Saturday, April 30, 2011

When You Lose San Francisco

Last time I had to spend a couple of days in Gomorrah-by-the-Bay, I couldn't tell a difference between the Chronicle and the Examiner. They were both loon sheets befitting the politics of their area. That's why this conflict is a bit more interesting than it might be if the reporter in question were from the Orange County Register or Wall St. Journal:

Controlling the Fractious Press Pool 

Where's a good Goebbels when you need one?

What did the reporter cover that the White House wants to suppress? Well, it seems that the loons in San Francisco are very wealthy and even when challenging the Bamster on policy, they cough up $76,000 for the privilege. Isn't that simply the perfect example of egalitarian democracy in action?

What policy you ask? Why the one of arresting a military member who maliciously leaked millions of classified documents to a foreign agent for publication, that one! Yes, "Free Pvt. Manning" and "Save the Nuclear Whales" all at once.

Very Nice Song, "Where is Your Change?"

Don't these people understand how sensitive the image of the Messiah is?

Saturday Morning Rocker

Friday, April 29, 2011

Neighbor Nuge

It is a real honor to live in the same state with a great patriot and conservative who says things as they are without sugar-coating. Take a minute or two to check out this from the Motor-City Madman:

On Guns, Meat and Media

Maybe some Cat Scratch Fever tomorrow morning.

Nahh, why wait?


The President is an incompetent. He surrounds himself with similar thinking (or non-thinking) incompetents. He mis-manages policy and his responses to issues of all sorts are neither timely nor consistent. In case you have any lingering doubts, I dislike the man, his politics, his policies, his goals and his approach to this nation. Oh, and by the way, he's black. That must mean QED, that I am a racist. Clearly if he were white, I would be fawning over him like the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

That doesn't make much sense does it? But apparently if someone in the public eye questions or comments negatively on the Messiah, the gurus of the MSM recognize that as racism.

Bob Schieffer Thinks The Donald Is Reincarnation of Jefferson Davis

Would this be a mainstream talking head that quite clearly bought into the "George W. Bush is stupid and didn't earn his place at Yale or Harvard business school"? Were the questions of President Bush's academic credentials discredited as something other than legitimate questions of competence and resume? I don't recall that at the time.

Denying that you play the card at every single whiff of a criticism is a common but crude tactic that somehow makes your actions acceptable.

You want a job, you have to submit your resume. When you seek employment, you have to prove your eligibility through transcripts of your education if that education is qualification for the job. When you take a job your employer will ask for documentation and completion of an I-9 form. When you give references they might very well be contacted for comment.

Why should being President of the United States be exempt from such requirements?

Something For the Ages

Yes, I rose early this morning to watch the nuptials and was rewarded with some cable channel news coverage of the events preceding the ceremony at the church. In the long term apparently it went off well, but it was touch and go there for a short period:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Obama Doctrine Detailed

The Wordsmith over at Flopping Aces ties the Bamster up with a bow and delivers the message with a lot of good links and quotes:

Obama Doctrine Clearly Defined

That's why those guys are on the Regular Stops list!

Fighter Porn

Ya got yer live-fire, ya got yer ACM engagements, ya got yer AMRAAM and AIM-9 shots, ya got yer flare discrimination by the latest generation Snakes. What's not to like?

The Winner

Yep, I confess. I'm an Idolator. I watch and this season it looks like the best crop of talent they have ever brought together. I've watched enough years to see the idiocy of the American Idol voting process. When Adam Lambert lost I couldn't believe it. When Crystal Bowersox lost, I didn't understand it either.

Yet I'm still going to stand right here and make this prediction. Here's your winner for 2011:

Be Very Afraid

The headline screams that this is something you should really, really, really be afraid of. And, sure enough, when you read the article you had better understand how scary it is.

Potential Terrorists Allowed to Buy Guns

Wow! Last year 247 people on the terrorist watch list bought guns in the US and watchful Sen. Lautenberg, renowned hoplophobe, wants to do something about it!

That's not what scare me, nor is it something to frighten you. This is the part that should terrify you:

The list of about 450,000 people includes suspected members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, terror financiers, terror recruiters and people who attended training camps. People's names are added to and removed from the watch list every day, and most people never know whether they're on it.
 Lautenberg and two dozen other members of Congress want the attorney general to have the authority to prevent someone on the terror watch list from buying a gun if the attorney general believes that person will use it in a terrorist act.
People come and go from the list. There is no due process to being added or removed from the list. There is no indictment or hearing. There is no appeal. And Lautenberg wants to give the Attorney General and his army of bureaucrats total authority to build a list of people who should be denied a gun. How about listing "all the residents of ...insert city or town of your choice..."? How about all persons over the age of fifty? How about all registered Republicans? How about all persons previously on record as currently owning a firearm?

Yes, you should be afraid, but not because 247 people on that list of half a million bought a firearm last year.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Dare They!

Ayn Rand seems vindicated by the whimsy of the free marketplace. How gauche of these American swine!

Disobeying the Nomenklatura of the MSM

It's not supposed to work that way. The whole concept by which Hollywood and the current government runs is that we are supposed to slaver uncontrollably for that which they support and to studiously avoid the things which they tell us are not proper thinking.

Atlas Shrugged is a terrible book which casts a harsh light on the policies, programs and redistributionist thinking of the current administration. The very idea that people should reap the rewards of their ideas and effort is evil. Profits are routinely characterized as "obscene." Things must be "fair" meaning that all should share in the wealth. The Bamster himself inadvertently admitted it to Joe the Plumber on the campaign trail. We should share the wealth. Patents are evil and innovation should be strictly for the good of the collective.

So here we've got a book written more than fifty years ago that precisely predicted the current situation. More than seven million people have read it and yet Hollywood, which strangely enough is itself the product of creative entrepreneurs, has steadfastly refused to make the film.

An upstart independent grabs the title, raises the necessary seed money and cobbles together a competent production of the first part of a planned three part trilogy. What an affront! How dare they!

The reviewers with their superior objectivity to judge such things declare the film to be terrible. They pan it and yet, despite the poor reviews the impertinent marketplace laps it up. Gotta love it!

Beyond that is the fact that the opening week numbers are for limited release to largely small market theaters! You didn't see promos on TV for the film's opening. You didn't see full-page ads. You didn't get magazine spreads during the production. You got word-of-mouth Internet viral marketing and the result is a comparable per-theater box-office to equal the far more lavish, "Water for Elephants".

Only one question remains. "Who is John Galt?"

Alice in Wonderland

This morning at 9:45 the President held a brief press conference. It was a big enough item that the networks broke in to their routine programming to cover the five minute statement. It was significant, in my view, because of the naivete of the man in how he handled the statement.

Long Form Birth Certificate Released

He laughed. He smiled. He joked about the way the major issues of our time get apparent short shrift while this minor event gets major coverage. He actually said, "This has been around for quite a while...I think it came up some time during the campaign..."

He thinks? What cocoon does he live in?

He downplays it. He trivializes it. But in the process makes us think that if it is indeed so insignificant an event, why didn't he do this three years ago? How simple it would have been to simply say, "Here it is."

Yet, the carnival atmosphere is not simply limited to the White House. We've also got the most unpresidential presidential candidate since...well, since Barack Obama, announcing the great pride he takes in single-handedly forcing the event.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Logic of Rand

The link made me look. The headline was about "The Radicalness of Atlas Shrugged" and that seemed counter-intuitive to my stodgy mind. Radical connotes leftist and redistributionist to me. Rand screams individualist and entrepreneur. So I clicked and read:

The Rand Reversal Explained

It's all there and it is clearly expressed. Just don't let the first line discourage you from reading the rest.
If you’ve seen the new "Atlas Shrugged" movie but haven’t yet read the book, you may be wondering what the novel itself has to offer.
I simply couldn't imagine a literate person who hasn't read the book. I guess that shows how detached from reality I am!

Who's Yo Mama?

Could you even make this sort of thing up if you tried?

Van Jones Fight For Mama Nachur

So, let me think about that for a while. Some problem areas crop up almost immediately.

First Amendment: Who does Ma want to assemble with? How do we let her petition for redress of grievances?

Third Amendment: You mean we can't quarter our troops here any more?

Fourth Amendment: Ooops, no more exploring or exploiting of Ma's resources. We had better stay out of her closet!

Fifth: Some real issues with eminent domain declarations. Good to know that she won't be compelled to testify.

Sixth Amendment: Where do we detain her pending that trial by a jury of her peers? How do we assemble the peers?

Seventh: We had better up the $20 ante for Yo Mama bringing civil suits before a jury. She's got bigger issues I'll bet.

Eighth Amendment: Really, when you are that big what sort of punishment could be rendered which wouldn't be cruel and unusual? Where do you find bail for the big girl?

Ninth Amendment: This really opens the door for a raft of those unspecified rights, doesn't it.

I wonder if Mr. Jones has thought this through? I wonder if he is sane enough to be out in society on his own? I wonder if they paid the PR firm for that cockamamie name for the movement? They should demand a refund.

Texas Spring

Breaking news for my neighborhood today. Here's the national weather service map of warnings, watches and advisories. Greens are flood watches and warnings. Orange is heat advisory. Blue is high winds. White is WINTER Storms!

Yes, today in my neighborhood nothing will be happening!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cause & Effect Relationship

Do you think that government regulatory agencies can do more harm than good? How many people do you know who will rise to defend regulation as necessary to protect us from "Big X Corporation" who will reap "exorbitant profits" by "gouging" the citizens? Anybody in your neighborhood in favor of de-regulation?

Been Buying Gas Lately?

The EPA simply makes exploitation of our national energy resources too tough to do. It isn't like there was any pressing need is there?

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

No, it couldn't be the Bamster's fault. He's working night and day to achieve energy independence from foreign oil. Isn't he?

Might Local Government and Exorbitant Taxes Be at Work?

I think Chicago is fibbing on that. They just want to be Number One at something so badly that they will grasp even at the lead in gas prices. Cubs, White Sox and Bears let them down too often.

History Resurrected

I arrived at Korat Air Base in Thailand on the 6th of May, 1966. The new signs weren't all up yet. Effective on the first day of that month the temporary nature of the wing at Korat became permanent. What had been the 6234th  Tac Ftr Wg (provisional), was now officially the 388th TFW. The 388th had been around for a long time and is still active today at Hill AFB UT.

We had two squadrons of F-105s in place. Both of them were fairly new in terms of the modern Air Force, but both numbers had previously been active in WW II. We were the 421st Tac Ftr Sqdn known as the "Fighting Cavaliers" with a red patch depicting a plumed cavalier hat with a vertical sword surrounded by seven white stars grouped four, two and one.
 Our sister squadron was the 469th TFS. They were the "Fighting Bulls" with a green patch bearing a black bull snorting red flames. Shortly we would be joined by the 34th TFS "Rams" and then the 13th TFS "Panthers". The Rams were black and the Panthers gold.

History was writ large by those squadrons who carried the brunt of the load of Rolling Thunder to North Vietnam. Losses were huge among the crews, but valor was expected and courage was commonplace.

The 469th became the first squadron in Southeast Asia to convert to the gun-equipped F-4E. The F-105Ds had been lost in large numbers and fewer squadrons could be sustained. The 469th flew the F-4E when I arrived back at Korat in June of 1972. I was privileged to be assigned to the organization and proudly led flights that called for taxi instructions with the slogan from the unit patch, "World's Finest". "Taxi four of the Finest" was a great transmission.

The Bulls killed MiGs and SAM sites. We destroyed trucks and railroad bridges, and the history continued until one afternoon in mid-August the commander called us in and read a classified message to the unit. With Operation Linebacker still raging, the squadron was to be de-activated by 30 September--the end of the fiscal year. All artifacts, memorabilia, files and official records were to be crated up and shipped to the archives in St. Louis. Most of that, I imagine, was lost in the fire that swept through the warehouses fifteen years later. The heroic 469th was simply packed up and disappeared. So much for tradition and heritage.

Then just last week a Facebook friend sent me a message. He's an instructor at USAF pilot training at Sheppard AFB. He mentioned that the 469th TFS has been re-activated and is now training a new generation of fighter pilots in the T-38C at Wichita Falls.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fighter Porn

F-22 Raptor on The Flightline TV SHow from Mike Francis on Vimeo.

The Reason Why

I carry. I've had a CCW since the newly elected sheriff of El Paso County Colorado kept his campaign promise to make permits available. That was 1992. I've had a CHL in Texas since I moved here and my reciprocity privilege for my Colorado permit expired. I carry. To be perfectly honest, I often carried before then.

Here are some reasons why:

Baltimore Beatdown While Big Bruiser Videos

Dad Broke Up Fight Now Dead

Bikini Burger King Brawl

Some Pancakes With Your Beatdown?

Maybe IHOP is Safer

Could Tacos Be Toxic?

And those are just the ones we've seen in the last couple of weeks. From Florida to Massachusetts, San Francisco to New York and everywhere in between.

All of those places had phones. Most of the customers had cell phones. All are covered by 9-1-1, so that means you don't really need a gun. The police will be there to protect you before you suffer traumatic brain injury...won't they?

I carry. I think I will continue to carry.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Well Handled

Creative Solutions to the Westboro Baptist loons:

Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly in Mississippi

I like that kind of creativity!

What We'll Hope to Believe

Donald Trump leaps to the head of the Republican Presidential Candidate pack by simply spouting something ridiculous. He raises the birth certificate question. And simultaneously becomes the darling of the conspiracy theorist "Birthers" and the prime example of the lunacy of the conservatives to be pointed out by the Left. He's front page news.

I'm not a Birther. It is way too late for it to make a bit of difference. The Founders intent by adding to the eligibility requirements for only one office that the individual be a "natural born citizen" may have had fine rationale at the time we were emerging from beneath a colonial thumb. The rationale may very well still be valid. Or it may be outdated and inapplicable.

We've learned along the way that modern life creates nuances in the definition. It says nothing about the citizenship of the parents, so we get the conundrum of anchor babies of illegal immigrants. It doesn't allow for the birth of a child of a patriotic American serving abroad in the military or diplomatic service. It doesn't cover for well-meaning American parents having a child while simply traveling. It gets complicated quickly. We have to make supplemental rules and laws.

It might have been good to question the natural born citizen status of Obama the candidate. When the election took place, it might have been in order to validate his eligibility before inauguration. But we are long past that point. We have a fait accompli and there is no reasonable process for a reversal. So, the answer I fall back upon is that it is done, it can't be changed, and we need to get over it.

Now we've got a book and sure enough it jumps to the top of the best-seller list and makes the author a couple of quick millions. His name should be a household word. He's the same one who gave us "Unfit for Command" which brought the term "Swift-boating" into the political lexicon.

Maybe Dr. Corsi makes the case that Obama isn't eligible to be president. It really doesn't matter. Nothing will change. But read an interesting analysis here:

The Questions Raised By the Question Raised

You don't have to be a Birther to give those issues consideration. They are important.

Through the Looking Glass

Hollywood is a topsy-turvy world in which nothing makes much sense and the rules by which the rest of society live do not apply. Especially if your name is Lindsay Lohan.

Grand Theft--Misdemeanor--Wrist Slap--Bail

I've never appeared in a criminal court as a defendant. I'll bet you haven't either. This is Ms Lohan's FOURTH appearance before a judge this year. She has never been found not guilty. She is currently on probation.

My understanding is probation is like you've had the stern talk and if you screw up the slightest little bit you are going to get your butt handed to you with severe bruising and no second chances.

What happens here? Linds walks out the jewelry store door with a $2500 necklace around her neck unpaid for. Because she is who she is, the shop-keeper expects her to return and pay or have one of the loyal minions drop off a check. Doesn't happen. This is what is called Felony Grand Theft.

Lilo is found guilty. That merits prison time. Judge decides it really isn't a felony but a misdemeanor. Judge somehow doesn't see this as problematic for someone on probation. Judge sentences princess to 120 days in the LA can, knowing that the over-populated facility can't provide the spa and room service attention that Lilo needs and finally grants the pampered twit an insignificant bail and lets her walk.

What will it take to teach this spoiled and dissipated child a meaningful lesson? Will she have to kill someone? Oh, that's right. Even that doesn't count in Hollywood if you're OJ Simpson. 

Saturday Morning Rocker

Friday, April 22, 2011

What a Load Off My Mind!

The Attorney General? How does he get involved in the question of price movements in a global commodity market? What is he going to do? Is this another Bowles-Simpson Task Force which will produce recommendations that he will then dismiss? Not this time, I'm afraid.

This is the run-up to a central planning board for gasoline pricing. For those who didn't remember their Marxist/Leninist basics, that means the government determines what a "fair" price should be without relation to supply and demand. Supply is "mandated" by government decree which is patently absurd in the case of oil which is the prerequisite for gasoline and sold in the open market by uncontrolled producers to a rapidly developing Asian marketplace. Demand is "controlled" by government through rationing which prescribes how much you will be allocated from the mandated supply which doesn't exist in the first place.

Mr. President, Americans drive vehicles powered by gasoline. We choose our vehicles based upon our needs. If we need an SUV because we live in mountains where it snows, we will buy one. If we need a pick-up truck because our business requires moving tools and supplies, we will buy one. If our family needs three rows of seats, we will get a van. If, living in a free country, we want a fast, sporty performance car, we will choose one. That is what American freedom is about.

Mr. President, just this week a survey revealed that the United States is in the top five nations of the world for domestic fossil-fuel resources. In fact, we are number one! We control our destiny and don't have to be dependent upon foreign sources. We're sitting on a massive pool of oil and natural gas. It is ours!

Mr. President, all of the Volts and Leafs and Priuses in the US won't change the growing pressure on the market from China and India become auto-owning nations. Another ten thousand windmills this year won't bring gasoline down a nickel.

Mr. President, the Middle East is in turmoil and that is currently the principal petroleum source for the global market. Your foreign policy is doing nothing to stabilize that. In fact, your unclear actions are exacerbating the situation.

Mr. President, it is your policies and your agenda and your regulation and your EPA and your manifest ignorance of basic economics which is the problem.

You don't need a task force to find that out. You can get it from my freshman political science class. Drop in any time.


This is easy. Which looks better?

Riddle Me This

I'll start by confessing that I'm not an expert in international relations. (Please, no wise cracks from the back of the room about dalliances with locals on foreign shores.) My total exposure to IR is limited to acquisition of a master's degree in the subject (MSIR--Troy Univ./European Extension, 1981). So maybe I'm just not qualified to understand the nuances of the Messiah's policy on Libya.

What I thought I learned was that there was a broad range of tools for achieving policy goals. I also learned that the tools can be applied singly or in concert. A very important concept I was taught was that policy must be hammered out by the administration using the best available information and then it must be expressed clearly and coherently in a unified voice by all the members of the team. You decide what you are going to do, the goals are made clear and then you act consistently in public so as to make your adversary very certain of your intent. The flips, flops, waffles and reversals are all done before you act.

Now, let's recap on Libya. The people arise. Qaddafi is a long known enemy of the US and a recognized supporter of terrorism around the world. It would seem that there is a clear national interest in influencing the outcome in Libya. You've got to weigh the alternatives before deciding though. Would we be better served with Qaddafi in power or with a yet-to-be-determined new regime?

The debate apparently takes place and after a mere three weeks of dawdling the Bamster announces that Qaddafi must go. The crimes against humanity as he uses artillery, armor and airpower against his own people are too egregious to tolerate. The dictator must go. And to that end we will make a mean face and urge economic sanctions. Wow! That's scary!

Within 36 hours the SecDef says we really support the rebels but Qaddafi's ouster is not one of our goals. Oops!

Three days later, after France takes the lead and Britain supports France in declaring military air support of the rebels with the express intent of getting Qaddafi to disappear, the Messiah seems to have had his testicles descend and he declares that the US will apply our unique capabilities to enforce a no-fly-zone. In short order it is apparent that: a.) it isn't a "no-fly-zone" but an interdiction campaign against Qaddafi's military, his command & control capability, and his entire Air Force: and b.) it will conclude the mess in short order.

Ahhh, can't have victory and certainly can't have it look like the US military is so damned good that it was easy. Messiah now recants his "Qaddafi must go" position to state that was never one of his goals. He also insures disruption of the operation by withdrawing US control of the operation of all NATO forces, despite the fact that the existing NATO command structure is de facto under US senior leadership in all areas of the alliance. A Canadian general takes over.

Now we see that Qaddafi takes the offensive and to garble things a bit more, Obama declares the withdrawal of US tactical air assets. SecState Clinton jumps in with humanitarian aid so that the dying rebels we are responsible for who believed we were helping them will have blankets and halal meals.

Are we getting a picture of that clear consistent foreign policy implemented the way I was taught it needed to be done? Then how about this:

Predators Patrol, Pat Qaddafi on Poh-Poh

We have created a permissive air environment in which systems like A-10 and AC-130 gunships can bring very effective firepower to bear with both precision and discrimination but neglect to employ them. We choose instead to "roam the alloted airspace, find the enemy and..." note his position on the grease-pencil board in the command post. "Anything else is rubbish."

The riddle I am left with is WTF is Obama trying to do and why?

Now I See Clearly

I regularly bewail the total lack of writing skill displayed by my students. I attributed it to texting, Tweeting, ignorance, laziness, and total erosion of standards in our public school system. I apparently am not alone:

Good Enough at Four is Good Enough For Life

Apparently I was wrong. My standards are not related to professional application of the language, but rather to racism and perpetuation of an aristocratic class system.

The Royal Wedding Early Coverage

The event of the decade quite clearly and one to celebrate with pomp, circumstance and abandon:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bad Choice

This is probably quite tasty and I would bet that it is lean and even good for you, but it would be best not to explain in any detail to the children what is for dinner this Sunday:

Well, Johnny, Remember the Ad About 'The Other White Meat'?

Or wait and serve it for Festivus.

Remember San Jacinto

Remember the Alamo? Of course you do. If you are lucky you've been there. You know about Travis and Bowie and Crockett. Maybe you've seen one or both of the movies. It is a remarkable story.

Remember Goliad? Probably not, if you aren't a Texan. Even if you are, unless you are a Texan over fifty when schools still educated folks, you probably don't. Goliad was where Bonham Fannin surrendered and then Santa Ana slaughtered the weaponless Texian prisoners. Not a good day in Texas history.

Today however is the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. Sam Houston had led a retreat from San Antonio almost to Houston while Santa Ana pursued him. As the armies camped, the Mexicans at the end of their extended supply lines, they anticipated a battle the next morning. General Santa Ana entertained himself with one of his camp followers after lunch and settled into his afternoon siesta. Houston surprised him and the Texians attacked in the afternoon, decisively defeating the Mexican army once and for all then capturing Santa Ana cowering in a thicket.

Remember the Alamo! Absolutely. But remember San Jacinto as well.

It might be a good history for our president to read. Embrace victory. It is so much sweeter than defeat in war.

By Popular Demand

Initial comments on the three book ideas leaned heavily toward Stoolies or Strike Enable with the growing up memoir a distant third. This morning some late input indicated that maybe another taste to the memoir might be in order. So, here's a bit from the start. It's WW II, my mother is sick with essentially a strep infection and my father has been called on emergency leave to the bedside of his "dying" wife. The overview of her illness and his arrival home has already passed:


He had come to Chicago to escape the coal mines that had killed his oldest brother and worn out his father much sooner than that man’s years would dictate. There wasn’t much future in Clinton, Indiana and those who wanted more from life went to the big town to the north as soon as they could. He wasn’t sure what he could do with his life, but an attempt at factory work in a stamping plant had cost him the last joint of his right thumb and convinced him that crafts and tools weren’t his strong points. He had an outgoing personality and a gift of gab that made it more natural for him to gravitate toward jobs that worked with people.

A high school dropout, he had been destined for the mines but watching his father drain his life into the black holes on the edge of town and then seeing his seventeen year old big brother disappear one day beneath the wheels of a coal-laden tram convinced him that there were better options. Downtown was where it was at. There was opportunity there as the country started to lift itself out of the Great Depression. The tall buildings and dark canyons of the  central city were alive with chances to make something of oneself. Newspapers were a magnet for him and he aspired to the exciting life of a reporter. Lack of any writing experience or journalistic training was hardly a deterrent to his optimism. When the newspapers wouldn’t offer him any kind of a job he found himself clerking in Ligget’s Rexall drugstore on the ground floor of the Chicago Daily News building on West Madison Street. It was close to the action, he would meet the people of the newspaper and he would get an opportunity soon.  

She was the middle of five children, an older brother and sister and two younger brothers. Her father was an ambitious Polish immigrant who came to this country with an education and the drive to establish a successful printing business. He and his sister had married another brother and sister who were first generation Americans with Polish parents. The family lived in a beautiful and spacious brick bungalow on the developing northwest side of Chicago. The children attended nearby St. Constance catholic school and went to Mass on Sundays at the church. The youngest of the five children was born the year the stock market crashed and the roaring twenties came to a most abrupt end. The demand for printing withered, the business failed and soon the mortgage on the house was called.

She finished high school and dreamed of a career in show business. She had played piano throughout her school years, had danced in school productions with her older sister and had a passable good singing voice. She took to bleaching her hair and many observers remarked that she showed an incredible resemblance to Jean Harlow. She hadn’t found a way to get a paycheck out of the entertainment industry and the depression made it critical that she support herself. Beautician school in downtown Chicago was the answer. The school was just around the corner from the Daily News building.

It didn’t take long for the handsome, glib, ambitious small-town boy to notice the glamorous, self-confident blonde that stopped in the drug store for lunch on most days. He’d wangle a way to be nearby and take any chance to talk to her, exchanging pleasantries about the weather, the traffic, the movies or the news. She responded to the attention of the man who was ten years older than most of her friends. There was prestige to be gained from dating an older man; one who worked downtown and could take her places. She might have lost some privilege when her father lost his business and their house had gone on the auction block, but that didn’t mean that she would miss out on the good things of life.

They dated. They enjoyed each other’s company. He was in love. She might have been. He was twenty-nine. She was nineteen. They married in a traditional Catholic nuptial ceremony, he in a white suit and she in a classic bridal gown.

The next few years were a whirlwind. He succeeded in getting a job with the Daily News. It wasn’t reporting or journalism. It was in circulation. It wasn’t downtown, it was handling newspaper deliveries. The job was to live in a small town in northern Illinois and deliver the papers to subscribers every day. Rise at three or four in the morning, meet the train from the city and pick up the papers, then travel through the countryside dropping off bundles to newsstands and delivery boys who would get the paper to the subscribers along their routes. In short order they lived in a sequence of small towns with names like Rock Island, Moline or DeKalb. Each town brought a different run-down apartment and a new series of problems to be dealt with in finding reliable delivery boys and retailers. Underlying the job was the requirement to produce new readers and build the subscription base. It was a thankless, underpaid task but he knew that eventually it would lead to a real newspaper job. She knew that life wasn’t the song-and-dance routine or the theatrical show-tune that she had always felt she deserved. She had a series of miscarriages and finally succeeded in carrying a baby to term. I was born in Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago just ten months after Pearl Harbor had signaled the real end to the Great Depression.

The war meant that manpower pool was getting shallow quickly. War plants needed blue collar workers and the battlefield needed anyone who wasn’t essential to the production cycle. Newspaper distribution drones weren’t essential and despite being ten years older than most draftees, my father was called up.

Basic training, then a quick two stripes because of his age left him a buck sergeant viewed as just a bit long in the tooth for combat. He’d been in the pipeline out of Biloxi, Mississippi when the doctors decided he had varicose veins and needed to be kept in the states. He got trained to run the movie theater and when fully qualified was bounced from the infantry to the Air Corps and shipped to Santa Rosa, California to run the theater for the P-38 training facility. The projectionist and theater manager training might offer promise for a new career if the war ever ended. Now with Loretta sick, he’d been shipped quickly home to see his 25 year old wife’s final days.

They weren’t her final days, however. The sulfa drugs began to take effect. Her fever broke and she began to recover. She relished her days off of work at the beauty salon and stayed in bed as my father doted on her. He had thirty days furlough to allow for the travel time to and from the coast. He had gotten a ride on a Red Cross sponsored C-47 from California back to Chicago but it would be a train ride back to the West Coast when Loretta’s recovery was complete. Along the way from Santa Rosa he had gotten priority over another soldier whose father had died. The Red Cross agent had simply said, “Your wife is still alive, you can do something. His father is dead and he can’t make a difference. You get aboard.” Now he was able to spend two weeks finding out who this tiny entity that bore his name really was. Dad would have some bonding time with his son.

It snowed the second week he was home. It was one of those late season wet and heavy dumps that covers the dingy buildings, bare trees and dark streets of the city to create a wonderland of brilliant white beauty. Dad carried me down the three flights of stairs and down Milwaukee Avenue to the hardware store where he bought a Flxible Flyer sled fitted with a wooden basket child seat and a length of clothesline through the steering yoke. With me tucked under a blanket and comfortably in the seat, he dragged me down the street and off to Wilson Park where we cruised through the fields getting soaked and cold and laughing all of the time.

Our gloves caked with snow dingles and shoes dripping slush we returned to the apartment to find Loretta sobbing quietly in the bedroom. She’d been left in her illness and playing with me wasn’t why my father was home. She wanted him by her bedside. That was the way it was supposed to be when you were sick. One did not frolic in the park when she had just narrowly avoided death. How could we be enjoying ourselves?

She didn’t look that sick to me, but I wasn’t yet three. What did I know? I would learn that life was meant to be a certain way. What you saw and what you heard might refute what she thought should be, but that didn’t change the view of life. It was a strange combination in which I would learn to ignore reality of big city apartment living and domestic strife in exchange for a Ozzie and Harriet view of suburban life and pinafore perfection. What you saw would not be what you got. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Higher Education

Thanks to Instapundit for linking this classic example of ivory tower academia:

From the Dept of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Seriously? In Iowa they have such a department in the University? They actually have full professors that get paid real money to teach serious courses in such things? Might it be possible that the graduates of programs offered by that department will have trouble finding gainful employment in this economy?

Can a university professor really accuse someone of "appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement"? Did she miss that part about the First Amendment freedom of speech when she went to the sixth grade civics class? Because her pet cause uses a phrase does that now remove it from the public lexicon?  Does she seriously express outrage at this: "And the “Animal Rights BBQ” is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause."

She tells a student to "F**k Off!" in her best professorial demeanor and then takes offense that she is referred to by her first name rather than "Professor." When people use that sort of language toward me, I usually believe we have now established a more intimate relationship that no longer requires formal titles in our communications. 

I think this woman lives in some sort of alternative universe in which civil dialogue between groups with different political viewpoints is not tolerated. That is neither academic freedom or intellectual discourse. 

When Will They Ever Learn...

It's drought season in Texas again. We had a bad one the year I moved here and the first summer coupled record heat with record fires. We smelled a lot of smoke because a lot of grassland gets set off quite easily when it is dry. The last three years have been reasonably wet. This year is another dry one.

Our rainfall for the year-to-date is about 50% below what we've usually got. So far we're roughly 4.5 inches below what typically falls in the first four months of the year. It ain't rocket science to know that means dry.

For the last week or so we've had some serious wind blowing. A couple of days gave us 25-35 MPH averages with gusts to fifty or more. Dry land with wind blowing across it means drier still.

So, what does Bubba do to modify his behavior? Not a bloody thing. The state was made for him to throw his beer cans, McDonald's bags and cigarette butts out the pick-up truck window.

Which leads to:

Serious Fires Rage in Much of State

If you've got a 100,000 acres burning in several places, that's a lot of fire. But lest you feel the need to send a barrel of water for me to throw upon my house to protect it let me say that "Texas is burning from border to border" is a gross exaggeration. Texas is a whole lot bigger apparently than the folks in the UK who write headlines seem to understand.

And, while Possum Kingdom Lake is to the west of Ft. Worth and suffering some severe damage, it is about 70 miles away so the likelihood of the DFW metro area experiencing a Mrs. O'Leary's cow event is quite low.

Forecasts are for some rain  tomorrow and through the week-end so things should quiet down and maybe Bubba will roll his truck windows up and shove his cigarette butts up his...well, you get the idea.

Get Over It

We ridicule the mullahs who scribble off fatwas directing their faithful to kill those who draw stick figure caricatures of the Holy Prophet. We consider them ignorant, overly sensitive, and generally barbaric. Why can't they be enlightened like we are? Why can't they distinguish between freedom of speech and what really matters? Why don't they allow for art to be viewed and evaluated on its own merits? Take it or leave it. If you like it fine. If you hate it that is fine too but don't try to deny the artist the latitude to boldly go where others may fear to tread.

That is the essence of our First Amendment freedom of speech.

So, try this one on for size and see if it fits in your personal moral framework:

Gaga Goes GooGoo for Judas

What does Holy Week have to do with anything? Why is it so outrageous to say the Jesus is her virtue but Judas is her love? Seriously, how many  times have you heard the movie cliche, "I know he's bad, but I love him so much...."?

Why am I having flashbacks over the theatrical release of Andrew Loyd Weber's classic production, "Jesus Christ, Superstar"?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

History Carries Through

This is some great flying from then and now. I had the honor and privilege when I was working at Northrop to work side-by-side with Chuck Knight who was one of the Bearcat Blue Angels. Later he went to Pax River where he did Navy flight test work for several years and was one of the lead test pilots on the A-5 development. Chuck was a great guy, a good friend and a true gentleman. He passed away about two years ago but it would have been great to have him see this:

Texas TV Tell Truth

It is an enlightening experience for the Messiah when he lets a Dallas TV reporter have a couple of minutes of face time with him and suddenly finds his fictions challenged.

The Contest

Thanks to all who read the three excerpts and took the time to comment. Chunks like that make it difficult to see where a project is headed and the brief synopsis I offered didn't do a very good job of giving you the overview of the stories, hence some well-thought comments were offered from a less-than-complete perspective.

That's my fault and not yours.

The consensus appears to be a coin-toss between "Stoolies" and "Strike Enable" with my upbringing memoir a distant third. That becomes a problem for me if I were to list the three in order of ease of creation. My books, up until this point, have been non-fiction. They are memoirs and although tied to history and as factual as I can make them, they are my telling of stories that I lived (or that Christina Olds and I were able to assemble from Robin's legacy). I've found out already that fiction is a lot tougher than memoir.

For ease of creation, then the ranking would be:

  1. My Childhood Stories which are pure memoir. The real difficulty there is balancing the good times with the difficulties of dealing with a hypochondriac, manic-depressive, self-centered mother. One is supposed to love one's mother and mine did much for me, but the black-periods outweighed the good and baring that truth to the public isn't a pleasant task. My wife wants me to write the stories, if just for her. It is probably the least marketable of the three. 
  2. Strike Enable is a peace-time fighter pilot story and a life I'm familiar with. The plot of the terrorist Turk and the eventual confrontation has to be brought far enough forward to make it relevant to the Middle East situation currently on the front pages. The artistic twist of shaping the central character into different things as viewed by different people is the gimmick to sell the story to the publisher. The cliche is that all fiction is in some sense autobiographical. That leaves me with the difficult task of convincing my wife on every page that I'm not really Rat Reynolds and I really didn't do those things that fighter pilots do when off fulfilling the rest of the world's expectations of acting like a fighter pilot. 
  3. Stoolies is essentially a modern day ghost story that takes place in a north Texas cowboy bar. It is grounded with some real characters (in the truest sense of that word!) and there is real history behind the mailman who triggered the Great Gainesville Hangings that resulted in 40 lynchings in the first week and nearly 150 over the next six months, but getting the ghosts to the modern time and flowing them into the scenario is pure fiction and not an easy task. 
School is out for the summer in few short weeks and it looks like I won't be doing summer session classes this year, so I've got no excuse for not pounding the keyboard and seeing what I can churn out. It might be easier than I'm predicting or it might be a production of crap that will rival Justin Bieber's autobiography. 

There might even be some more samples for ThunderTales to get some feedback on what I'm doing wrong. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011


This FAA business about the sleeping controllers is getting suspicious. I wrote last week about the fact that a low traffic period in which a single controller is on duty in the tower is not a big deal. The essential function is for an emergency response and not to provide deconfliction of aircraft which are essentially fully capable of functioning in a classic see-and-avoid environment. The fact that Joe Sixpack with a microphone answers when you call and says "Cleared to land" is not a make or break situation for safety.

Now, we've got this rash of copy-cat reports where controllers across the system are dozing on duty. If they are night-watchmen, that's no big deal. If they are part of a busy multi-controller facility, it's still no big deal. In the night situation they aren't needed and in the multi-player facility they aren't critical.

But, I always remain paranoid. They possibly really are out there to get me. It's budget crunching time and we've got a power-hungry bureaucracy-based administration that is going to whimper about every single nip to the bloated budget. What is the desired sequence of thought here?

Controllers are over-worked and under-staffed. You, the flying public, are in serious danger. The answer is more controllers, more regulation, more supervisors, more training, more equipment and a bigger budget. This is one more critical area where those nasty ol' Tea Party goblins are trying to kill you, grandma and our children.

Already we've got Ray LaHood taking action by adding controllers on those lonely night shifts. That's efficiency and responsiveness!

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was one of they guys around the world who had the awesome responsibility of baby-sitting "the Bomb". Yep! I was in charge of my very own 345 kiloton thermonuclear weapon. All I had to do was jump in the jet and get airborne within fifteen minutes of being scrambled.

I would get this job for three or four days at a stretch and during that time I would live a close-to-normal life. I  ate, I read, I played cards, I saw movies or watched TV and (ohmigod!!!!) I slept on the job. I could do this because of a magnificent high-tech device called a klaxon, or as we lovingly referred to it, "That God-damned horn!"

The horn was irresistible. Every day at exactly 12:00 noon the command post would test the horn. The horn is bloody, freaking loud. They would call the alert facility a few minutes before the test to warn us. We knew that in two minutes the horn would go off.

Despite the awareness and warning, when the horn blew it was virtually impossible not to jump up.

Memo to Sec. LaHood. Don't hire more controllers at $85,000 per year plus benefits. Install klaxons in towers with single-person staffing at night. When Approach Control, Enroute Center or airborne pilots report no contact with a single-person facility, blow the horn. You will get a wide-awake controller immediately and your cost per installation will be a one-time thousand dollars or so.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Comments Time

OK, your turn. You've read excerpts from three works in progress. I'm going to get serious (he threatened) about writing when school is out and taxes are done as soon as I finish sacrificing two virgins and a goat in thanks.

What should I work on? What do you like and why?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Contest III: Strike Enable

Overview: There were a lot of nuclear weapons on alert on fighters during WW Cold. The critical component was the strike enable plug, a device about the size of an old-fashioned electrical household circuit fuse. Without it the bomb doesn't work. The story tracks Rat Reynolds, a USAF fighter pilot who is many things to many people. His image changes depending upon who is seeing him. He is one thing to his troops, another to his boss, still something else to his women and even more to himself. He parallels the career of a Turkish AF fighter pilot who during the confusion of the Greek/Turkish war over Cyprus manages to purloin two strike enable plugs for weapons. As the Turk gains rank he gradually embraces Islamist radicalism and threatens global war with his weapons unless Rat can stop him.


The blue step-van pulled to a halt outside the chain-link fence. Inside eight young men stood up and shuffled forward to the door. The youngest looked about twenty, but must have been older. The oldest was not quite forty. Each was clad in a grayish-green zippered jump suit and black leather boots. They each hauled a canvas duffle, shapeless but bulky, obviously heavy and clearly indispensable. They approached the fence cautiously as the driver of the van restarted the engine and dumped the transmission into gear then with a spurt of gravel from the rear wheels headed back down the approach road.

The fence was just a part of it. Twelve feet high, chain link topped with razor concertina, behind the barrier a twenty foot sterile area then a second fence, identical to the first. Light towers were spaced evenly every hundred feet along the perimeter and the corners of the compound were marked with fifty foot tall guard towers. One man could be seen in each of the two towers that were visible from the double entry gate. The barrel of a tripod mounted .50 caliber machine gun pointed skyward next to the guard who lounged lazily along the railing, his M-16 over his shoulder. A cast-metal box next to the outer gate held an olive-drab field phone. An ominous sign warned that this was a restricted area and off-limits to all persons except as approved by the installation commander. Trespassers would be shot. The first man in the line of new-comers opened the door and picked up the phone.

“Hey, asshole. It’s Rat. Let me in.”

The response was chilly. “Sergeant Moore, Victor Duty Officer, say again?”

“Hey, Sgt. Moore, It’s Major Reynolds. I’ve got the replacement prisoners. Buzz us in.”

“Sorry, Sir. I wasn’t sure who it was. The damn perimeter guard didn’t tell me you guys had arrived. Welcome aboard.”

The gate lock hummed softly and Rat Reynolds replaced the phone and tugged to swing the portal open. The eight shuffled through into the no-man’s zone. The ten-foot wide sidewalk between the two gates was flanked with a buffer of an additional twenty feet of neatly mown grass on each side, then a warning sign that further movement into the area between the fences could result in injury or death—the means of your demise was not described. It could mean the corner towers would open fire or maybe there were mines or maybe electrical trip wires or spiders ‘n snakes or who knew what else. But it was all bad. Prudent folks wouldn’t go there. When the first gate closed behind them, the second gate buzzed and Rat grabbed the handle.

“Hey Grunt, remind you of home? This look like your old Army post?” Grunt Stevens looked up at Bull Kinsey and sneered.

“Fuck you, Bull. Shut your trap or I’ll throw your bulbous butt out in the weeds and let the .50s chew you up.”

“Shit, Grunt, they’re Air Force. They wouldn’t shoot me, and even if they did try they’d probably miss. They ain’t your highly trained specialized Army teen-agers ready to kill. These guys can probably read.”

“Knock it off, Bull. You’ve got four days to play grab-ass after we get the change-over done. I wanna get in here, get the paper work done and get some lunch. You think the commies fuck around like this? Get serious.” Rat glared back at the bunch. Chuckles ran through the group. They hitched up their canvas equipment bags and slouched forward through the second gate.

A tall security police guard in starched fatigues with an M-16 slung over his shoulder snapped a salute. “Good afternoon, Major. Back so soon?”

Reynolds returned the salute and smiled at the guard. “Yeah, I just love this fuckin’ place. It’s like prison but without Big Leroy around.” The guard grinned and held the gate open as the procession passed through. “Who’s in charge today? I already heard Moore’s tender welcoming voice. Who’s lead bomb commander?”

“I think it’s Major Huntington, Sir. He’s only been on the pad since yesterday afternoon. The 612th turns the crews over pretty fast. I’m glad to see the 613th back again. You guys are a lot easier to deal with.”

“Nah, Sarge, we ain’t easier, we’re just too smart to try to change a bunch of crusty ol’ cops like you. It’s a lost cause.” Reynolds herded his charges down the walkway to the dark green one-story building fifty yards ahead. He scanned the area inside the fence. It was easily forty acres, maybe more, most of it paved with concrete. To the left two more green buildings stood, slightly larger than the Victor Alert offices that Rat was headed toward. Just beyond the two buildings the first Tab-Vee shelter rose, then as the pavement bent away toward the left, angling toward the two huge gates at the west end of the area, nearly a dozen more shelters loomed, each a huge arch of steel beams coated in concrete then painted in dull olive drab camouflage blotches. Reinforced garages on steroids. Huge steel doors were swung open on each of the shelters and in the first four along the taxiway the blunt black radomes of the alert Phantoms could be seen.

The eight men dumped their bags along the sidewalk outside the door to the VA office and filed inside. A pass-through window just to the left of the entryway door revealed a single desk office and two large green safes along the back wall. One safe was open to display a neat row of red expansion file folders labeled with large black numbers. The front file was number five. There were at least a couple of dozen in the safe. The other safe was closed with a sign hanging from the handle saying, “LOCKED”. An airman in fatigues stood at the window handing out folders one through four as the men filed inside. The newcomers paired up automatically and in a well-rehearsed ballet they displayed an ID card and a restricted area badge which they then clipped to a tab on the zipper of their Nomex coveralls. The badge picture and the ID card picture were compared to a file card that the airman examined. When the match was verified, a red file was handed to one of each pair. They then moved into the building to a large room with several tables neatly arranged in front of a blackboard and pull-down movie screen. Clearly a briefing area. 

The Truth About the Lies

Without further comment, the Wall Street Journal describes yesterday's Obama sermon about class warfare:

Don't Look Behind the Budget Curtain

Does he believe this stuff?

Contest II: Life With Mother

Synopsis: A memoir of my life and my ambivalence about my mother. She was a beauty who looked like Jean Harlow and married a coal-miner's son from Indiana. She always viewed life as not agreeing with her fairy-tale expectations. The result was a mean antagonistic woman who drove my father to drink and an early grave. Growing up in the late '40s and '50s in Chicago was a symphony of events, impressions and characters overlaid with a harridan who could take joy out of Santa's visit at Christmas. Think "Catcher in the Rye" meets "Mommy Dearest."

Barefoot Boy

It’s possible for a young boy to grow up wise and strong and well-mannered in a big city. It happens all the time in places like New York, Boston, Detroit or Chicago. I could have grown up in Chicago exactly that way. I could have, but I didn’t. I grew up partly in Chicago and partly in the country. I was damned lucky.

Sure, there are parks in the city and you can have friends; pals to play ball with and roam the neighborhood with your imagination running wild. You can be a scout and go camping to a forest preserve just a few miles from home, but you’ll know all through the night in your tiny tent by the campfire that just the other side of that row of trees is Cumberland Road and just across that four-lane are houses packed shoulder to shoulder with electric lights and refrigerators and the ghostly blue glow of televisions tuned to I Love Lucy.

Summer in the city has its smells and sensations, but they aren’t of new-mown hay or ripening raspberries on a wild bush. More likely they are melting asphalt on the flattop roofs of stores baking in the hot sun outside your bedroom window, or maybe the garlic laced spaghetti sauce simmering and then burning on Mrs. Salvatore’s stove on the first floor of the apartment building. The sounds aren’t of birds chirping in the cherry trees or a squirrel scolding the dog in the backyard. It’s the rumble of the street car on Milwaukee Avenue or the thumping of the compressor on the industrial reefer that cools the butcher department of the Del Farm supermarket that abuts the area behind your red brick apartment. A boy can grow up here without the country, but it’s not as good.

I was very lucky. I had my Aunt Ellen who lived in Terre Haute, Indiana in a small white clapboard bungalow on a big grassy lot on the last street in town before the cornfields started. It wasn’t a farm, but it was right next to one. The street was gravel and the surrounding lots weren’t built yet. There was a coal burning furnace in the basement and an honest-to-god water pump that you had to pump to drain water out of the cistern when she did the laundry on Monday mornings with her trusty old wringer washer. There was a big garden in the back surrounded by a white picket fence. It always produced green beans and the best tasting tomatoes anyone had ever eaten along with a few onions, maybe some carrots, and even strawberries in some years. Then there was corn and a variety of other vegetables that had looked good in the seed catalog but somehow weren’t quite right for the Terre Haute climate or the soil in Ellen’s garden. They didn’t make it, but she would try again in a couple of years.

Ellen’s husband, Dominic, was known to everyone as Babe. He was one of those tall, wiry individuals that looked like a cross between American Gothic and the Marlboro man. He was good with his hands and had forgotten more about machinery than my father would ever know. Let Babe loose on an internal combustion engine and there was no way that it would refuse to run. Business, on the other hand, was something that seemed to elude him.

Babe was partnered in a small bus company with a distant cousin who was linked to the Hulman family, those scions of Indiana industry that were most well known for being owners of the Indianapolis Speedway. The company had a string of half a dozen coaches in various vintages and degrees of repair. Babe did the maintenance, scheduling and quite a bit of the driving while his cousin managed the books and took care of the financial end of the enterprise. It should have been no surprise that Babe worked hard and didn’t net a whole lot of the profits. Babe didn’t even own a car, he simply brought a bus home in the evenings and parked it in the two grassy wheel ruts that strung from the dirt of Fifth Street past the front of the house to the barn-like wooden garage that loomed in the back of the property next to the garden.

For an eight year old Chicago boy, however, the lack of a car was no short-coming. The ownership of some full-size, honest-to-Pete buses that could be explored and ridden in to exotic Indiana towns like Paris and Clinton and Brazil made up for the lack of more conventional transportation. Yep, add it all up and it came to a pretty impressive package when I was eight. A garden and a yard, cornfields and a garage, buses and a water pump. And, don’t forget to add in that Ellen was an incredible cook who whipped together field-hand, coal-miner, bus-driver, working-man meals that simply melted in your mouth. My mother, on the other hand, was master of gray meat and olive drab vegetables.

When school let out for the summer there was nothing I looked forward to more eagerly than a trip to Terre Haute. There were protocols, however, that needed to be followed. One of the parental responsibilities that my mother took very seriously was her obligation to not let anything happen too easily or be considered too much fun. If I wanted to go to Terre Haute, it would require some discomfort for me before she would relent. It would require some begging and pleading, cajoling and threatening. It would have to be a trip that was in jeopardy from the beginning and held in agonizing doubt until the very moment that I set foot on the last descending step out of the Pullman car of the Bluebird, the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad’s not-so-limited train from Chicago to New Orleans. There would have to be a suitable amount of angst connected with the trip, regardless of how many summers I would make it.

Aunt Ellen and Uncle Babe wanted me to visit. They liked having a boy in the house, particularly since I was the only child, other than their own daughter Barbara in the entire Rasimus clan. None of Ellen’s brothers or sister had children, only my father and her. Six Rasimus siblings and only my father had a son. Barbara was more than twelve years older than I, so she was already away at college by the time I was old enough to summer in Terre Haute. Her old bedroom was always waiting. Space was no problem and Ellen was eager for me to come. Regardless, the first order of business was the phone call. I had to call and ask to be invited.

Calling, in those days, wasn’t a thing of cellphones and digital touch-tone dialing. It was old-fashioned manual operators and “number pleeyyuzze.” It was trying again and again until there was an open circuit. It was talking fast because “long distance” was very expensive. It was noisy connections that required you to talk very loudly to insure the person at the other end of the line could hear. In short, for an eight year old who wanted to visit his aunt for a few weeks in the country, it was a trial by technology. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Contest I: Stoolies

Overview: Stoolies is a cowboy bar in a north Texas small town. It is in an old building in the neighborhood that dates back to the Civil War and has always been the corner for saloons and bawdy houses. It is populated by old cowboys and fascinating characters, but strange things happen in a town that's greatest claim to fame is the largest lynching series every to occur in American history. The past seems to morph into the present and the spirits of hard working whores and mis-understood patriots occasionally interact with the beer-swilling horse-breeders and truck-driving red-necks.

From the work:

The Mailman

It was still hot in September. It seemed like summer never wanted to end in the area around Gainesville. Jonas McCurley was dog tired, dusty and dry. He’d been on the road for two days hauling mail between Denton and Gainesville, working from dawn until dusk and it was time for a little bit peace and quiet. The bar, just off the square seemed like a good place to shake the dust off the outside and wash it down on the inside. The open doors beckoned and the flicker of the kerosene lanterns promised a bit of comfort. He walked in, looked around and took a seat at a table in a dark corner. He simply wanted to sit down, have a few drinks, relax after the long day and then get a good night’s rest.

McCurley asked the inn-keeper for a glass of water and maybe three fingers of rye. He’d been working the mail route for a couple of years now so the innkeeper knew him well. At forty-eight, McCurley was beyond the age for conscription at least so far and the mail job helped him stretch the income from his small farm outside of town. It was going to be a quiet night until Ephraim Chiles walked in, saw him and came over to claim a seat at the table. Although he preferred his own company, Jonas didn’t object and the two men shared a couple of drinks. Chiles, a young local farmer, was about twenty years younger than McCurley. He struck up a conversation about what news McCurley might be hearing as he moved from town to town on his courier duties.

It was hard not to talk about the war. Everyone had some interest in it. The big farmers and ranchers certainly cared about it because it was going to impact their business. The young men were concerned because folks were fighting and dying in great numbers and they might be called up next. Families were concerned because their futures hung in the balance. Would their homesteads be secure? Could they raise their children safely? Whichever way it turned out, there was going to be a lot of change. The conversation in Gainesville was always about the war these days. The community was deeply split.

Most of the folks in Cooke County had been unhappy with the decision. Nearby Grayson, Denton, Wise and Montague counties had all been opposed, but the choice to secede had carried the state and if they were to remain part of Texas they would have to go along. But, that didn’t mean that their minds were changed or that they had to like it. The big money families in the area had their way, and now they also had control of the local militia forces. Trouble could erupt at any moment and Chiles and McCurley inevitably were going to talk about it.

The question was a simple one. The answer was not. Chiles eyed McCurley and asked it somewhat circuitously, “You look like a Union man.” He watched for a response. McCurley hesitated. The wrong answer could lead to a lot of problems.

The reply was cautious and equally circuitous, “I was.” It left hanging the question of current allegiance and loyalty. It was simply a statement. When Texas was in the Union, Jonas was a Union man. What he was now that Texas had seceded remained unstated and intentionally unclear.

Chiles was much less cautious. He began to discuss the dissatisfaction he saw in the community. Whiskey might lead to indiscretion and clearly Chiles was being indiscreet. He began to whisper and leaned across the table to confide details to McCurley. There was a group around that was preparing to deal with the problem. No good was coming of this war and people were tired of being driven by the big property owners and their control of things. There were friends up north in Kansas that were going to help the local folks make things right again. They knew how to get supplies and take control back. It might not be too late to get a big chunk of the region back into the Union and avoid having the war rage through the area. What it would take would be some men of conviction. There was a secret society and it looked to him like McCurley would be a good candidate for membership. Was he interested?

Contest: Seeking Help and Opinions

I've used up my wars as fodder for books. I've fulfilled a long-held goal of helping to make Robin Olds memoir a real piece of history that won't be so easily lost. Now, I've got to get something going to keep me off the streets and maybe entertain some readers. I've got some ideas and I've made a start on three of them. Now I'm asking for help. Over the next three days I'll be posting excerpts from the three started projects, then asking for comments and opinions for which seems to hold the most potential.

I'll give you a brief one paragraph overview and then a chunk of the text to get the flavor of the story. On the fourth day, I'll ask you to offer a comment on which you prefer. Don't comment until all three have been posted but then please take a moment to give some input.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Play Ball

I just spent half an hour in the car getting a dose of Rush. He can't ever give a Republican credit for a bit of progress. The budget compromise bill for the shank of FY '11, apparently in Limbaughian terms was a total collapse.

It wasn't. It was an irrelevance to the real issue that has now been moved out of the way. It showcased some absolutely ludicrous language from the shrieking left and it demonstrated that movement in the right direction is possible. But, bottom line is it was pre-season ball.

The game now commences. It is a full 2012 budget, progressing seriously toward spending reduction, completed in accordance with the deadlines established by law and seriously raising the issues of entitlement program review.

Paul Ryan has put the game on the field. Boehner and team must now emphasize that no one, repeat no one, shout NO ONE currently receiving entitlements like Social Security or Medicare will get their benefits cut. It is future game and it will not kill grandma.

Obama is now going to dump generalities before the public. We're going to get the rich to "pay their fair share" and we're going to spend like drunken sailors on shore leave in Olangapo in order to "Win the Future" (whatever that means.)

This is game on. A narrow victory, but a victory nevertheless, in spring training is meaningless. Now is crunch time so let's stop second guessing yesterday.

From Inside the Asylum

Do you need convincing that maybe, just maybe, the United Nations is populated by a collection of the most insane creatures on the face of this earth? I didn't think so. I know I'm preaching this magnificent sermon to some of the finest voices in the choir, but if you want a bit of evidence to plop in front of your friends who are not yet saved, read this:

Liberty for Bedbugs, Cockroaches, Scrub Oaks and Mother Earth

I checked the calendar. April Fool's Day was two weeks ago.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rumors Rising

The Internet has made rumors a growth industry. Whereas it used to be a slow flow like lava down a mountain side or mold up a basement wall, now rumors pop up like herpes on a Jersey Shore video set. You spray them down with max performance antibiotics and in a few months or maybe a year or two they rise like Lazarus from the grave.

Anyone who has ever heard of Robin Olds has heard the story of Robin's conflict of interest in Vietnam. He was the inveterate fighter pilot; the quintessential air warrior in the mold of the Red Baron. He roamed the airspace, sought out the enemy and shot him down. There was no doubt that he believed that "anything else is rubbish." Robin killed MiGs. He killed MiGs by finding them and defeating them. When the rest of us might see a MiG or two in a month, Robin brought the right bait or found the right honey hole. When a few people got "a MiG", Robin got several.

But that created the problem. Robin was also a leader. He saw a wing in combat that needed a model and a method of winning.They needed a spirit of fighting that hadn't coalesced the way that he knew it should. He saw an entire war that lacked the drive to be effective and he knew that he could instill that warrior ethos. The problem was that the Air Force didn't care about the leadership thing. They wanted Robin to be a poster boy. They wanted a Vietnam ace. A fifth kill would make Robin a Vietnam ace and even better make him a two-war, triple ace fighter pilot. It would put him on the celebrity talk show circuit. Front page for Time/Newsweek, an hour on the couch with Johnny Carson, a book deal with Random House and an address to a joint session of Congress. It would also take him out of his position as Wing Commander of the 8th Tac Fighter Wing.

The rumors have swirled for years that Robin got more than four MiGs. He got five, they say. Or maybe even a sixth. Was a seventh not a possible?

I've always said no. When it comes up I offer this list of reasons:

  1. The AOB (Air-Order-of-Battle)  for the VPAF was a daily update briefing item. If a MiG disappeared, it would need to be accounted for.
  2. Weapons expenditures by USAF were closely logged; every missile was counted. 
  3. DISCO, Red Crown, even Lion and Panama had radar coverage over the area.
  4. Multiple audio monitors, including HUMINT VPAF intercepts covered that battle space. The tapes have all the conversations on all the channels.
  5. Pack VI missions were multi-player gaggles from multiple bases. No other observers of a kill is unlikely.
  6. An F-4 is a two-seat airplane and if Robin got a kill that he didn’t claim, he would be denying a WSO a very important achievement. Giving someone else a kill they didn't earn would be asking others to abet his own lie.
  7. Robin balanced the question of completing his Wing CC year against the hullabaloo of a fifth kill and he speaks candidly of things he did such as not leading flights, supporting other Wolfpack pilots, etc. in gaining kills.
  8. Robin was known for his integrity. How could you balance that against this sort of falsification. 
  9. MiG kills hidden would have required collusion of dozens of people and denial of records from a wide range of sources
In the last two weeks I've gotten some emails from some previously unknown sources and some old friends that I deeply respect. One is a very experienced F-105 pilot that was on the scene of an apparent kill and it seems to support the missing number five. 

Today there is a new input including some queries from Fox News. The evidence seems to be shifting and I'm on the verge of changing my mind. 

If there is a fifth kill then I firmly believe Robin should get credit for it. There are some folks who don't like that idea and one or two whose egos might really suffer some damage, but that wouldn't make me feel too bad at all. 

This is still developing and nothing is ready to be taken to the bank. I'll know more about a month from now when I've had some face-to-face discussions with some players on this.