As a veteran political observer, I have been encouraging myself to comment on the current primary battle among the Republican presidential hopefuls. With a red face, I confess that I am singularly uniinspired. This is a lackluster group of wannabe's to say the least.
My personal favorite, Herman Cain, sadly is gone. I liked him mainly because he was a black conservative, which gave liberal black apologists like Eugene Kane fits. I did like his political philosophy, though. Predictably, Democrats managed to dig up irrelevant dirt on him, primarily I think because they feared him, and picked him off.
I sort-of liked Michelle Bachman, but she impressed me as a lightweight and not what I would think of as being presidential material. (No, that's not sexist!) Anyway, I couldn't stomach another Michelle in the White House. (Joke!)
Newt is a seasoned politician and a pretty knowledgeable guy, based on his television commentaries, but I think he's got more baggage that Southwest Airlines, which would make for a field day for the opposition. Also, I don't like his immigration stance. I don't believe amnesty in any of its permutations is the answer, at least not without first achieving firm control of the border.That also goes for the linguistically-challenged Rick Perry.
Next we have the Democrats' favorite RINO candidate, Mitt Romneycare. I'm not a fan of Mormonism but that's not the real issue, just as Catholicism was not an issue for JFK. I don't see him taking marching orders from the Grand High Poobah in Salt Lake City. I do think he will and has say/said anything to get elected. Not that that's unusual in politics today, but I think Mitt wants it so bad he will compromise any of his core principles to reach his goal. I simply don't trust that. Maybe I'm still spoiled by Reagan who stuck to his principles no matter what.
I have little to say about Ron Paul. I consider Libertarians as being basically unrealistic. Having the goal of significantly reducing the size of government is a little like the Man of LaMancha going after windmills. (Actually, that's not a bad idea today, but that's another subject.) I think he's a bit of a flake and--this really hurts me to say--too old for eight years in the White House.
Now to the current conservative darling, Rick Santorum. I'll be honest; I simply don't know him or have a clear impression. I like what I read but don't put much credence in it. He's a possibility, but for now the jury's out. He's got Romney worried, which is a good thing.
So, where are we in this 7-ring circus? Okay, I'll say what many are thinking: A.B.O.---Anybody But Obama. I fear that four more years of Mr. Obama in power, without the constraint of re-election, is a clear and present danger to this nation. I don't think he likes the United States, at least not as a world superpower. I characterized him during the campaign as an empty suit, and I stand by that. He is influenced by a small circle of advisors whom I do not trust. This will not sit well with many of you, but I fear for the survival of my country as I know and love it with four more years of President Obama.
So, I will vote for the Republican, whoever he turns out to be. I may again have to enter the polling place with a clothespin on my nose. I know that's a bit irresponsible, but I don't see any other choice.
P.S. Maybe Hillary will find a way to bump him out. Hmmmm, interesting thought. That would make for a really interesting race.
Some years ago Michael Crichton wrote a novel about an unstoppable virus--this one was alien in origin--threatening world-wide infestation and death. Well, we have our own version of the Crichton nightmare right here in Wisconsin and UW-Madison. In a mind-boggling exercise in scientific irresponsibility, a UW researcher has genetically modified the H5N1 avian influenza--the so-called bird flu--virus into a human-transmissable organism.
A little background. Some years ago there was wide concern, bordering on panic, about the H5N1 virus that had surfaced in Asia. There is no cure or prevention for this virus, which originates in birds, mainly chickens. A few human cases in Asia inspired the concern. The virus, however, turned out to be only rarely transmissable to and between humans. It apparently must penetrate into the deepest part of the lungs to enter the bloodstream and its physical configuration makes this unlikely. The human cases were largely in individuals who were exposed to dried powdery bird dung which somehow enhanced human lung penetration.
The panic soon pooped out (I'm sorry!) as the virus did not mutate into human-transmissable form. However, a Madison researcher, Yoshihiro Kawaoka, along with a Dutch researcher, Ron Fouchier, have succeeded in genetically modifying H5N1 into human-transmissable form. Remember, there is still no cure or prevention for the bird flu, which is a particularly virulent disease with a 30% to 80% fatality rate.
These fools have created a human pathogenic bomb! For what reason is unclear except to publish papers which they fully intended to do until federal health agencies, including the CDC, prevailed upon them to desist. They magnanimously agreed to a 60-day "cooling off" period, after which ... what? The World Health Organization (WHO) has been urged to meet and discuss the situation. Discuss what?! If this thing gets out, we are screwed! People will drop like flies around the world. This is the most irresponsible misuse of science I have ever encountered! These two idiots should be condemned and their labs burned to the ground.
To provide some perspective, let me briefly discuss containment. The large research facility UW-Madison built to keep Kawaoka from hopping to the University of Pittsburgh "boasts" Level 3-Agricultural containment. This is totally inadequate for such a lethal organism. It's fine for hoof-and-mouth disease, but not a pandemic-generating killer virus.
There is a facility in Maryland that conducts research into deadly pathogens. It is called USAMRIID--The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases--that was originally built to research germ warfare agents. It possesses the only Level 5 containment facility in the country, if not the world. Level 5 contains nice little buggies like Ebola. Entry is restricted to only a very few researchers dressed in hazard suits and helmets with self-contained air supply. You've seen these in movies. The facility has negative air pressure to keep anything airborne from escaping. It is located 40 feet underground to invest even greater security.
The USAMRIID folks know how to contain a deadly contagious organism. UW-Madison does not, and neither do the Dutch! You may ask why these two nitwits are doing this. They claim to want to research this thing in a transmissible form. But this is not useful, since if the H5N1 does mutate spontaneously, there is no certainty that it will mutate into the form that was genetically created. Such research is useless. This was done solely to generate and publish papers and hopefully get research grants. These guys actually were going to publish detailed descriptions of their process, which caused the CDC and NIH to go ballistic. Other research scientists around the world have loudly condemned this research as irresponsible and unjustifiably dangerous.
I have great affection for science, but this is not what science is about. Science is supposed to expand knowledge of our environment to the betterment of mankind. This appalling corruption of science does not do this. This potential monster should be destroyed and its creators ostracized.
As I sit here trying to come up with a subject to address, I'm a little like a deer transfixed in the headlights, not knowing which way to turn. How often have you been in conversation with a friend or spouse and the comment "The world's gone mad!" or something similar comes up? There is so much going on today that makes little or no sense, I think many folks just throw up their hands and read the sports pages. Even there we have madness. Ryan Braun shooting up testosterone??
Here are some examples. Environmentalists and the government are still talking carbon credits (Cap and Trade) while a recent Japanese study involving data from a satellite monitoring carbon emissions finds much more carbon emissions from third world countries than from developed nations like us. That's probably because we're constantly trying to do something about it and they don't care. And we're supposed to send them carbon credit money. ????
About electric cars, this all supposedly started in 1997 with GM's EV-1, described by some as "the worst car ever built." Actually, you can go back to the 1900's for the Baker Electric, the first all-electric car. It had a top speed of 25 mph, actually not bad for those days. I actually saw one. Wierd; completely quiet back when cars were anything but. Now we have the Chevy Volt, designed and produced with government subsidies and being sold with another large government subsidy. I don't get the impression that people are exactly beating down the doors of dealers to buy this thing. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are selling because they're practical and affordable without government subsidy. (The Japanese government does exert control over their auto industry through their Ministry of Industry. They do pool a portion of corporate profits which is then distributed to fund new product development, but no tax money is involved.)
Why is the government trying to ram things down our throats that we don't really want, with our money yet?
Ethanol, the great white hope of emission control, is still being subsidized at about 50¢ per gallon while reducing fuel mileage and wrecking small engines. Solar panel development to try to make them efficient is heavily government subsidized with little to show for all that money over all these years. Solar is still a miniscule niche and inefficient supplier of power.
Windmills have been hyped, promoted and subsidized almost frantically it seems, for decades and wind power still is not a significant electric power source. In fact, some are being abandoned as government support dries up. If it's such a great thing, why hasn't it caught on in the marketplace? Incidentally, anyone see the irony in environmentalist objections to that proposed 385,000 volt transmission line to Minnesota as a "blight on the landscape" while the same folks promote windmill farms? To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer, "I think that I shall never see, a windmill lovely as a tree."
Then there's the defense budget. Anyone think we're living in a sane, stable world out there? Every country in the Middle East is virtually in flames, Iran is building nukes, Russia is becoming autocratic, China is building missiles to sink our aircraft carriers and shoot down satellites, North Korea rattles nuclear sabres and threatens world war every time a South Korean (or U.S.) tank drives around the block in Seoul. Meanwhile, the Administration is cutting--really cutting, not just reducing increases--the defense budget anywhere from $467- to $600 billion over ten years. Here's a snapshot of the consequences.
The Air Force: Eliminate six tactical air squadrons (10% reduction), terminate a RQ-4 Global Hawk (high-altitude remotely piloted aircraft) upgrade (Block 30), divest 38 new C-27J close support transports, retire 27 C-5A heavy lift transports (20% reduction), reduce an unspecified number of Air force, Reserve and National Guard personnel.
Army: Cut 80,000 personnel.
Marine Corps: Cut 20,000 personnel(10%).
Navy: Delay by two years development of a future ballistic missile submarine.
All Services: The F-35 Lightning II fighter project, in three versions for the Air Force, Marines and Navy, is being slowed although it is the only new fighter in the works to replace aging and overstressed assets.
Despite the winding down of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, I do not believe the world is a safer place nor that demands on our military will diminish. So long as we insist on being a global policeman and military interventionist, a policy showing no signs of fading even in the present Administration, we place our forces in greater harm's way by reducing our military capabilities. I think this is nuts as well as dangerous.
I have deliberately not touched on the Wisconsin recalls or that ludicrous display of political irresponsibility going on with the Republican presidential aspirants. Words fail me.
O.K., that's enough. Make your own list. It will probably be longer than mine.
As most of you know, I do not normally list problems without resolution or at least analysis. So, this post as originally published was not complete.
The problem with what is going on in this country and the world today that has many of us disturbed and often, regrettably, polarized, is not one of policy or legislation or even ideology but rather of character. A person's character--who he is--is determined by his (I include the fairer sex under this pronoun) values. Values determine priorities which, in turn, form the basis of actions and conduct. Thus, we are defined by our values.
Today, we are led largely by individuals motivated by self-interests: ambition, power, prestige, wealth. Politicians at all levels are obsessed with getting re-elected and, consequently, soliciting huge campaign war chests with which to buy television ads. Mitt Romney convincingly defeated Newt Gingrich in Florida largely due to a blizzard of negative ads purchased with his very substantial campaign funds. I believe Mr. Romney is so obsessed with becoming president that he will do virtually anything to win the Republican nomination. Newt would do the same if he could. Not sure about the other two non-entities but I don't think either is running solely to serve others and our country.
The Founders of this great nation were not motivated by personal gain. On the contrary, they risked and frequently lost all, including life, in a cause they believed in. We have not seen the like in a very long time with, I believe, one exception. Many will perhaps disagree, but I believe one president in modern times simply loved this country unconditionally. Among his most basic values was patriotism. His name was, as you may have guessed, Ronald Reagan. Everone else, including the present resident of the White House, was and is motivated primarily by personal gain and enhancement.
Until this changes, this country will continue to stumble along getting involved in stupid international adventures and domestic, bald-faced vote-buying without regard for its safety and benefit. We need leaders who truly care for the people, rich and poor, regardless of political gain. We need leaders who will maintain the safety and welfare of the United States above all else. This is not to advocate abusive conduct and disregard for the welfare of other peoples, for these actions also would be to the detriment of the nation. Making enemies benefits no-one.
Sorry, I have no names to present. I think some of the Tea Party folks are patriots first and foremost, but they too seem a bit myopic when it comes to larger issues of national welfare. What may help is to start small. Recognize that most of us plain citizens have the best interests of the country and its citizens at heart. Whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, we all want what's best for the nation. We must recognize that we differ largely in the means, not the ends. Then maybe we can start communicating.
For example, in economics, Republicans believe in the principle of from the top down. Benefiting entrepreneurs and business owners will benefit the workers as well, since they are the job-creators. Democrats, on the other hand, believe that helping the middle class workers and the poor will "trickle up" to benefit all. Both arguments have merit. The question is which works better. Maybe if we spent more time discussing the means instead of labels and personalities, we might find something on which to agree. And just maybe, some of that will trickle up into the halls of power.
And maybe the age of miracles is not past.
Futurist Alvin Toffler once said, "We are advancing the sophistication of deception faster than the technology of verification. The consequence of this is the end of truth." We have been subjected to a blizzard of deception concerning this Wisconsin recall mudpit for months now. Columnists, spokespersons, seminar letter writers and assorted pundits have been listing a litany of vile transgressions by Governor Scott Walker and his Republican supporters to justify spending $10 million in an eruption of so-called democracy to save us from this evil dictator in the State Capitol.
He has been accused of depriving school children of an education, disenfranchising 80,000 of our elderly, depriving the disadvantaged of health care and the working class of their livlihood. He is accused of taxing the poor to benefit the rich, who are his only friends, as well as despoiling our environment.. He is also accused of lying by omission by not explaining in detail how he planned to eliminate a $3.59 billion largely structural deficit. (Yes, I know, there's still a piece of structural deficit left if you employ GAAP, which no-one has done in Madison since the Civil War. O.K., he materially cut the structural deficit.) Of course, no-one asked.
Finally, this past week the "masque" came off. As I have maintained right along, this whole six months of recall mania was and is about a single issue: union money and power. As Marquette University Professor Walter Farrell used to say, "Follow the money." The largest Wisconsin teachers' union, WEAC, corralled the potential Democrat Governor candidates and demanded that they--as Governor--agree to veto any state budget that does not contain a restoration of collective bargaining rights. Only one candidate agreed: flaming Madison liberal Kathleen Falk. (Surprise!) WEAC immediately endorsed her candidacy. There was no mention of any other issue.
Unions, especially public service unions, have become big business. WEAC even runs a health insurance business that they crammed down the throats of school district administrations in their so-called collective bargaining sessions. Union leaders command substantial salaries, well into six figures. They employ hundreds of administrative personnel. This is all funded solely by union dues. Anything that threatens the union dues golden goose must of needs strike fear into their hearts and that's exactly what Walker's and the Republicans' ACT 10 legislation does by breaking the stranglehold WEAC and other teachers' unions had on school districts.
Loss of collective bargaining rights for benefits--something most other unions do not have!--pulls most of their teeth and greatly reduces their influence. This, coupled with the elimination of dues checkoff (automatic union dues payroll deduction), threatens to materially reduce membership as teachers and others who disagree with union politics bail out, something that already is taking place. They've also lost their health insurance monopoly, resulting in major layoffs and requiring competitive bidding which forces them to reduce premiums to compete with private insurers.
Thus, this whole taxpayer-funded recall movement is about one single issue: union dues. The rest is all smoke and mirrors. Democracy my ----! Tell me, Wisconsinites, do you want to spend millions of your money just to maintain union fatcats?
Sorry, folks, but it's too late to stop this travesty. All we can do is ensure that their plan fails. Get out there and vote! Don't let the union special interests carry the day.
As I'm sure most folks know, I am pretty patriotic. I love this country and consider it a blessing and a privilege to be living here. I think it is the greatest nation the world has ever seen. The reason is rooted in its founding by folks, or the descendents of folks, who escaped religious and despotic tyranny in England in search of freedom. They--the Founders--then created a Constitution carefully designed to gurantee that liberty. No other nation has a constitution that compares. It has stood the test of time and protected us from the corruption and tyranny that has afflicted many another sad land.
Most people who have served their country in military service come out patriots. There is something that happens when you are in a position of responsibility for defending your country, in harms way if necessary. You come away with a connection and a lasting appreciation for your country that is difficult to achieve in any other venue.
The American fighting man has no equal in the world. His tenacity, courage and ferocity have surprised many an adversary, including Adolf Hitler and the Japanese who could not believe that their fierce and dedicated soldiers could be bested by "soft" Americans. The realization that the Americans would defeat Japan's defenders was a significant factor in their surrender. Even Saddam Hussein was surprised.
The reason for this military superiority is, I believe, because the American soldier knows and values above all else the great nation he is fighting for. A sort of kinship develops between him and his country. He is fighting for something of which he is a part, including the folks back home, which leads him to perform acts of great bravery and sacrifice.
There is one black stain on our nation that will never be erased. At the end of the Vietnam war, the soldier came home, not to appreciation from his country for his great sacrifice, but viciousness, spitting and accusations of "baby-killer". Jane Fonda was a heroine and he was the villian. This tore asunder the kinship relationship that sustained him through the horror of that war that took the lives of many of his comrades, leaving him with a sense of loss and futility that resulted in many of the adjustment problems experienced by Vietnam veterans. This must never be allowed to happen again!
I think few of us realize and appreciate what we have in his wondrous nation of ours. We are entangled in the issues of everyday life and the ridiculous at times political shenanigans. Allow me to use another's words to try to illustrate what is the basis of patriotism for me and hopefully many others.
I recently came across an editorial--unsigned--from, believe it or not, The New York Times. Of course, it was published in 1940, well before the Sulzbergers and others took the Grey Lady down into the gutter of partisanship. The Times was once the greatest newspaper in the country and perhaps the world. The following is that editorial, written on June 14, 1940 in commemoration of Flag Day, a regrettably neglected holiday.
(On a personal note. I sometimes think I'm a pretty good writer. But periodically I run across something that puts me in my place--a rank amateur. This is one of those. It says what is in my heart much better than I could ever hope to express. May it touch you as it touched me.)
What's a flag? What's the love of country for which it stands? Maybe it begins with love of the land itself. It is the fog rolling in with the tide at Eastport, or through the Golden Gate and among the towers of San Francisco. It is the sun coming up behind the White Mountains, over the Green, throwing a shining glory on Lake Champlain and above the Adirondacks. It is the storied Mississippi rolling swift and muddy past St. Louis, rolling past Cairo, pouring down past the levees of New Orleans. It is lazy noontide in the pines of Carolina, it is a sea of wheat rippling in Western Kansas, it is the San Francisco peaks far north across the glowing nakedness of Arizona, it is the Grand Canyon and a little stream coming down out of a New England ridge, in which are trout.
It is men at work. It is the storm-tossed fishermen coming into Gloucester and Providence and Astoria. It is the farmer riding his great machine in the dust of harvest, the dairyman going to the barn before sunrise, the lineman mending the broken wire, the miner drilling for the blast. It is the servants of fire in the murky splendor to Pittsburgh, between the Allegheny and the Monongahela, the trucks rumbling through the night, the locomotive engineer bringing the train in on time, the pilot in the clouds, the riveter running along the beam a hundred feet in air. It is the clerk in the office, the housewife doing the dishes and sending the children off to school. It is the teacher, doctor and parson tending and helping, body and soul, for small reward.
It is small things remembered, the little corners of the land, the houses, the people that each one loves. We love our country because there was a little tree on a hill, and grass thereron, and a sweet valley below; because the hurdy-gurdy man came along on a sunny morning in a city street; because a beach or a farm or a lane or a house that might not seem much to others were once, for each of us, made magic. It is voices that are remembered only, no longer heard. It is parents, friends, the lazy chat of street and store and office, and the ease of mind that makes life tranquil. It is summer and winter, rain and sun and storm. These are flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, blood of our blood, a lasting part of what we are, each of us and all of us together.
It is stories told. It is the Pilgrims dying in their first dreadful winter. It is the Minuteman standing his ground at Concord Bridge, and dying there. It is the army in rags, sick, freezing, starving at Valley Forge. It is the wagons and the men on foot going westward over Cumberland Gap, floating down the great rivers, rolling over the great plains. It is the settler hacking fiercely at the primeval forest on his new, his own lands. It is Thoreau at Walden Pond, Lincoln at Cooper Union, and Lee riding home from Appomattox. It is corruption and disgrace, answered always by men who would not let the flag lie in the dust, who have stood up in every generation to fight for the old ideals and the old rights, at risk of ruin or life itself.
It is a great multitude of people on pilgrimage, common and ordinary people, charged with the usual human failings, yet filled with such a hope of a land in which a man can stand straight, without fear, without rancor.
The land and the people and the flag--the land a continent, the people of every race, the flag as symbol of what humanity may aspire to when the wars are over and the barriers are down; to these each generation must be dedicated and consecrated anew, to defend with life itself, if need be, but, above all, in friendliness, in hope, in courage, to live for.
As many of you know, I am in opposition to the international adventurism with which we as a country seem to be obsessed lately. I regret ever having supported the Iraq invasion. In retrospect--hindsight is always better than foresight--we accomplished very little at great cost. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but so what? The world is full of bad guys running countries. Are we going to depose every tinpot dictator we don't happen to like?
Saving innocent lives is a worthy endeavor, but oppression and mistreatment happens all over the world and has been going on since the beginning of recorded history. If enough residents of a country object to their government, they can depose it by coup, revolution, insurrection or, if available, the ballot box. Why our government thinks it is somehow our responsibility to right all the wrongs of the world defies logical explanation. We have expended many American lives and gobs of money in Iraq, Libya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, along with something very quietly going on in Uganda, with very little to show for it.
Besides the loss of life and resources, we are stressing our military, especially air power, to dangerously near the breaking point and reacting to this manufactured crisis with draconian budget cuts. The Air force was caught unawares by the Administration's precipitous campaign in Libya to depose another tin pot dictator who constituted no threat whatsoever to the United States. Now, our President and his Secretary of State seem to be desperately searching for an excuse to intervene militarily in Syria.
Let me engage in a bit of hypothetical hyperbole. Let's say that several domestic militias, most of whom hate the government, banded together and mounted an insurrection with the purpose of deposing the government of the United States. Let's say they were supported by a bunch of right-wing extremist organizations and even some disaffected citizenry. What would be the reaction of the government? Wouldn't we attack them, militarily if necessary--I believe the Posse Comitatus Act permits military intervention ion the event of insurrection--with whatever force needed to defeat them, including lethal force. I believe the majority of the country would support this action.
Now, what is the difference between this hypothetical and what Basheer Assad is doing in Syria? He is defending his legal government against an armed insurrection--an attempt to overthrow him and his government. Oh, that's right, he is a "bad guy" and we don't like him, and he is militarily attacking a ragtag group of revolutionaries masquerading as civilian protestors.
I maintain that what Assad is doing in Sryia is none of our--or anyone else's--business. If enough Syrians support the insurrectionists, they will prevail. From recent reports, that does not seem to be the case despite Hillary's unseemly appeal for the populace to rise up; they seem uninclined to do so. I fear we will find some excuse/justification for intervening militarily, probably with air power and SOF (Special Operations Forces) at least initially. Realize that Iran is a strong supporter of the Syrian government and Mr. Assad. Any military intervention could easily open a Pandora's Box of escalation.
Let's just stay home and fix our own problems. Or don't we have enough to keep us busy?
In the 2010 campaign for Governor, Scott Walker made a foolish promise. Now, folks with more than two working brain cells know to take campaign promises with a grain of salt. However, by promising to create 250,000 new jobs, Walker gave the opposition, stinging from their rejection by the voters in the 2010 elections, a club with which to beat him about the head and shoulders. I think Walker depended on an overwhelming Republican legislature that would permit him to make massive changes in the Wisconsin business landscape, thus attracting new industry. He underestimated the resolve and pure anger of the opposition he would face from the Democrats.
He succeeded in acquiring some degree of oversight of state agencies by directive, but this was not nearly enough to change the perceived and actual negative business climate in this state. There is a tradition, from heaven knows where, for environmental activism, excessive taxation both personal and business, and bureaucratic regulation here that consistently places Wisconsin near the bottom of "business-friendly" ratings. Even though the environment has improved a bit under Walker, although he failed to repeal combined reporting that nailed Harley-Davidson for over $20 million in new taxes (he "tweaked" it to add some loopholes), everything is perception, even in the business world. Wisconsin has a reputation for high taxes, still largely earned, that discourages new business from moving or expanding here and makes it difficult to induce key employees from out of state to relocate to a rust belt "tax hell."
We are blessed in Wisconsin with a plethora of environmental organizations, from the Sierra Club to Clean Air/Water Wisconsin and a long list of others, who traditionally fight business expansion and industry-enhancing infrastructure changes like power transmission lines. Instead we build wind farms the mandated funding of which has pushed and continues to drive our electric rates from among the lowest in the nation to well above average. Just how many jobs do windmills built largely in Germany create? I'll wager a lot fewer than Tower Automotive, Allis-Chalmers, (most of) Briggs and Stratton and other industrial corporations that are now gone.
The latest example of enviromentalist-fueled anti-industry activism is the loss of the Gogobic-Taconite iron mine in northern Wisconsin due to near-universal opposition from environmental organizations, aided and abetted by pure Democrat political venom plus one RINO whose motivation eludes me, unless it's an obsession with his enhanced status thanks to vindictive recall elections that elevated him into a majority of one. Regardless, this is an example of politics at its stupidest, exceptional even for Wisconsin.
All Gogobic wanted, other than an absence of punitive tax-fees, was a clear end date for bureaucratic wrangling, a set date for a yea or nay to its proposal for an open-pit iron mine. At present, hearings and litigation, coupled with DNR sluggishness, can hold up a proposed mine indefinitely, an eventuality Gogobic was unwilling to accept. They couldn't get it by a 17-16 Senate vote, thanks to the newly-inflated Republican Senator Shultz. Of course, don't forget the 100% opposition by the Democratic minority. I can't believe that not one Democrat senator was philosophically sympathetic to this large job-creating enterprise in an economically depressed region of Wisconsin. No, what they were philosophically obsessed with was denying Governor Walker anything resembling a political victory. Thus went thousands of new jobs and tax revenue sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Even the DNR was comfortable with the Republican-proposed bill and its environmental protections.
So, to all those pundits and others wondering why there's a jobs crisis in Wisconsin, notwithstanding our lower-than average unemployment figure, you need look no further than Wisconsin politics as usual coupled with an obsession for environmentalist extremism and the resulting industry-stifling regulation. This combination is toxic to industrial development, both perceptually and in actuality. I wouldn't want to start a business here either. In fact, I have heard that many small businesses are leaving our fine state, or planning to. Even Wisconsin icon Harley is making bye-bye noises.
Walker hasn't a prayer of making the 250,000, but it won't be for lack of trying. The cards are stacked.
Moralty is defined as virtuous behavior in conformity to accepted standards.. Besides being somewhat of an oxymoron, I defy anyone to define "accepted standards." In fact, anyone know what they are today?? Virtue is easier to define, comprising good characteristics such as self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, courage, friendship, work (oh, yes!) and even faith. The problem is that, while these characteristics may be found in some individuals, they are conspiculously absent in the public sector and society in general.
In politics, it would take Diogenes to find even one of these virtues in the typical politician, regardless of party. Conservatives and liberals alike profess allegiance to a high and moral philosophy of government while in actuality compulsively only seeking endless reelection and the concomitant acquiring of campaign funds. Campaign promises are notoriously unfulfilled. The voting public is virtually powerless to make an informed voting decision, being befuddled by the blizzard of mendacity.
In business, the bottom line is king. The founder of my former employer (the last one), James Cash Penney, built a retail empire on one simple principle, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. His first tiny store in tiny Kemmerer, Wyoming, was named "The Golden Rule." One of his cardinal principles was to charge not what the traffic would bear, but rather a price that would provide only a fair remuneration for services rendered. [Have you stopped laughing yet?] At the time, this was an unique concept in stores and resulted in droves of grateful customers. Old JC is no doubt spinning in his grave to see what his beloved company, and the retail industry in general, have become. Most retail establishments today spend huge advertising dollars to convince the public to take advantage of fake sales of foreign-made merchandise, marked up 100% or more to what the traffic will bear. (My old company is ostensibly turning over a new leaf and offering "a square deal" with low prices and without the sham sales. Time will tell.)
Most businesses today are obsessed with "the bottom line," an euphemism for "as much profit as we can squeeze out of the customer." When the bottom line would benefit, jobs and operations are moved to a lower-cost venue, usually overseas, regardless of the ensuing hardship. Automation is installed, not to improve the product but rather primarily to eliminate jobs. Patents are stolen, bypassed or just simply violated, relying on protracted and costly litigation to wear down the legitimate holder or betting on an uninformed judge/jury to countenance the thievery.
The public schools are hotbeds of immoral behavior, ranging from sexual promiscuity--I think the euphemism is "sexually active"--to outright violence. While many school districts claim no drug "problem", the students laugh and claim "You can get anything you want." Discipline has been cancelled due to an overreaction to a few instances of excessive punishment. Without enforcement tools, administrators are helpless to enforce classroom discipline, with the result that little or no learning takes place other than teaching the periodic performance evaluation tests. In the inner city, it is nearly impossible to attract high-quality teachers who refuse to enter an environment of survival rather than education.
I am repeatedly amazed and apalled at man's inumanity to man. Individual events involving cruelty and depraved indifference abound in our so-called civilized society. The elderly are neglected or warehoused in institutions chronically understaffed with underpaid attendants. I have personally witnessed cases of "inmates" ignored by family or visited once a month for an hour or two. Even home care is often left to hired caregivers with little or no participation by family members. It's difficult to escape the conclusion that our parents when becoming old and/or infirm are seen as an impediment rather than a loving obligation.
Incidents of outright cruelty and abuse appear regularly in the news. The recent example of a 15-year old girl confined for years in a basement without sanitary facilities, starved (she weighed 71 lb.) and sexually abused, while shocking, sadly is not unique. Babies physically abused and injured or killed because they "wouldn't stop crying" are tragically frequent occurrences. I will never understand what motivates individuals to inflict cruelty on other human beings. I am mercifully omitting reference to pedophilia and abortion.
Groups of young people gather in spontaneous cell-phone gangs to trash some shopping center or disrupt a neighborhood event. (There's a name for this that escapes me.) School fights are becoming more common. (We had them too, but they consisted of a lot of name-calling and threatening gestures. Little actual fighting took place.) Gay students are outed on Facebook or other media, even to the extent of driving the victim to suicide. Oh, it's just a "boyish prank."
That brings me to something I call "inappropriate response." An innocent school insult results in cell-phone calls that bring a more dangerous element to the scene and we have a police incident, or worse. The "outing" of a gay student complete with video results in the subject committing suicide. No level of embarrassment justifies self-murder, especially of a very young person who has his or her whole life ahead. Even worse is the resort to this tragically final act over a lost boy- or girlfriend. A desire for an article of clothing results in lethal violence. What kind of athletic shoe is worth shooting someone for? Parents at youth sporting events respond to a coach's or referee's decision with physical confrontation and sometimes actual violence.
All of these examples represent an absence of morality. Modern social philosophy advocates "moral relativism," which is no morality at all. (Remember, "accepted standards?") Moral principles are not taught in school or, sadly, in many homes by overworked parents who think carting junior to endless extra-curricular activities is real parenting. Heaven forbid that we should be judgemental!
Morality is not really dead, despite the title of this post, but rather is locked away out of sight. So long as we keep it locked away, societal behavior, both public and private, will continue to deteriorate. The lack of morality inevitably results in immorality.
You may ask, "Well, that's all to the good, but who sets those standards of behavior?" Perhaps you noticed that the last item on the list of virtues is "faith". In our society, accepted behavior is, or used to be, based on Judeo-Christian principles. Much of what used to be morality is based on the Ten Commandments and the Beautitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Most other religions do not address moral behavior except in the violent extremism of Islam. (Many Muslims eschew the violent aspects, but the fact remains that Islamic writings justify and in some respects encourage violent enforcement of so-called moral precepts. "Honor killings" are a case in point.)
So, where has virtue gone? Well, it left with the teaching of moral precepts and--yes--religious principles in the schools and in the home. I have witnessed through the years the increase of inexplicable acts of inhumanity as religion was systematically and deliberately stuffed into one hour on Sunday morning. The fictional "wall of separation between church and state" has become a rallying cry of the unchurched as morality declines and society coarsens and sinks inexorably into depravity.
Yes, there is virtue outside of religion, but it suffers from disorganization and controversy, muddying the message and containing massive loopholes. Without firm standards of social conduct based on universal religious principles, the moral structure becomes a house of sand. The Judeo-Christian religious ethic provides the firm structure necessary to guide and control human conduct. It may not be the only way, but it's the only one I know of that's been tried and tested by experience.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" needs to be more than an outmoded retailing slogan.
As some of you know, I have an abiding interest in aviation, especially military, based on my background as a jet fighter pilot. I am particularly interested in reports of aircraft accidents, partly as the result of my experience as an Air Force Squadron Flying Safety Officer on active duty. It has been my frustrating experience that media reports and even NTSB investigations of aircraft accidents suffer from error and inaccuracy. Such is the case concerning media reports and some military comments of the recent crash of a Navy F/A-18D jet fighter shortly after takeoff from NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA.
The McDonnel-Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18C/D Hornet (The F/A stands for Fighter-Attack, the "C" model is single-seat, the "D" dual.) (See Photo) is the predecessor, dating from 1989, of the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet ("E"-single, "F"-dual), an enhanced version that has become the Navy's premier and just about only carrier-based fighter aircraft. It is the aircraft flown by the Blue Angels, the Navy's aerial demonstration team.
The "D" is powered by two F404-GE-402 turbofan engines of approximately 18,000 pounds thrust each. It is capable of speeds of 1.8 Mach (1.8 x speed of sound) and weighs between 23,000 pounds empty and 51,000 pounds maximum takeoff weight. The aircraft that crashed probably had a full fuel load having just taken off and weighed about 37,000 pounds. The full fuel load is approximately 20,000 pounds. I don't know the exact fuel load of the aircraft that crashed but it probably was around this value. That's about 1900 gallons of highly volatile jet fuel.
The aircraft was only minutes from takeoff when it apparently experienced catastrophic engine failure. This is very unusual in a twin-engine aircraft and may have been the result of foreign object ingestion. The pilots stayed with the aircraft and jettisoned almost the entire fuel load (this capability is a normal feature of many aircraft, military and civilian and is specifically for the purpose of minimizing fire danger in the event of a crash or dangerous landing) before ejecting just before impact. Both were injured due in part to the action of the rocket-propelled ejection seats operative during low-altitude ejections. Dumping 2000 gallons of jet fuel takes time, since the dump is not normally pump-fed. A photograph of the crash site suggests they also steered their crippled craft to a relatively open area before ejecting.
The aircraft crashed in a populated area, an apartment project, which could have resulted in major loss of life in the event of a fire which would have been intense if fueled by nearly 2000 gallons of jet fuel. (Remember the World Trade Center attack?) However, there was little fire, no loss of life and only a few relatevely minor injuries. This has been labeled a "miracle". I maintain this was an heroic action on the part of these two pilots and believe that the "miracle" was the direct result of the crew's heroism. They stayed with their doomed aircraft until the fuel was all or nearly all gone, ejecting at very low altitude.
All high performance military airceraft are equipped with "zero altitude" ejection systems consisting of a seat propelled typically by two rockets and vectored automatically to the vertical in the event of an unusual-attitude ejection. These seats are little rocket-propelled guided missiles based on the venerable British Martin-Baker ejection seat and have saved many pilots' lives. Having said this, very low altitude ejections are always dangerous. The seat is not perfect and has been known to malfunction. Also, had they been a few seconds later, they would likely have been killed in the impact with the ground.
The media and Navy commentators who should know better have generally failed to give due credit to these two fine Navy pilots. There has even been in the media a thinly-veiled suggestion that the presence of a "a student pilot" may have been a factor in the accident. This was most likely a transition training flight where a fully-qualified pilot was being familiarized with a new aircraft by an instructor pilot. This "student" no-doubt had hundreds of hours of flight time and was a fully-qualified military aviator.
These pilots were fully responsible for the fact that there was no loss of life and only a few relatively minor injuries resulting from the crash of a large, powerful military jet aircraft in a populated area. This was due solely to the lack of significant fire, a direct result of these pilots' heroic action to stay with the aircraft to jettison the fuel. They deserve medals.
First, a personal note. Sorry I've been away from the blog for awhile. Everything is O.K. but April is a bad month, what with taxes and an idiotic court-required guardianship asset accounting in excruciating detail, required annually to prove I'm not robbing my wife blind. That's all done now, so I'm back. Don't all cheer at once.
Both of my parents immigrated from Germany in the late 1920's, They were escaping the horrendous depression that had gripped their homeland since the end of World War I. The unwise draconian provisions of the Versailles Treaty were designed to insure that Germany would never rise again. What they succeeded in doing was to destroy the German economy along with the lack of young labor due to war casualties. The mandated governmental system--the Weimar Republic--was ineffectual and disorganized, unable to right the ship. The net result, of course, was to create huge resentment which helped fuel the rise of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist (NAZI) Party. Guess that didn't work too well, did it?
Anyway, my parents, especially my father, came here for the promised opportunity afforded by a classless economic and social system that permitted upward mobility based on talent and hard work. There was no "middle class" or "upper class." There were poor of course--there always have been and will be--but even they had opportunity to climb the economic ladder and many did. Even they were not labeled a "class".
Sadly, what my parents and many others ran into was our own 1929 depression that shattered many an American Dream. They struggled, and despite the hard times, my father found work and a very modest income that kept a roof over our heads and food on the table. I never really felt poor, just not as well-off as some other folks. Father worked at anything he could find, even a short stint in the WPA which he never considered welfare because he worked for the meager wages. (He helped build a "road to nowhere" in a county park.)
He even took a job as a janitor in an apartment building in a black area of Cleveland (East 86th Street) because it came with a tiny basement apartment. I still can picture the single small rectangular window high on the wall of my bedroom. I attended an all-black elementary school (Bolton School; it still exists) and perhaps the best friend I ever had in my youth was a black kid by the name of Clifford Eucker. I remember his mother made him wear knickers to school, which he hated. Father always had crummy jobs, partly a result of the depression and partly due to some bad decisions. But he still loved this country and the opportunities it presented.
The Founders deliberately created a system that avoided the semi-feudalism prevalent in Europe, remnants of which exist even today in many countries both there and even more so in Asia. Yes, there was slavery here which was decried by some but sadly countenanced by others at the time. Nothing is perfect. The unfettered Adam Smith economic system was considered a model. While there were excesses, the result was an unprecedented economic expansion into the world's greatest economic engine, largely responsible for building the society that we enjoy today. Even our so-called "poor" today are often considerably better off than the poor of other parts of the world.
The great motivator of economic expansion is free enterprise and the promise of hard-earned reward. Poor could become comfortable and the comfortable could become rich. Yes, there's an element of greed in the system, but enlightened greed is not all bad. The great advantage of a classless social system and a free enterprise, Capitalist economy is the powerful motivation and opportunity to better oneself.
But times they are a-changin". Today we hear constant reference to the "rich" and the "middle class." There was no middle class whien I was growing up. At least I never heard the term. There was no "wealthy class," just folks who had done better than most of us. There was an attempt after World War II to "soak the rich" to help reduce the deficit from the war. Confiscatory tax rates of up to 91% were levied. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence was business and professional folks, who it turned out were the folks who kept the country running--stopped working part of the year and the government got less in taxes than before. (Sounds a little like Ayn Rand, doesn't it?)
I challenge anyone to precisely define the "middle class" we constantly hear about. Is it a single female legal assistant in New York making $85,000 a year, or the farm family in Kansas with an income of $60,000? How about the owner of a small plumbing shop making $110,000? Shoot, I made that much the last few years I worked. Was I rich? I didn't think so. Then there's the novelist who finally writes a good one and makes $275,000 in one year. Is he rich, considering that he made zilch in previous years?
The fact is, this business of class designations is a relatively recent political construct designed to create envy. The political system in this country--Republican as well as Democrat--has manufactured a class envy paradigm strictly to get votes and gain power. Democrats claim Republicans love the upper class and disdain the middle class and the poor. Republicans claim Democrats pander to the working classes and the poor to get votes. The elderly get stuck somewhere in the middle of all this. Sadly, the current administration seems particularly inclined to toss around class labels. This is grossly irresponsible and detrimental to the welfare of the nation.
The result is conflict and anger all around us, which is dangerous in the extreme. The great advantage of this country is its melting pot paradigm, with all citizens living and working together to better themselves. E Pluribus Unum really meant something years ago. What does it mean today except something printed on money?
Someone once said "divide and conquer." Karl Marx advocated class struggle in the Communist Manifesto. We're headed in a bad direction, folks. If this manufactured class warfare continues, we will indeed be "divided and conquered."
All for votes.
Will Shakespeare technically did not write a true farce, which generally involves nonsense and slapstick, but two plays, the subject line and The Taming of the Shrew are often characterized as farces. Here in Wisconsin, we are undergoing a farce fully worthy of the great Bard of Avon. The current comedy of errors called recalls are in full sway, characterized by outrageous expenditures of campaign money by both sides resulting from frantic fundraising by Walker and piles of union dues funneled to the Democrats. Then there's the $20 million or so to pay for the elections, most from local communities who did not anticipate these costs. Wait for that one to hit the fan!
As a matter of interest, over the last 100 years there have been a total of 36 recalls of public figures in the entire United States. This year, there are 17 in Wisconsin alone. Either Wisconsin knows something about democracy that the other 49 states do not, or this has nothing to do with democracy. This is in reality a frantic effort by unions--mainly the public service type--to reverse a policy, the loss of bargaining power with which they strongly disagree. There is an obvious attempt to downplay this aspect of the process, citing the $800 million in education budget cuts, inflated now to a billion which sounds more impressive, I guess. They have to hurry because those reductions in state education aid are actually working quite well for those districts who did not sign union contracts prior to Act 10 passage. Many school district administrations are actually rather enjoying their new-found power to set education policy without interference and obstruction by the teachers' unions. If the word gets around, the unions' main issue goes bye-bye.
Just a word about the job-creation issue. There is precious little politicians can do about jobs, which is solely a private enterprise decision. Walker was unwise to make the 250,000 job commitment. I think he counted on a fully compliant legislature to institue a panoply of business-friendly legislation. This has not happened so I lthink his prediction is doomed.
Wisconsin has a well-deserved reputation as being unfriendly to business. We have a widely-perceived unattractive climate, a very aggressive environmentalist movement that seems to oppose any major industrial development--witness the Gogobic mine fiasco--and high-and-growing energy costs thanks to very costly "clean energy" mandates like windmills. (As soon as the federal subsidies expire, which is pretty soon, watch the cost of these monstrosities soar.)
I won't further belabor the point, as I have written on this subject before. But either Wisconsin has found a new paradigm of super-democracy to replace the traditional Constitution-mandated scheduled elections that the rest of the country follows, or we are political idiots engaged in a Shakespearian farce. Take your choice.
P.S. See, I can write a short blog post!
Many years ago there was a war. Officially it was called World War II. Unofficially it was called the Great War. More recently it has been describd as the "Good War," because it was against Fascism and a ruthless enemy. It was not a "good war;" there is no such thing. It was a horrible war. Millions died in that war, mostly young men in their prime with their whole lives ahead of them. They did not plan to die, but that is the way of war.
They fought with great courage and bravery on both sides, for the German and Japanese armies were also made up largely of young men. On our side it was fought by what has been called the "Greatest Generation." Maybe so, for our armed forces performed with uncommon and unexpected ferocity and courage. The reason was that our young men were fighting for their land, the greatest country on Earth and its precious liberty. They fought for God and country, which unfortunately sounds trite in this modern blase and sophisticated age, but it definitely was not trite in those days, which I remember clearly. Did they think deeply about that as they charged into battle? Probably not, but somehow they knew that they were fighting for a great cause, for an ideal, a way of life that was so precious it was worth risking life itself. They were fighting for the protection and survival of their beloved America.
Perhaps the greatest display of bravery in the annals of military history was the invasion of "Fortress Europe" in 1944. Arrayed against the Allied invasion force on the shores of France was a formidable, battle-hardened and well-equipped foe who knew that this was the deciding point of the war. At Normandy, many thousands of young American men advanced into a wall of machine gun bullets and artillery, largely without cover and slowed by waist-deep water. They died by the thousands but kept coming. American Rangers scaled vertical cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in the face of point-blank fire from above, suffering 65% casualties but gaining the objective. At the end of the day, they had prevailed. Never in the history of warfare has there been a greater display of courage, in a battle that would determine the victor in a World War and the future of civilization on this planet. But make no mistake, the price was terrible.
In all the wars in which America has been involved, including the one we lost, our troops never broke and ran regardless of the odds. I don't believe any fighting force in history can make that claim. They paid a price--the nation paid a price--for freedom and liberty, home and family, God and honor. I believe Providence took a hand that day in June 68 years ago, for by all accounts the Allies should have been thrown back into the sea, battered and broken, and the war lost. But it didn't happen and we owe that to those boys who without exception covered themselves with glory and honor, especially the fallen. God was with them at Normandy and in other conflicts, not because they were perfect and holy, but because their cause was just and right.
There may be arguments that, while WW II was "the Good War," some of our subsequent wars and "police actions" were not so holy. Perhaps, but that is politics and our men and women were and are above politics. They fought against Communism in Korea and Vietnam, an adversary that threatened to "bury us." In Southwest Asia, they fought and are fighting an adversary sworn to destroy the "Great Satan" and kill all of us infidels. Have dishonorable events occurred in the heat of conflict? Yes, but they involved a miniscule minority. No one is perfect; we are all human.
So, on this day--yes, May 30th, is the "real" Memorial Day--we commemorate not the unofficial start of Summer (it really begins at 6 P.M. on June 20th) or even our veterans who certainly deserve our gratitude for their service and sacrifice, but rather we honor our dead who gave the greatest gift, their lives, so that we could enjoy the coming of Summer and all our good times in comfort and freedom in this the greatest nation on Earth, our--and their--America.
Therefore, please pause just a moment on this most meaningful of national holidays and reflect on the magnitude of that sacrifice and what it means to you and yours. And to those who gave all, in the final words of the first verse of "Taps":
"All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.
Some readers may consider ths post self-serving, and so it may be. A friend at lunch got me thinking about this period in my life, which was pivotal. Before my Air Force service, I was an immature college graduate who knew nothing of life in the real world. I matured in the service due mostly due to the realization that I was doing something very significant for the first time in my life. The gravity of what I found myself involved with changed me in many ways, not the least of which was maturity. I went in as a callow youth and came out a fairly responsible young man, who took a wife (actually she took me), helped raise a family and pursued a long, rewarding career. I am still married to the lady after 53 years and am quite satisfied that I did well--didn't get rich by any means--and made a difference. So, here is my story of a Cold War warrior.
I served between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, a period known as the Cold War where our dire nemesis was the Soviet Union and vice versa. At the end of World War II, the United States was the world's only nuclear power. As the result of some very impressive espionage, they soon matched us in nuclear capability. There ensued a rather bizarre Mexican standoff called MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction. The theory was no one would dare attack because the retaliation would be catastrophic.
However, there was always the possibility of a mistake or aberrant action as chronicled in the brilliant Peter Sellers movie satire, Dr. Strangelove, or how I learned to love the bomb. The result was something called NORAD, the Northern Air Defense network. This consisted of the Air Defense Command (ADC) in the U.S. and a contingent of the RCAF in Canada, along with the DEW line--Distant Early Warning radar--which was a string of powerful radar sites in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle pointed north.
The theory was that one version of a Soviet attack would be a stealthy nuclear bomber assault over the North Pole, featuring conventional nuclear-armed bombers, mainly the very formidable Tupolov TU-95 "Bear" which, like our B-52, is still operational. The mission of the ADC and our Canadian counterpart was to destroy any intruding threat detected by the DEW radars.
I was an ADC pilot with the 94th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), based at Selfridge AFB near Detroit. There were several ADC bases in the northern U.S., each, with a sector of responsibility in cooperation with the RCAF. We flew what was at that time the most advanced interceptor aircraft, the F-86D/L Sabre. (The "L" was a slightly upgraded version with 11 inches added to each wing to enhance high-altitude performance (more about that later) and the ARN-39 Data Link/SAGE [Semi-Automatic Ground Environment] system, a method of communicating instructions to aircraft without voice transmission.)
The -86D was a single-seat major modification of the F-86H tactical fighter, larger, heavier and equipped with an afterburner to compensate for the added weight of the intercept fire control equipment and armament. The engine was the J-47 with a variable exhaust nozzle to increase efficiency and performance. The aircraft was transsonic, capable of reaching the speed of sound, known as the Mach or Mach 1--barely. It had a short flight duration of a little over an hour for our typical mission profile which was 45 minutes. Armament was 24-2.75 inch unguided rockets (HVAR: High Velocity Aerial Rocket) in a drop-down pod under the nose section. The rockets could be fired in sets of 1, 2, 6, 12 or 24. Since they were unguided, the wartime tactic was to fire a brace of 12. This also allowed for two attacks.
The F-86D escape system consisted of an ejection seat--not the fancy rocket-propelled Martin-Baker type of today that can fire 1000 feet up--that was propelled out of the aircraft by a 20mm cannon shell to just clear the tail. We wore back-pack parachutes equipped with small green oxygen bottles plugged into to the oxygen mask and actualted by a round green golf-ball sized "apple" that would provide 15 minuites of oxygen for high-altitude ejection. Seat separation after ejection was automatic and it was up to the pilot to pull the rip cord "D" handle to deploy the chute. In the case of high-altitude, you didn't want to do that until you free-fell to a lower altitude because the opening shock at high altitude was much more severe because of the faster falling speed in the thin air.
The ejection sequence was initiated by two pivoted yellow handles stowed low next to the seat on either side. Raising one handle jettisoned the canopy--you could eject through it but that was not recommended--and the other fired the seat. It behooved the hapless pilot of have his helmet visor down and head back against the headrest to prevent a nasty whiplash and a face full of 300 mph air. For low-altitude ejection there was what was called a zero-altitude lanyard that was snapped onto the D-ring before takeoff, attached to the seat. Seat separation then would deploy the parachute without pilot action.
We lost one pilot due to a low-altitude ejection. He experienced engine failure and, after turning his powerless aircraft--the F-86 had the unpowered glide characteristics of a brick--out over Lake Huron, inexplicably stayed with the plummeting aircraft until too late to eject safely. He was still in the seat when he hit the water.
Each ADC base maintained two aircraft, fully fueled and armed, on 5-minute alert. Off to the side of the takeoff end of the main runway was a metal shack facing the entrance, with a small ramp in front for the two alert aircraft. Should the horn blow--yes, there was indeed a horn, a klaxon--the crew chiefs would sprint to the two aircraft and fire up the ground start carts, gas engine-powered generators to provide electrical power for the engine starter motor. (You could supposedly start the thing on internal battery but no-one ever did that to my knowledge.) By the time the pilot got there, the crew chief had hit the start switch and the engine was winding up as he helped fasten the pilot in the cockpit--parachute and seat belt harnesses, oxygen hose, zero-altitude lanyard, etc.
The chief would then jump down, pull his short ladder, pull the chocks and final safety pins, holding them up for the pilot to verify. You then taxiied onto the runway a few yards away and, without stopping, hit the afterburner and took off. The whole sequence took less than five minutes.
Weather was not a factor. We all had been trained at the Air Force All-Weather Instrument School at Moody AFB, Georgia, the finest instrument flying school in the world. We were trained to fly in any weather conditions and visibility, down to zero. Obviously, you can't wait for good weather to respond to a threat. (Of course, for practice we observed FAA weather limitations.)
Shortly after takeoff, you would contact GCI--Ground Controlled Intercept--for vectoring to the target. This was a radar site with height-finding capability. Target data was transmitted to them from NORAD in Colorado. Their job was to guide the interceptor via voice commands--that SAGE thing never did work right--to a position abeam the target and at the same altitude. The ideal position was on a 90º heading relative to the target, 39º angle off (ahead of the target) at 15-mile range. The aircraft radar--there was a small dish in that black nose--would be scanning automatically left and right. There was no vertical scan, so GCI had to get you level with the target's altitude. This was called the 90º beam attack.
The cockpit radar display was a small, about 8" square screen with a hood to keep out ambient light. Typical radar displays are a circle or part (sector) of a circle, since radar dishes typically scanned in a circular left-right motion. The Hughes E-4 Fire Control System (FCS) featured a display that was rectangular. The radar sweep line, instead of employing a circular pattern, was vertical and swept horizontally from side to side. The advantage was the sweep was expanded at shorter ranges to provide greater precision as you got close to the target. There was a name for this display that escapes me.
The maximum range of the E-4 radar was about 15 miles. If it "saw" the target, there would be a bright spot on the vertical radar scan line as it swept through. When you saw that, you would inform GCI that you had "Joy" and take over manually. There was a joystick in the cockpit that, by depressing a trigger, would allow you to manually control the radar dish in the nose. You would focus the radar on the target, holding it with the joystick which now also had vertical control of the dish. If you got it pointed right, the target return would brighten. By releasing the trigger, the radar would "lock on" to the target and follow it automatically.
Picture the situation. Your aircraft is flying at 90º to the target's heading, maintaining a 39º orientation ahead of the target. Any time the "angle off" to another aircraft remains constant, you are on a collision course. You are nose-on to him, a minimum cross section for him to see. You maintain position by adjusting airspeed (Remember, with all this going on, you are still flying the aircraft "blind", with your head stuck in a hood.) The E-4 FCS displays a "steering circle" that flits around the screen telling you how to steer. The object is to keep this little circle in the center of the screen.
When the FCS computer detects you are 30 seconds from the firing point, still on a collision course, the display changes to a large circle with a small one in the center and a steering dot. The radar display is gone. Now your job is to center the dot in that small circle. At 10 seconds to go, the circle collapses into a short straight line with the dot. Your job then is to bury the dot in the line. The dot shifts left and right with the wings (roll) and up and down with the aircraft nose angle (pitch). The fire control system will time rocket firing to adjust for any slight horizontal position deviation, but it can't adjust for elevation. It also requires wings level. Burying the dot in the little line assured that you were level with the target with wings level. The system also at the 10 second point inserts a slight offset from a true collision course, called an "F-pole" so that your rockets, which of course travel much faster than you, will impact the target and you will pass just behind him. This was called a lead collision course.
Nothing always works as planned. The F-pole offset was activated by a relay in the computer which had a disturbing habit of sticking, resulting in no offset and leaving you on a true collision course with the target. So, during the final 10 second interval, we just would peek over the radar hood to make sure the target was moving on the windshield, indicating no collision imminent.
The typical mission profile was a full-afterburner takeoff and climbout, which burned an awful lot of fuel. You would contact GCI immediately after takeoff and follow their directions to the target's location and altitude. They would set you up on the 90º beam course to the target and continue to direct you until you called "Joy", which meant your radar had picked up the target. After that you were on your own. We normally practiced against a T-33 "T-bird" training aircraft specially equipped with a towing rig with a large, green styrofoam "bomb" that contained a radar reflector. It would be towed several hundred yards behind the T-bird. That would be your target. At 10 seconds to go, you would call "10 seconds" and the T-bird pilot would check that you were moving backwards on his canopy, indicating the Hughes F-pole had worked and there was no chance of a collision. He would clear you and you could complete the attack. We usually had time and fuel for two runs on the target, about 45 minutes.
The aircraft had a tape system that visually recorded the FCS radar display. A successful attack would be indicated by an "X" in the center of the scope where the little line had been, representing a "splash", meaning the target was destroyed. If you had the steering dot buried in the line, you were guaranteed the "splash". This recording system was called NADAR; I never learned what that meant. It was equivalent to a gun camera system. When you returned to base, the tape would be reviewed for evaluation of your prowess, or for colorful criticism.
We did this day after day except if you were on 5-minute alert duty. Flying the aircraft while operating the FCS was a bit challenging. Occasionally, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber, typically a B-47, would penetrate the DEW line without identifying itself to test NORAD. Once they came on New Year's Eve, which was interesting. We really loved SAC. The B-47 could fly a bit higher than the F-86D, which made the intercept difficult. The F-86L with its longer wings could make it to 48,000 feet, which was the ceiling of the B-47. The -D was lucky to reach 45,000. (The wing leading edges had gravity slats. Essentially, the leading edges of the wings would drop forward and down at low airspeed to provide greater lift when landing. At high altitude, the air is too thin to hold the slats in. They would come out and you were done.)
The procedure with an unidentified aircraft was to fly alongside to identify the intruder. Once SAC flew a B-36 in, which was quite a sight. They had these automatic guns in ports along the side that they would open and there you were with several cannons pointed at you. Cute. We would occasionally fly a 90º beam intercept on them, which really P'ed them off because they thought it was dangerous. Tough.
So, that's my personal war story. The Cold War was not a benign time. There was always the possibility of a nuclear attack, due to miscalculation or whatever. It was something we took quite seriously. Every one of us would have rammed an attacking Soviet nuke bomber rather than let him drop his weapon on an American city. I just thought someone might be interested in a phase of the Cold War that has received little publicity.
Well, the Great Wisconsin Recall is over. The winners are joyful and the losers are sore. At least some of the dust has settled so maybe it's time for a calm postmortem analysis. Full disclosure: I am a card-carrying Republican and voted accordingly, making a morning hike to the Wales Community Center to cast vote number 353. I also plunked a "We stand for Walker" yard sign on my front lawn. For the record, Wales turnout was 86%, going for Walker 3:1. Nevertheless, I will attempt to be at least nominally objective.
If noise level won elections, the recall side would have won hands down. For sheer raucousness this one was unprecedented, at least since the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the 60's. Fortunately, elections are decided at the polling place, not in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda or the streets outside.
Incidentally, the true losers in this one may be the teachers, not because of the weakening of their union or the increased cost of their benefits, but because of the indelible image of teachers leaving classrooms to wave rather undignified signs and scream insults at the top of their lungs, all caught on camera. I have to admit, I did not buy the argument that this was a "learning experience in democracy." I'm sorry, but I lost a considrable amount of respect for teachers, even though only a limited number were involved. The recent spectacle of a significant number of teachers petulently quitting the New Berlin School System because they felt "unappreciated" by their administration certainly doesn't help.
There regrettably is still a considerable level of rancor, mostly in the losing camp, over the result. In most elections, the losing side grumps a bit and then goes back to commenting on blogs and gets on with life. What is different this time is the tremendous amount of protracted effort that went into the recall campaign. The collection of over 800,000 (valid) signatures was an amazing accomplishment. The effort went on for months and involved many hundreds of people putting in countless hours. The greater the investment, the more painful the loss. I fear this wound will be a long time in healing.
This Wisconsin experience is a microcosm of a national problem: the extreme polarization of politics in this country. It appears no one knows how to lose any more. Or for that matter, how to win. This is sad and more than a little worrisome.
We are a polyglot nation, which has been and still is, unfortunately to a lesser extent, one of our great strengths. Diversity, as it brings divergent constructive viewpoints, is a great and unique advantage that we possess in this nation. I fear that polarization has deleted the word "constructive" from that statement. If we are to survive as a cohesive and diverse constitutional republic, this has got to stop.
The problem is agendas. Political leaders have agendas that in too many cases do not include a benefit to society. The goal is re-election or election at any cost. Much has been made of the Koch brothers support of Scott Walker. (They support many other conservative causes as well.) On the other side is George Soros and MoveOn.org. I would call that at least a wash. Union support of the recall was based largely on self-interest, not the welfare of their members.
So, what have we learned from this $20 million exercise in futility? Very little I'm afraid. The militancy is still there on both sides. This upcoming national election will feature much of the same on a grander scale. The winner likely will be the side that smears the opposition more effectively than the other. I have a faint hope that there is a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. The financial crisis that exists in this country just might be the catalyst for change, this time constructive. At some point, maybe, just maybe, both sides will realize that we have a problem that threatens the survival of our life style as we know it. Perhaps there will be a sufficient number of realists with enough common sense of survival to hunker down and focus on the real problems facing us, realizing that their own well-being is at stake.
"The pessimist sees only the tunnel; the optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel; the realist sees the tunnel and the light, and the next tunnel." Here's to light.
Back in December, 2008, I wrote a post called In the Beginning that discussed Creationism versus the Big Bang theory. The conclusion was, predictably, that Creation made more sense and besides, was a lot simpler. In that discussion, I described in some detail the Large Hadron Collider, a $9 billion monstrosity buried underground near the border between France and Switzerland. I won't repeat all that here. (If you're curious, check my archives for 18 December 2008.) Simply, the LHC was an attempt to "find" someting called the Higgs bosun, a subatomic particle that was supposed to explain mass and gravity, the rocks upon which various theories of the universe, specifically string theory, crash.
Mass, which begets gravitational attraction, is what essentially holds everything together, including atoms. It is the glue of the universe. For years it defied mathematical modeling. Then an English physicist, Peter Ware Higgs, in a flash of insight, imagined a new and unknown sub-atomic particle that "creates" mass, which in a fit of hubris he named the Higgs bosun, after himself. (Paradixically, a bosun itself is a massless particle.) The scientific world rejoiced and ran off hell-bent to discover this wondrous particle. The thought was that its existence heretofore had eluded researchers because they didn't smash atomic particles--specifically protons that are relatively easy to get and work with--hard enough, i.e. with sufficient energy. Hence the LHC that accelerates protons to 99.9% of the speed of light before colliding them.
Well, rejoice all you anti-creationists out there, according to a recent newspaper article, after 10 years of banging protons together, they have--"Eureka!"--found it. (If you read my 2008 post, you will note that I predicted that they would find it, because they had to.) Actually, they have found "indications" of its existence, whatever that means. The skeptics among you may quite understandably ask, "So what?" Good question. Let me tell you "what" from my perspective--full disclosure--as a practicing Christian.
Man is a proud and arrogant creature. Those characteristics are arguably at the root of most of our troubles, especially our interminable wars. Part of that arrogance is an aversion to acknowledging a being superior to ourselves. Thus, when Darwin published his Origin of Species the humanists jumped at it. From the Darwinian concept which required very long periods of time came the concept of the great age of the Earth and universe--billions of years. Up until that time, the Biblical age of the Earth, around 15 thousand years give or take, had been the accepted belief.
That opened up a raft of possibilities, leading eventually to the present "Big Bang Theory" (not the TV show!). Grossly oversimplified, the explosion of a tiny dot of infinite mass created gobs of vibrating strings, bidimensional membranes and 11 or so dimensions of which everything is made, along with time so you can't ask where that dot came from. This is in a nutshell "String Theory", or its latest incarnation, "The Theory of Everything." (You can't make this stuff up!) Problem was, all these vibrating strings and membranes didn't have any mass, and obviously, mass and its handmaiden gravity exist. Consequently, there was still a tiny opening for God.
However, the Higgs bosun, which someone perhaps facetiously nicknamed the "God Particle," a name that stuck, allows man to eliminate God from the picture. We don't need Him to explain the existence of everything. Man's arrogance is justified; he is indeed the eagle at the top of the totem pole.
I don't mean to imply that all scientists are atheists. Some ideas or beliefs tend to take on a life of their own. Great effort and resources have been expended to explain the world around us. We are able to function with the incompatible ambivalence of religious belief and science by conveniently stuffing religion into one hour on Sunday morning, or perhaps Saturday evening, and dedicating the rest of the week to science. This I call "magical thinking," for magical indeed it is.
So, how do I, the practicing 24-7 Christian, explain the "indicated" Higgs bosun? This takes a bit of credulity, but then that's what we mostly are talking about. Centuries ago, Galileo undertook to measure the diameter of the Earth. He made some instruments and used them to measure the height of a distant tower. By that means he came up with an expression for the curvature of the Earth and extrapolated that to its diameter. He was close, but not real close.
More recently, around 75 years ago. some college researchers undertook to duplicate Galileo's measurements. They faithfully reproduced his instrumentation from detailed descriptions and notes and replicated the experiment. Guess what. The result was extremely accurate, much more accurate than Galileo's figure. If we assume that he was not a klutz or a graduate of MPS, then why didn't he come up with a more accurate figure? Well, because our college students knew the answer beforehand. In other words, what we know or believe, or desperately desire to find, can influence the results of our research. You scoff, but I have seen personal evidence of this phenomenon.
Much of science today is concerned with various studies affecting the public. These studies are funded through grants from agents with an agenda. In other words, they have a preconceived idea of what they want the research to conclude. Thus, all smoking-related studies conclude that it is a terrible health hazard, including "second-hand" smoke. All coronary artery disease studies verify that cholesterol is the villian. All global warming studies conclude it is anthropomorphic (man-made). And the list goes on. Never is heard a dissenting word. The result is the corruption of true science by grant.
With respect to the God particle, recall that it is allegedly a sub-atomic particle, i.e. the result of breaking apart an atom. Consequently, it is invisible. Sub-atomic particles are usually detected indirectly by electric charge effects or collisions with other particles. No one will ever "see" the God particle. It will be identified by indirect means. I think that if 500 PhD's focus their minds on a single idea, they could move a mountain to say nothing of finding a sub-microscopic entity. As I said before, they will find it because they must. There is too much at stake.
This entire structure of the cosmos, strings, membranes, dimensions, Big Bang and Creation-without-God depends on this little fellow whom no one has seen or ever will see.
My attitude towards all this is based on plausibility. I find the theories of Big Bang and evolution to be implausible. Ask the DNA molecule that formed you or the developing baby in the womb, incredibly complex and precisely configured processes, whether they happened by accident. The wonderfully balanced world of nature defies definition due to its intricacy. The evidence of design, absolutely brilliant and--yes--miraculous design, is to me unmistakeable.
So, have your Bang, your strings, your God particle and your random mutations. I'll take Genesis.
This is a difficult post for me to write. The Aurora, Colorado, mass killing of 12 innocent souls and the wounding of 58 others, some seriously, is a monstrous tragedy with victims well beyond the casualties. Dozens of family members and friends are also deeply affected. Please believe me when I assure you I am not trying to capitalize on this tragedy, but I think there is a critical issue here that the media and others are missing. The significance of this and other similar mass killings committed without clear motive or justification is not being addressed, which masks their significance.
As is virtually always the case, the pundits and analysts come out of the woodwork to search for an explanation, precursor, motive or justification for someone deciding to kill a large number of innocent people, usually complete strangers. They look into the perpetrator's childhood, his activities, his associates, searching, searching for some vehicle of understanding. This derives from the pervasive notion that bad things can be prevented from happening if only we find the key to the behavior and fix it. Sometimes it's there in a distorted childhood or traumatic event, but usually it eludes identification.
Jeffery Dahmer had a stupefyingly normal upbringing in a normal family. He stated he didn't know why he did what he did, he just wanted to. The present mass killer, James Holmes, complete with red hair, appeared to be a relatively harmless Batman freak to friends, family and associates. One person, a shooting range proprietor, judged him from a bizarre voicemail greeting and strange conversation to be too unstable to shoot at his range, but did not consider him dangerous. Fellow neuroscience researchers thought him strange or did not notice him at all. The government gave him a sustaining stipend plus a $26,000 grant for his research, part of which he apparently spent to purchase the weapons he used in his rampage.
So. what motivated this hapless misfit and other mass killers? Are they just nuts? Certainly they are not mainstream mentally normal, but is that enough to explain such catastrophic behavior? I think it offers a partial explanation, in that we have shut down mental institutions and made it extremely difficult to commit someone against his will. However, there are lots of mentally deranged individuals walking the streets who don't slaughter a dozen or more fellow citizens.
So, what do we have here? How do we explain these seemingly inexplicable tragic events? We have a tendency in this country to avoid acknowledging evil. We explain the most heinous occurences, sometimes with extremely tortured reasoning. Atrocities committed by Islamic extremists are justified--not by everyone but by some--as the consequence of our bad deeds as a nation. Even 9/11 was so justified. Today, the cowardly street bombings by rebels in Syria are excused as a justified reaction to persecution by the Assad regime. It appears that only Adolf Hitler is acknowledged as an unredeemable bad guy by most folks. Yet, seemingly inexplicable outrages continue to occur with disturbing regularity.
Gun restrictions or an outright ban will not stop the acts of the man without a soul. An assault weapons ban is meaningless. The AR-15 "assault rifle" Holmes carried, along with a shotgun and handgun, was semi-automatic like most handguns, rifles and shotguns. "Semi-automatic" means the weapon fires each time the trigger is pulled. "Military style" is a meaningless appellation that relates more to appearance than function. The military AR-15 has full automatic capability, but is not available to the general public. The designation "assault weapon" is vague and undefined, which is why the NRA opposes their ban. A weapons ban will not stop mass killings. It will just serve to mask the problem.
The cold, hard truth is that evil exists in this world. There are individuals whose, in the Biblical sense, souls are dead. There is no voice of conscience to stay their proclivities for evil. There is no guilt or remorse. The image of red-haired James Holmes in a courtroom, nodding off during the proceedings, disconcerts family members and the public at large. Everyone is afraid to say it: this is an evil man. Jeffery Dahmer was an evil man. John Wayne Gacy was an evil man. So were David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Charles Manson and more.
Without a soul, there is no limit on conduct. I do not subscribe to the inherent evil of man as some do. I interpret the concept of original sin differently. But there are those depraved individuals for whom there is no explanation other than they are purely evil. Evil has existed in the world since the beginning of history. It even has been responsible for despicable acts in the name of religion. This is not the fault of the religion, but rather of the soulless monster who cloaks his evil actions in it.
Aurora, Colorado, has no rational explanation, other than the act of an evil man. We search in vain for a rational causation. Holmes perhaps is technically insane, but that is not the answer. The only answer, and it is imperfect, is to confront evil where we find it and not to be afraid to deal with it, instead of like the shooting range operator who shrugged off his suspicions. Honest recognition of the existence of evil at least may allow us to identify and confront the enemy before the commission of a horrendous act of mass destruction.
There is no limit to the evil acts of the soulless.
1. Prelude A few of you may have noticed that I've been gone for awhile. Nothing earthshaking but, as someone once observed, "It's not the major disasters that bother me, it's the constant pitter-patter of little defeats." There have been a number of issues at home that have distracted me from this blog, which, you may be surprised to know, is not my main priority. The dust has settled a bit, so I'm back for the moment. (I trust you all have been civil and restrained in your comments, which I have not had the time to monitor.)
There are a number of bloggable subjects, mostly political. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I'm quite tired of politics at the moment. The tsunami of mendacity that is politics these days has simply turned me off, so for the time being I leave political commentary to those who thrive on it. However, here are two pieces illustrative of the human condition: tragedy and darkness, joy and light.
2. Evil II My last post discussed the "Face of Evil,' my take on the motivation of mass killers of the innocent. I suggested the existence of evil in the world that has rendered certain mercifully few mescreants without a soul, or a conscience if you prefer: an inability to distinguish between right and wrong. Shortly after publication of that post, the horrendous massacre at the Sikh Temple occurred. Following has been a paroxysm of analysis of Mr. Wade Michael Page that persists to this day. I believe this is due at least in part to unacceptance of the existence of pure evil by liberals, who, quite laudably in most cases, try to find an explanation and subsequent corrective action for appalling events. "Given sufficient resources, we can fix anything."
I'm sorry, but I don't believe that. I believe that evil exists as a palpable force among humanity. Mr. Page, skinhead and kook, is posthumously being identified as a really dangerous individual whose conduct should have elicited action. This by some who knew or had contact with him. This is hindsight. His persona and actions, while not mainstream, were not justification for restraint or treatment. He was a skinhead kook and little else. Yet, he took it upon himself to kill several innocent souls, at prayer yet, who simply looked different from him. I believe this man was possessed, not by demons but by a palpable evil. It exists among humanity and impels senseless and grossly inappropriate violence against the innocent.
Christians like me call him Satan. Others harken back to primitive survival instincts not completely suppressed by time. Freud had another explanation, something about the ego. The distinction is subjective. The fact, I believe, remains that a number of individuals commit heinous acts without rational motive or justification in defiance of analysis. This does not deter an army of psychiatrists, psychologists, pundits and barroom analysts from submitting their own "answers". But none of these explanations, when looked at objectively, explain the conduct and indicate effective corrective action. We search in vain for the comfort of closure. We must face the fact that evil as an entity exists in the world today.
I don't have an answer to evil. Perhaps acknowledging it will help, but I sort of doubt it. The only course, in my opinion, is to defend against it with the means at our disposal. I happen to believe that concealed weapon carry could help stop a massacre in progress in a few instances. It can be argued that a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral might do more damage than good, but I do think that the ability to defend oneself in general is a good thing.
Having said that, I, along with the NRA, decry the ease with which Mr. Page, a known skinhead with bizarre beliefs, legally obtained weapons. I, along with all you gun-banners, am not comfortable with lethally-armed nut cases. Restricting assault weapons is useless feel-goodedness. Identifying unstable individuals and barring them from legally purchasing weapons strikes me--and the NRA--as reasonable.
3. To Fly There was a article in Saturday's newspaper about an innovative program at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, instituted by a minister, whereby inmates participate in the raising and release of monarch butterflies. This struck me as a brilliant idea and singularly effective therapy as opposed to most psychiatric treatment which has proven largely ineffective.
My wife, Joan, many years ago came across an article on the monarch butterfly, which is quite unique in the insect world. It has a life cycle that is both fascinating and compact. The whole process of egg to caterpillar to butterfly is consummated in just a few weeks. The article she read described the construction of a "monarch tree" to display the miracle of metamorphosis that takes place in creating this strikingly beautiful and delicate flyer. The brevity of the cycle serves to hold the interest of observers as there are no long lapses of inactivity as is the case with most other butterflies and moths.
The monarch life cycle is unique and miraculous in itself. Monarchs migrate south for the winter along several flyways. At one time, the destination was some unknown place in Mexico. Then someone found the "monarch trees," a grove of large trees festooned with millions of butterflies wintering over. Well-meaning environmentalists and tourists congregated and eventually drove the monarchs away. Now they winter over in Florida and other parts south. In the spring they return, laying eggs on milkweed as they come. The ragged survivors usually don't live long afterwards, having performed their function. Occasionally you might see a bedraggled survivor of the amazing two-way journey. And the life cycle continues. For some reason, monarch population in recent years has fallen off, a sad loss.
Monarch Caterpillar, Chrysalis, Butterfly
Joan proceeded to create this "monarch tree" by placing a dead branch about 2-3 feet high in a coffee can filled with plaster of paris. The large branch had to have many smaller branches. Next, she and some neighborhood enlistees began searching for eggs. The monarch larva feeds exclusively on milkweed, which renders it unpalatable to predators who leave it alone. The egg is a small, black dot which takes a sharp eye to detect. Found, the leaf is detached and placed in a quart Mason jar covered with a piece of cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. Additional fresh milkweed leaves are added as the original dries up. The eggs quickly--a few days--hatch into a tiny worms--oops, I mean caterpillars. As they consume milkweed and grow, they shed their inelastic skin five times and grow into a two-inch beautiful multi-striped, smooth-skinned caterpillar.
Careful observation over a couple of weeks detects when the caterpillar stops eating. He is now ready to "hang". The caterpillar is removed from the jar and placed on the tree. There, on a branch he begins to weave a small silk nubbin. When done, he turns his rear to the nubbin and a small black hook appears. The hook engages the nubbin and the caterpillar drops, suspended from his hook, and curls into a "J" shape (first image below).
Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis
After a few days, his skin splits and peels back, revealing a beautiful green chrysalis with gold accents. Much wriggling dislodges the shriveled skin leaving just the smooth chrysalis which quickly hardens, suspended from the silk nubbin.
A short time later, the chrysalis darkens and the outline of wings can be seen. It then splits open and the monarch in all its glory emerges.
Monarch Emerging from Chrysalis
At first, its wings are small and shriveled and the body outsize. The butterfly pumps fluid from his body into his wings, filling them out to normal size as his body shrinks. He hangs for a few days as the wings dry, dripping a brown fluid. When dry, he begins to slowly flap his wings, which is a clue that he's ready to fly. Joan and company, myself and the kids included, quickly take the butterfly from his perch on a finger and take him outside. Then comes the greatest moment of all, when a quick movement of the hand launches him into flight. He usually flies a short distance and alights to rest a bit before flying off into the world. Failure to detect the readiness to fly results in chasing down butterflies attached to drapes and curtains.
One incident stands out in my memory. Joan threw herself fully into the "Monarch Project," as was her way. Whether it was knitting, gardening (her 100-foot garden was the wonder of the neighborhood) or butterflies, she never did things half-way. Thus, we had dozens of caterpillars in various stages of development and two good-sized trees full of chrysalids, crawlers and hangers in our kitchen.
One day, she sprayed insecticide on some flies near the kitchen door to the garage which was open. A breeze ws blowing in through the screen door. The insecticide blew over to the monarch station with the trees and jars. Immediately, the caterpillars began wriggling and barfing--yes, barfing--as the insecticide hit them. In a panic, Joan called a neighbor lady and they both began washing caterpillars in warm soapy water. I came in to witness this bizarre scene of two ladies frantically scrubbing insecticide off little green worms. Believe it or not, they saved nearly all of them.
The trees with their little miracles made excellent show-and-tell for our kids and our eldest won a Science Fair first prize for her presentation display. To witness these incredible metamorphoses leading to the wonder of colorful flight was indeed a privilege.
One of you evolutionary biologists has to explain to me how random-chance mutations created this wonderfully complex miracle of nature. I believe this is another of God's gifts of beauty to us poor mortals.
I watched and read several commentaries, memorials and tributes associated with the 11th anniversary of 9/11 last Tuesday. Remembering the victims certainly is appropriate, but nowhere did I find a single reference to who did it. I know we're trying very hard to not offend Muslim sensitivities, which seems not to be working all that well, witness the deadly outrage at the U.S. embassy in Libya and violent demonstrations in Egypt. Seems like the Arab Spring has turned to winter. Some of us felt all along that it was less an expression of democracy and more a power play by radical Islamic elements. Sadly, it appears we may have been right.
We have, or at least had, a tendency to heap scorn on the 19 or 20 perpetrators of the destruction of the WTC twin towers and concurrent murder of thousands of innocents. We usually picture terrorists as wild-eyed ignorant fanatics blowing themselves up. Yet, the 9/11 perpetrators were generally well-educated mostly Saudi men, some of them professionals. However, they chose to immolate themselve in a blatant attack on the U.S. Their motivation was their fervent religious belief, a belief that includes destroying obstacles to the spread or Islam. (The Koran does encourage persuasion but also condones violent and deadly destruction of obstacles to the propagation of the faith.)
These men were simply firm believers in their religion, generally a desirable chracteristic. They felt compelled to martyr themselves in support of that religion, also not really a bad thing when you consider the fate of the Christian apostles. They, however, felt justified in taking many innocent lives with them. Osama bin Laden, the architect of 9/11, was a respected and well-educated professional man as well as a fervent believer. Make no mistake, these people are not kooks, which makes this paradigm even more dangerous.
So, where is the evil in all this. Certainly this was an evil act, considering the loss of innocent life. Was it in the act itself or those who perpetrated it? No, the act in itself was not evil, but the Wahhabist form of radical Islam that justified the act is the true evil. The perpetrators died for their faith. I don't blame them, but then who is to blame? Let us take a look at this faith.
Islam and Christianity have common roots. The Biblical Old Testament is the basis of much of the Koran. The Old Testament contains accounts of bloody violence, a fact frequently pointed out to me, even to the extent of the massacre of women and children. I'm not going to try to justify these historical events. Theologians have twisted themselves into knots trying. The fact is, they happened. But that was then and this is now.
Recall also that Christianity and Islam worship the same Diety. Allah is just another name for God. So, why does radical Islam kill and destroy to defend and spread its faith while Christianity, with the same imperative to spread the faith, does not? The difference is that Christianity is based on the New Testament, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Mohammad is not Jesus. Islam does not have the benign persuasion characteristic of present-day Christianity. (Judaism is another case which I will neglect for now.) We send out missionaries, they--the Wahhabists and their sympathizers--send out bombers.
Why us? What did we ever do to Islam to earn their enmity? The simple truth is, it's our very existence. Remember, Islam demonizes obstacles to the spreading of the faith. The United States, a very successful, rich and extremely powerful Christian (mostly) nation, is a powerful symbolic obstacle to the world-wide spread of Islam. Israel, as a successful Jewish nation in the desert of the Middle East, is another hated symbol of non-Islamic success. However, Israel is small and not nearly the equal of the U.S. It's no accident that Israel is known in the Islamic world as the "Little Satan," but the U.S is known as the "Great Satan." WE are the big problem for expansionist, radical Islam. Thus, we are the target. The Atlantic Ocean and vigilent security measures have protected us for some time, but cannot be depended on to shield us indefinitely.
We must recognize that our enemy, radical, Wahhabist Islam, not a small group by any means and growing, considers our very existence an abomination. As the Israelis know, this enmity will never end. Certainly not all Muslims subscribe to this aggressive form of Islam, just as there are many different Christian denominations, but the radical element is strong and relentless and, sadly, frequently enjoys the tacit approval of the non-violent sects of Islam.
I have no happy ending. But we endanger ourselves by letting down our guard. Apologetics and appeasements will not work. The problem is not what we do, it is us. We would do well not to forget that on this anniversary of the most successful terrorist attack ever.
There was a recent letter published in our daily newspaper from an MD who bemoaned the fact that 70% of health care dollars are spent on the elderly, those over 60. His recommendation was to restrict expensive medical procedures, even life-saving, from older folks. (Full disclosure: I am one of those "old folks.") He suggested the return on investment was too little to warrant spending all that money on the elderly, especially since medical costs are so high and rising.
Professor Peter Singer at Columbia University, who is the philosophical guru for the pro-abortion movement, openly advocates assisted suicide and the withholding of medical procedures from the elderly who, in his opinion, are unproductive and not worth the cost.
Obamacare incorporates medical advisory panels responsible for issuing "guidelines" concerning the cost effectiveness of medical procedures. These are not the so-called "death panels" widely discussed by some opponents. I am not in favor of Obamacare, mainly because I don't trust the government to do much of anything right, but the "death panel" accusation is unwarranted, at least for now.
Elderly parents suffering from strokes, Alzheimer's or just general infirmity, are routinely shunted off to nursing homes and often virtually forgotten. Heaven forbid that caring for the old folks should interfere with our lifestyle. I have seen the insides of two well-rated nursing homes and witnessed the neglect to which many residents are subjected. I heard the granddaughter of a 104-year-old resident curtly inform the lady, in response to a plea to go home, "No, Geneva, this is your home for the rest of your days." Geneva lived out her days in half of a semi-private room.
I saw ranks of white-haired old folks, mostly ladies, lined up in wheelchairs against the wall where they spent most of their days except for the occasional visit by an activity person and mealtimes. This was truly warehousing. Family visits were rare, usually on holidays or the occasional weekend. I've been told by someone who worked in nursing homes for years that once-a-year visits by the children are not uncommon.
Caring for the elderly and infirm at home can be daunting, as I well know. In many other cultures, respect and obligation to elderly family members is simply a given. They are permitted to live out their days in familiar surroundings with loved ones rather than in a sterile institution tended by underpaid and often indifferent staff. I have seen this first hand. Even in so-called "good" nursing homes, care is minimal. My wife was of necessity in nursing homes for a period of a few months. I visited with her for most of every single day. Even with my close presence, she ended up with a bedsore and two rather nasty heel ulcers which took months to heal when we finally got her home. Incidentally, I was the one who detected both problems, not any of the staff. (I noticed blood seeping through her socks.)
Most of the elderly are parents who raised children. They loved, nurtured, fed, clothed, housed, educated and protected them through their growing up. Sadly, too many become, in the words of the Pete Seeger folk song, "obsessed with the mania for owning things." They become wrapped up in the daily demands of their own little lives and are wroth to allow anything or anyone to interfere with their hard-won lifestyle. Mom and Dad are fine so long as they are self-sufficient. When that is no longer the case, "out of sight, out of mind" comes into play in too many instances.
To illustrate the attitude toward elderly parents in other cultures, let me relate an example from personal knowledge. A very close friend, an observant Jew (observes all holidays and festivals) with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, had his elderly and infirm mother living with them in Texas. Travel requirements necessitated by family issues out of state made it difficult to continue to care for Mother. Mike then travelled to Israel to other family in Tel Aviv, a sister as I recall, who were able to care for the lady. He transported her to Israel and settled her in the sister's home. She lived there until she died at the age of 100, among family who loved and cared for her. Mike was there when she passed on.
From a purely practical standpoint, the cavalier attitude toward the elderly in this country is quite understandable. After all, effort expended to care for aged parents must be taken from the precious little time available in most families today. Financially, lawyers and advisors are hired to set up finances so that the old folks' assets are transferred early enough that they quickly become indigent and the county pays for their long-term care. Private pay in nursing homes is rare. (I know. I private-payed for my wife, Joan, for one month and it totally screwed up their accounting system to the extent that it took six months to send me the bill. And then it was wrong.)
Many older folks have conditions, usually involving arthritis, that incur chronic and severe pain. By way of example, my wife, Joan, has extremely severe lumbar spinal arthritis (lower back). All five lumbar vertebrae and the one sacral are involved. There is significant stenosis which resuls in extreme pain. She has virtually no discs left. This situation is inoperable and there is no effective therapy. She has been on major pain medication for many years--the notorious oxycodone. Before her stroke, it allowed her to function. (Despite what you may have read in newspaper articles, the stuff does work.) And yes, she is addicted. So what? At her age, this is irrelevent. Her situation is not unusual, yet our daily newspaper and a number of other do-good organizations are crusading to make it difficult for non-cancer patients to obtain pain medication. No-one suggests an alternative; let the old folks suffer.
The stated goal here is to reduce prescription drug abuse by addicts. The fact is, most illicit pain medication is not prescribed, but rather obtained through a thriving black market supplied via the hijacking of bulk shipments. Some drug store chains have resorted to camouflaging their trucks to reduce the chances of being hijacked. Since law enforcement is unable to stem the hijacking epidemic, the (mostly) liberal "fixers" resort to the easier target of the law-abiding elderly under the theory that "we have to do something."
The hard truth is, old folks are a problem in this country. They threaten to bankrupt Medicare, already nearly 50% subsidized by general tax revenue, take too many medications increasing demand which justifies higher prices, and overload clinics and emergency rooms. Worse, they do not pull teir own weight or produce sufficient wealth and contribution to society to justify their expense.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps I am a bit today, but the trend is there. Rationing of medical care, limitations on drug prescribing and cutting Medicaid payments for long term care are on the horizon. Medicare funding is being cut, somehow magically not impacting service.
Much of this would be solved if we had a culture of caring for our parents and grandparents instead of trying to find ways to duck the responsibility and dump them off on someone else, like government. Most opioid pain medication is generic and not a major contributor to the overall cost of medical care. Unnecessary tests often justified to protect against litigation needlessly increase costs.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is we have a responsibility for our elders. Personal sacrifices made to care for them can be rewarding. I speak from experience. Besides, we owe them! We neglect them at the peril of our souls.
P.S. Translation of the Headline is left to the reader.
I'm sure many of you have been waiting with great anticipation for my take on the current campaigns and upcoming election. Well, this is it, beginning, middle and end. Truthfully, there isn't a whole lot to say, which of course will not stop me. This election is much like others in the recent past, just a little more extreme. The rhetoric is more aggressive and nastier, although the issues are similar: The economy (jobs), social issues like abortion (women's health) and health care especially for the elderly, and that old faithful, the middle class. Oh yes, I almost forgot foreign policy. Misrepresentations and outright lies abound. This, unfortunately, is what elections have deteriorated into.
What is new is the extreme polarization, the gap between left and right. The Obama administration is arguably more government-centric than, say the Clinton years (not all would agree), and Romney is somewhat more conservative than, say, the Bushes (again, not all would agree). The label "Socialist" is frequently applied to President Obama, with some justification, and a "Capitalist" sticker is slapped on Romney. In reality, that's essentially what this election is, or should be, about: philosophy of government.
All else derives from this factor, a consideration often lost in the fog of rhetoric. Domestic and world view depend on philosophical perception of solutions to problems. Obama and the current crop of Liberals have a centric world view that sees the solution to conflict as a meeting of the minds of all nations under centralized enforcement. Nationalism is undesirable. Hence a permissive and benign approach to the Middle East quagmire, an approach that currently does not seem to be working all that well. Our extended hand of friendship has been bitten.
Romney and most Conservatives adopt a more nationalistic approach to foreign relationships, a policy that essentially ensures an armed standoff among unfriendly nations. This, incidentally, is Benjamin Netanyahu's Middle East peace concept: an armed standoff, his version of MAD. But I digress. Both approaches are obviously flawed, but then the situation is intractable unless you subscribe to Jimmy Carter's solution: the elimination of Israel.
Domestically, the differences are classic liberal-conservative. Much misleading rhetoric abounds in this arena. For example, there is an Obama-Biden yard sign that reads, "Bin Laden is dead; the auto industry is alive; vote ... ." Not so. The assassination of Osama bin Laden was in the works for years, before Obama took office. It was authorized under G.W. Bush. Much planning and investigation, including identifying bin Laden's courier-driver and tracing him to Osama's compound, with subsequent mapping of the compound via IR satellite and drone analysis. Obama was called in at the last moment as Seal Team 6 was already in the process of executing the operation. Obama had very little to do with the operation other than giving the final go-ahead. Like he had a choice.
Insofar as the auto industry is concerned, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of bankruptcy. The implication by the administration is that without the massive infusion of bailout--read taxpayer--funds, the two industrial giants and their hundreds of thousands of jobs would disappear from the face of the earth. Anyone familiar with Chapter 11 bankruptcy knows that this is completely contrary to the principle of Chapter 11, which purpose is to allow the company/corporation to reorganize and remain in business. Practically every major airline has gone through bankruptcy and is still in operation.
The real issue was the UAW union contracts, which would have been abrogated by the Chapter 11 process and subject to difficult and certainly less beneficial renegotiation. The bailout was to salvage critical union support for the Democrat administration. Yes, it worked, but so would have Chapter 11, without the huge commitment of government (taxpayer/Chinese) funds.
Romney on the other hand paints Bain Capital as a benevolent organization dedicated to preserving jobs. Hardly. Bain Capital was and is a business primarily concerned with making money. Certainly, the salvage of troubled companies is part of the picture, since could very well be financially beneficial to Bain. However, should circumstances dictate, shutdown of a troubled company and loss of jobs is also in the picture.
I have previously discussed this business of the "middle class," which has myriad definitions. I do not like the division of the American populace into "classes". This is contrary to the principles of this country and the economic system that made it great. "All men are created equal" is not just a clever phrase. It means we all start off even, regardless of circumstances, and our station in life is the result of our efforts. The "middle class" can become the "upper class" or the "lower class" depending on our skills and effort. The "middle class" benefits from the economic progress of the nation as a whole. Government has precious little to do with it except to screw it up.
So, whom do you vote for? Depends on your own personal socio-political philosophy. If you are a lover of government and believe in its efficacy in solving problems, then vote for what we currently have. If you favor independence and personal initiative and believe that the less fettered the economy the better, that money in private hands is better than in the government's, then vote for a change.
I think you know where I stand. Most of all, please vote, but only once.
No, I'm not going to tell you for whom to vote. That is solely your decision. I just want to mention a few things for your consideration. This is, as many pundits have stated, some vehemently, a critical election. It will in all likelihood determine the kind of country we will be for generations to come. There is a stark difference between the two parties and candidates.
President Obama is a borderline--some say extreme--socialist. This is not necessarily an evil thing. A number of countries in the world are socialist, or socialist-leaning, and they are surviving. Some of them in Europe have hit a rough spot, mainly due to irresponsible fiscal policies, but they will undoubtedly survive. (The viability of the European Union is another matter.) We in this country have also been fiscally irresponsible, but due to our inherent strength and resources, we are surviving and probably will continue. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is still survivable, but barely. We should be sweating it.
Should he win this Tuesday, this country will undoubtedly shift further to the left toward a government-managed economy. This will be a form of fiscal socialism, wherein government has the power and resources to manage our lives to our benefit. The absence of the necessity to face re-election will in all liklihood embolden the leftward shift. This will require transfer of significant wealth from the private sector to the government to implement policy. It may not be entirely in the nature of taxes, but in myriad fees and loans. The latter are paper transfers to the private sector, paid back in real money. Hence a transfer of wealth to the government. Obama rather obviously believes firmly in the efficacy of government to "fix" things and manage activities that once were the province of the private sector. Nationalizing of industry is a logical eventuality. If you believe this is a desirable paradigm, then vote accordingly.
On the other hand, if you feel that the private sector is the best vehicle for economic and social progress, then the other side is your cup of tea. Republicans generally support a capitalist model. This country was built on such a model, but it can be argued that today it is outmoded. Capialism/free enterprise generally rewards entrepreneurship and individual responsibility. You are left essentially to sink or swim on your own. This is not a pure policy, but rather a tendency. So, if you favor limited government power over society and the economy, then vote accordingly. What is at stake Tuesday is a choice between two models of society for this country that will endure.
The morning dawned dark and dreary. A cold drizzle was falling. I went out to my mailbox to get the paper and...there it was, big, black and scary: the headline--"It's Obama!" My heart sank. I hadn't watched the election coverage the night before. I went to bed fat, dumb and happy. Today, on this depressing day, the truth slammed into me. We are doomed! We won't survive another four years of the Evil One.
The I went into the kitchen. There, at my window feeder was a tiny black-capped chickadee. Another was at my (heated) bird bath drinking. Then a beautiful crimson cardinal flew onto my white bird feeder in the yard. Then I realized, God was in his Heaven and all was right with the world. Life would go on and we would suvive.
O.K., that's a bit embellished. I didn't--and don't--think we are doomed. I don't like our continuing president. I think he is not good for this country. He will try to drag this nation further to the left, perhaps with some success. The economy will stagger onward in the doldrums. Unemployment will stay high because many businesses, especially small ones, will be reluctant to expand and hire due to uncertainty about government regulations and the impact of Obamacare.
But we will survive! Four years is a drop in the bucket of history. This is a strong country, with great resources that, unfortunately, we are not utilizing. But this nonsense of renewable energy, windmills and solar panels, will eventually sink under its own weight of excessive cost and inefficiency. If by some miracle it doesn't, then I am wrong and it will work, which would be a good thing.
The greatest danger, in my view, is the rise of an entitlement class of people who depend on government for sustenance. This includes many college students, who came out in droves for Obama thinking that he would somehow forgive their loans and/or provide for their education. Should this group become too large, we could have an "Atlas Shrugged" condition where the payers would be buried by the takers. Remember, government has no money of its own. All is our, or China's, money, and the latter is not limitless. Thus, the drift toward socialism, if that's where we're headed and I believe it is, will of necessity be self-limited and will collapse of its own weight. I doubt we will get that far. This country has too long and successful an experience with capitalism.
So, take heart, all you conservative Republicans out there drowning in your beer. At some point we have to learn that we cannot win a negative smear campaign. The left is too good at it, based on long experience. Regardless of media hand-wringing, negative ads do work. In this campaign, they persisted despite published rebuttals. Repetition is diabolically effective. As Alvin Toffler said many years ago (1965 to be exact), "We are advancing the sophistication of deception faster than the technology of verification. The consequence of this is the end of truth." We are there, Dorothy.
Bottom line, I am not depressed. Personally, I believe God has blessed America and will continue to do so. As the Desiderata says, "Although it may not always be clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." So again, take heart, losers. There is always another day.
I was eight years old. It was Sunday, December 7, 1941. We went to church and came home for a quiet Sunday day of rest. We didn't watch the news because in those days we didn't have 24-hour saturation news coverage. Television was in the experimental stage. We had one radio, a brown RCA table radio on the kitchen table against the wall. It had a short wave band with which I liked to fool around. Otherwise, it was seldom turned on.
We knew nothing of the events in the South Pacific on the Island of Hawaii, more correctly Oahu. The Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval facility and Hickam Field, the airbase, that day. Bombs were falling and U.S. warships were blowing up and being sunk. Men were dying by the thousands, over 2300 by final count. The mighty battleship Arizona was mortally wounded by, it was later speculated, a bomb that went down a stack and exploded deep in her bowels next to the powder magazine. (Naval guns fired so large and heavy a projectile that the powder charge and warhead were separate. The gunpowder charge was in cloth bags loaded behind the projectile. The ship's magazine was full of bags of gunpowder.)
The Arizona blew up and capsized. Oil spilled out and caught fire. Few of her crew were able to escape as the lifeboats were useless and the ship was surrounded by a sea of burning oil. But we at home were oblivious. Our sole news source was the evening newspaper. The attack started at about 7:00 A.M., 11:00 A.M. our time The evening newspaper carried an early account of the tragedy. My parents were dumfounded and I was confused. We turned on the radio. Sometime either that day or the next, I forget which, our President Roosevelt spoke to Congress and his speech was carried live on the radio news. We listened to F.D.R.'s famous "This day shall live in infamy" speech, declaring war on the Empire of Japan. The man gave a great speech.
And so we were at war. Soon after Germany declared war on us as an ally of Japan. It is rumored that Hitler was upset at Japan for giving F.D.R. justification for entering the war. It was Adolf's strategy to keep us out. It is also reported that Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese naval office in charge of the attack, was opposed to it. He is reputed to have said afterwards, when his fellow officers were celebrating their great victory, that he feared that all they had done was to awaken a sleeping tiger. History proved him to be prophetic.
The war effort that followed was remarkable in its dedication and single-minded goal: to defeat the Axis. We had war bond drives. Schoolchildren purchased war stamps for 10¢ each and pasted them in a booklet. When the booklet was full you exchanged it for a $25 war bond, We kids planted victory gardens to help with food. Seed packets were distributed through the school free of charge. The garden was only 5 ft. x 7 ft., but everything helped.
We had food rationing with ration books that allowed limited purchases of staples. No steak. Gas rationing allowed the purchase of limited amounts of gasoline a month, just enough for my father to drive to and from work. Nothing was left for recreational trips. We had an "A" ration card, designated by a black sticker with a white "A" on the inside of the windshield. This was the lowest priority. Farmers, workers in essential industries and government officials had other letter placards like "B" and "D" allowing more gasoline to be purchased. We collected fat drippings and turned them in. (Fat was used to make munitions.) Nylon stockings disappeared, replaced by rayon which ran so easily that stockings with runs became the norm. (Nylon was needed for parachutes.) There was much more.
War plants sprang up seemingly overnight and other industries converted to war production. There was a shortage of workers because of the draft and the expansion of the industrial base. Women went to work in large numbers. Some journalist coined the phrase "Rosie the Riveter" and it stuck. The gals did a great job. Many signed their names inside warplanes, occasionally with an address.
The country was united like never before. There was no dissent, no peace activists, no media criticism. Patriotism was endemic. There was but one purpose and that was to win the war. Sleeping tiger, indeed. The rest is history.
So, that's what we commemorate on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, this year the 71st anniversary of the "Day of Infamy." The commemoration seems less of an event with each passing year. I think that's unfortunate.
We live in an unfriendly world armed to the teeth with weaponry that dwarfs anything that existed in 1941. There are people out there who don't like us very much. There are powerful nations working hard to equal and exceed our military capability. We are the king of the hill and there are those whose goal is to pull us down. The risk to this nation is not al Qaeda or the Taliban; they cannot defeat us. China and Russia are not our friends and they are growing in power while we are focused on this Middle East exercise in futility. Does anyone really believe that the Arab world will become peace-loving democracies, regardless of what we do? Our danger comes not from there but from nations with the capability to defeat us militarily. Not yet, but there are policies in place in Washington that do not bode well in the long term for our military strength. This could turn out to be a tragic mistake.
Complacency is a deadly enemy. Just ask the souls of the 2300.
I recently published two posts on the existence of evil as a palpable entity in the world (Face of Evil and Dual). I recommend re-reading them. Now we have another horrific example, the Sandy Hook massacre of Kindergarten children by a 20-year-old misfit. Adam Lanza was an obscure loner who, while considered strange, was not thought to be insane. Strangely, the divorce court gave his mother complete control over his affairs. It would be interesting to know why.
After an altercation with his mother, he took one of her guns and shot her in the face, a particularly brutal way to shoot someone. He then went to a nearby Elementary School with which he or his mother had no connection, broke in by shooting out the glass in the door and, armed with two handguns, embarked on a rampage. The principal and the school psychologist tried to stop him but were no match for his guns and were shot down dead. (One wonders if things would have ended differently if one of those school officials had been armed. A moot point because the school was a gun free zone.)
He then proceeded to a Kindergarten classroom and shot 27 children to death, finally taking his own life as the police closed in, for a total casualty count of 31 killed including him and his mother. There is no conceivable motive for this most horrendous of acts. No level of insanity would impel such an act, and Adam was not psychotic by all accounts.
As usual, we are currently engaged in an orgy of attempted explanations and preventive action proposals, from greater gun control although no-one has shown how that would have prevented this event outside of complete gun confiscation, which actually has been proposed by one legislator, to greater concern for mental health. Another legislator proposal has been to ban "semi-automatic handguns" in complete ignorance of the fact that all modern handguns, including revolvers, are semi-automatic--firing each time the trigger is pulled. An assault weapons ban is completely irrelevent to this situation in that none were involved. Tighter restrictions on gun sales would also have been ineffective in that the two weapons he used were legally and conventionally purchased by his mother.
So, what to do, for we must do something in accordance with standard liberal philosophy, other than wring our hands? The answer is, there is nothing we can do to prevent this type of perpetrator from committing heinous and inexplicable acts or horror. What we are dealing with, as I have previously stated, is a palpable force of evil. If you prefer demonic possesion, I suppose that's close enough. Evil is loose in the world and getting more powerful with each passing day. Even in pacifist countries like Norway, evil performs. I won't talk about some of the atrocities occurring daily in the Middle East and Africa, and other places around the world.
Gun control, even confiscation, is not the answer. The British are considering banning knives to stem the increase in violence following their gun ban. The only protection against evil is to oppose it with force. Yes, I'm talking about an armed responsible public. Sandy Hook is just the latest in a series of senseless mass killings that could have been prevented or mitigated by armed civilian opposition. Not in every case, of course, but at least potential victims would have a fighting chance against the encroachment of evil.
I know this is controversial, but I am open to a better suggestion. (Please, not forcible confiscation of 17 million guns.) I firmly believe that the only way to defeat evil is to confront it with effective means.
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