with fewer losses and we felt that maybe we were going to get the war done at last. Usually on the post-strike tanker, taking a bit of gas to help us get home from the mission, the other flights would offer a quick “thanks” to the guys who flew the Hunter/Killer missions, seeking out and hopefully destroying the SAM sites before they could destroy us.

When Fonda went visiting, we all knew it. We got briefed when she and her fellow-traveler, Ramsey Clark, arrived in Hanoi. We got photos showing where these noble dignitaries were probably housed. They accompanied the other warning info we had regarding probable location of the POW camps. We got explicit warnings not to attack near these locations.

But, we knew she was there and we knew what visits like that meant to the friends we had lost during all those years. We knew that Fonda and those like her were telling our enemies that they were winning. She was encouraging the North Vietnamese with tales of the war resisters and the lack of American political will to bring the war to a successful conclusion. She was urging them to continue their resistance and reminding them of the glories they would bring to the region when they were all one big, happy Marxist-Leninist family. And, when we saw the picture of her on the gun, we vowed to never forget it and knew that there was no possibility of redemption, ever.

Now, she’s written a book. Hell, I’ve written two. And, there’s no doubt in my mind that the American penchant for wallowing in the swill of celebrity excess will insure success of the book. She’ll make a couple of million dollars, her tawdry list of films will be resurrected and in high demand at Blockbuster and maybe some women will even envy her sequence of husbands, her threesomes, her self-inflicted eating disorders and her abject historic ignorance in embracing a failed economic system inimical to American principles.

I still see her as being an unconvicted traitor and I wonder that no one else has noticed that she seems to be type-cast throughout her film career as a whore.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


For those who have wondered about the past, here's the first book which was released in February of 2003. It's still available on Amazon.com as well as Barnes & Noble and other fine book stores. There's a paperback version as well.  Posted by Hello

Roses Are Red, Aren't They?



Although I consider myself a conservative, at least in the traditional fiscal sense rather than the more common “social” interpretation of the ideology, I’ve begun to find Bill O’Reilly increasingly shrill and motivated by seeming confrontational rather than well-reasoned. His “fair and balanced” often comes across as curt and dismissive when he disagrees with a position or he wants to flog his particular interpretation of an issue. But, I do like his tag for the show of “Most Ridiculous Item of the Day”

The hard part has got to be sorting the overwhelming number of ridiculous items into a hierarchy that has a winner. There is so much ridiculous stuff these days that one can be overwhelmed and left standing slack-jawed in awe at the sheer stupidity of so much.

As a former, but never quite finished pedant in the local college, I was particularly impressed with the sheer ridiculousness of something I saw just the other day. (http://tinyurl.com/3pufp) It seems that our poor children are being traumatized by teachers grading their papers in red. And, parents are outraged that their kids, even when being praised in the margins of their work, are simply frightened, intimidated, irreparably damaged by seeing correction or criticism or simply a letter grade in crimson.

Ahhh, yes. It matters little that Buffy or Biff are ignorant of the answers, unable to calculate or inarticulate in their expression and the teacher knows it. What matters to these parents and to their sympathetic teachers is that the color damages the child’s fragile little ego.

"I never use red to grade papers because it stands out like, 'Oh, here's what you did wrong.' " said Melanie Irvine, a third-grade teacher at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad. "Purple is a more approachable color."

Irvine said that in elementary schools, it's unnecessary to point out every error. Instead, a teacher should find a more delicate way to help a child learn.

Can Miss Melanie be serious? Purple is a “more approachable color”? Couldn’t we use something a bit more designer-ish? Maybe we could call it “Professorial Plum” rather than such a mundane name as purple? We would at least be stretching the bumpkin’s vocabulary a bit.

Is it “unnecessary to point out every error”? Well, which errors should we point out and which should we overlook? Is failure to capitalize a sin? It seemed to be acceptable for e. e. cummings, but then the market for poets has always been a bit avant garde. Maybe it wouldn’t be right to shock young Tameisha by demanding that she punctuate. She might simply be a budding James Joyce and honing her stream-of-consciousness skills. How can we be more delicate in giving these students necessary life skills if we don’t teach them what is wrong with what they are doing?

I’m afraid that this is my candidate for most ridiculous item of the week.