Friday, December 31, 2010

Tinian

North of Guam, where America's day starts,  are the Marianna's.  One of the islands is Tinian.  It is most famous as the launch point for the Enola Gay and Bockscar.  In 1985(ish) I learned an important Physics lesson although I was just a bystander.

For the record, two aircraft cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  I think it all has to do with the density of atoms, or the time space continuum, or crappy command and control.

We were practicing a night airfield seizure, like Entebbe, but we had a much bigger force.  There were helicopters, and about eight C-130s scheduled to land at North Field.  It was a clear calm night and everything should have been pretty straight forward except...

When the first helo arrived at the air field and opened the door to lower a  the "Fast Rope" one of the combat controllers actually beat it the ground. He fell at least 50 feet on and into the coral runway.  Needless to say he wasn't having a good night.  The helicopter landed the medics and then went to the approach end of the runway to wait for him to be stabilized for evacuation.

Meanwhile on the C-130 command and control net, the Colonel unaware of this problem, decided to tell the C-130's to land early.  So in they start; in from their holding point.  We are doing all this in complete darkness using night vision goggles.  As the first 130 starts to flare for his landing he catches a glint off the rotor blades of the helicopter.  He firewalls the throttles to go around, but the planes momentum carries it down into the rotor blades of the Blackhawk, knocking it over and shredding the left main landing gear on the 130.

Once the "knock it off" call was made we started sorting out the pieces.  Another helicopter brought in a medical team to evacuate the army guys shaken up in the crash, and the combat controller who's shattered arm had been extracted from the coral runway.  As the MC-130 crew sorted out their problems, we decided not to foam the runway at Anderson and they came in and landed, keeping the left gear off the ground as long as they could. When they set it down they ground looped about 90 degrees.  I think the Rangers in the back were very grateful to be on firm land.

For those who may not be very familiar with military training I would offer this one thought.  What we do in training has to be tough and is by its nature risky because War is very unforgiving.  We were all very fortunate that evening not to lose a lot of soldiers and airman.

Have a happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Deck the Halls with Bowls of Football.

So we can’t have a Division IA football playoff?  It would ruin the bowl system we have today, it would cheapen the value of the BCS and the big bowls.  Right!  We wouldn’t want to ruin that, would we?  I wish someone, anyone, in the NCAA could actually be honest and admit its all about the dollars.  So what happens if we took the top 16 teams and had a play off?  What would that mean?
Week 1 -- you need eight bowl games with seeds 1-16
Week 2 -- you need four bowl games with winners 1-8
Week 3 -- you need two bowl games 
Week 4 -- you need one bowl game.
Total: 15 games.  
A quick check with ESPN indicates there are 35 Division 1 bowl games out there, three bowls seem to be so the military academy's get to go and of course there is the always popular “New Era Pinstripe Bowl” from Yankee Stadium (year 1).
Heck, we have enough bowl games to have an NIT equivalent tournament for the rest of the crowd.  So why wouldn’t this work?  Coaches would hate it because they wouldn’t have weeks to prepare their teams, players would actually have to show up to play, and the big four bowls would probably feel slighted.  The bowl committees would be worried the potential championship would be between Bowling Green and Connecticut, and the conferences would oppose because they could potentially not have a team in the run.
But, maybe we could make it 32 teams in two flights and use up all the bowls and add a week 5 for a true championship with a potential 32nd seed becoming National Champion.  Wouldn’t that be a kick in pants!  That is why this can never be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Random Thoughts

Why is it cold in the winter, when we are closer to the sun?  
If you are traveling faster than the speed of sound can you still hear yourself?
If you are in the back of a C-5 Galaxy and throw a football to the front how far will it actually travel?
Is there life in Death Valley?  If so why is it called Death Valley?
If light takes 8 minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, where does it go at night?
Why don’t Piranha eat each other?
When did the Portuguese decide Spanish wasn’t good enough?
What would happen if they left the lock gates open in the Panama Canal?
If we turned off all the GPS satellites could we still find our way to Grandma’s house?
What is a mountain wave, if it isn’t a fan reaction at the Denver Broncos?
If people who live in Wales are Welsh, and people who live in Scotland are Scotts, why are people who live in England polite?
In England the shortest distance between two points does not exist.
Why don’t they put ice in their drinks in Iceland?
If the wise men were following the Christmas star, how long was Christmas that year?
If you are half way between California and Hawaii you are farther from land than anywhere else on earth (I think).
If Sirius is the dog star what is Pluto?
If a truck weighs 2,000 pounds empty and 2,250 pounds carrying 1,000 canaries sitting on their perches how much does it weigh if 500 of them are fluttering around?
Why are more women blond when they are 30 than when they are 13?
If common sense were really common wouldn’t more people have it?
How many times does the moon rotate on its axis during one lunar cycle (about 28 days)?
How many dimes are there in a quarter?
Would the economy really come to a screeching halt if my wife stopped shopping? 
How did I survive my youth without a bike helmet, kneepads, elbow pads and padded handlebars?
What is the right way to eat pizza?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Traditions

I live next to a small Air Force base.  A small base with a very large loudspeaker.  In the morning I awake to reveille, as I walk to my car, after work, I stop and render honors as retreat is played, and as I close my eyes at night I can hear the faint melody of taps.  These are all traditional military songs for us, and I find comfort in their regularity.
Traditions are the salve of age, and the antithesis of youth.  When we are young, we know everything, and if we haven’t thought of it, it must not be important.  For example, in the 60’s the young “discovered” sex, drugs and rock and roll.  In the 70’s I think it was Disco (not every decade can have great discoveries).  The 80’s brought big hair bands and personal computing, the 90’s showed us the way to corporate greed and the cell phone, and in the 00’s we discovered the information superhighway where everyone knows everything almost instantaneously.  In each case, the young are the first to jump in and explore the boundaries, to push the edges, or to take a line for Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff “They are always pushing the envelop.”
Youth doesn’t want or need tradition, or so they think.  It only interferes with the changes they will make in the world.  They believe what has gone before is far less important than what they have the right and the will to accomplish.  In a sense they are right, but only in a sense.   There is a famous and oft’ repeated quote from the late philosopher, George Santayana, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Taken from his Reason in Common Sense, it has become the sound bite for him, and does not really reflect the sum of his writings, but the thought is valid and true.  If we think we are the first to find a way, we will experience the same failures, blocks, or successes as past generations.  It speaks to the unchanging nature of humanity.
Youth of my generation where alienated by the corruption and political gamesmanship of the ruling politicians in place in government in the 60’s.  Everyone was antiwar, antiestablishment, anti-everything, during the 60’s.  None of the elders knew a thing about what they were doing.  Isn’t it funny to find out 40 years later they were the “Greatest Generation.”  As I look at my peers can I really say we learned from their past mistakes?  Did we do a far superior job in raising the next generation, or shaping a government for the people, by the people and of the people?
If we had spent some collective time honoring the traditions of our fathers and mothers we might not have gone off halfcocked with all the changes we have made.  Perhaps abortion would not be a common solution to an unexpected pregnancy.  Perhaps the right to honor God as we understand him, and the right not to, would be considered equal and viable options and the two opposing groups would not be spending year after year sorting this out in the courts.
Now there a good traditions and there are bad traditions, the difficulty is in determining what we should honor and what we must condemn.  If we are truly one nation surely we can sort these out within our collective society, and keep those that unify us.  For example, why can’t we teach our youth to cover their heart as a sign of respect during the National Anthem?  
Just say’n.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Three Friends at an Intersection

Three young men or women, or two men and woman, or two women and a man (to avoid sexist stereotyping) are walking down the street and come across an elderly woman (or man) attempting to cross the street.

One young man/woman says, clearly the government needs to do something about the traffic and pedestrian problems, we need to get a crossing signal installed, I shall write the mayor.

Another says, the whole urban area is flawed, a traffic signal isn't doing enough, we need to reroute traffic so these poor old people don't face this kind of problem, I shall push for design of a new city plan and seek stimulus funding to implement new traffic flow and eliminate this problem for all future generations.

The third agrees there may be wisdom in those approaches, but questions the cost versus gain as he assists the person across the street.

Can you pick out the Liberal, Progressive, and Fiscal Conservative?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Season's Greetings

As  this Christmas season reaches its pinnacle and we prepare for a new year of challenges, blessings, and experiences may each of us find the courage to follow our hearts.

Best wishes to all -- JgT

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to Name an Airplane

One of the fun parts of my job is occasionally when we buy new aircraft or develop new models we can request an informal name for it.  For example most people know the C-130 is called "the Hercules," but we have a fair number of varieties with informal names that have been approved by the Air Force Chief of Staff.

For example:  the AC-130H is known as "Spectre" while the AC-130U is known as "Spooky.  Both trace their lineage back to the original gunships of Viet Nam. The HC-130 rescue version is known as "King," again from its Viet Nam days.  Since I deal mostly with multi-mission aircraft designated MC-130 lets talk about them.  The original MC-130E is known as Combat Talon, the newer MC-130H is called the "Combat Talon II."  We have an MC-130P called "Combat Shadow" and a MC-130W named Combat Spear.  We are buying new MC-130Js that will be called "Combat Shadow II."

MC-130W Combat Spear
I am somewhat disappointed we can't come up with better names than just adding a roman numeral to the end, but that is what we've got.  When we developed the MC-130W we kind of kludged together a bunch of stuff and added it to a basic C-130H.  When we started the process of recommending new names for it.  Here are some the candidate names thrown around that didn't make the cut.  COMBAT KNIFE, COMBAT DAGGER, COMBAT PHOENIX, and my personal favorite COMBAT WOMBAT!  Wombat was for the W at the end of the designation.  We even had a motto for it:  Marsupials rule the night!

Once we have a list of candidate names we write to the Chief of Staff and unless he hates the name he approves (there are a few steps I am leaving out here) and wham-bam! You have a name.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Who Would Have Thought Submarines Could Fly

In 1993 to 1995 I was the Deputy Commander, and then Director of Test Operations, for an a Special Operations Test Organization here in the Florida Panhandle.  The role of the unit was to evaluate new equipment and tactics to determine if they were suitable for use.  In that role I oversaw a bunch of tests; ranging from new electronic jamming techniques, new bullets for the guns we have on our aircraft, to new airdrop techniques.  It sounds cool, but mostly I spent my days trying to get the test directors to write down what they did and how it worked, rather than just send out a brief e-mail.  
One day I come into the office from lunch and I have two of my noncommissioned officer (NCO) test directors waiting for me.  My secretary says they’ve been a while and it is important that I meet with them.  So into my office we go.
I don’t remember exactly who started the conversation but it went something like this...
“Sir, you know we’ve been helping the Army and the Navy with their test.” I say I remember, but since it wasn’t one we were directly responsible for I didn’t pay much attention to the details.  “Well anyway, they were out on the water range this morning and had a bit of a problem.”  [The water ranges are in the Gulf of Mexico and we do a lot of flying there to avoid the local population areas.]
I reach behind me to grab a cup of coffee, while I wave the NCO to continue.  “You know sir, we weren’t in charge, we were just helping.”  At this point I start to get a sinking feeling we are talking about more than “a bit of a problem.”  I ask them to get to the point so we can figure out what we need to do.  “What were the test points for today?”
“THEY were doing sling testing [a procedure where something is attached by straps and carried under the helicopter] and they had to jettison the load.”  Okay, so far not too bad, this is why we test isn’t it?  So I ask, “What were they carrying?”  The answer, one of the SEALS new mini-subs.  They now have my undivided attention.
“They picked up the sub over at Panama City and were slinging it out to a rendezvous point where they were going to meet up with the SEALS, lower the sub and let them do their thing.  Everything was going great until the 47 started to make a high speed turn and then all the sudden the sub flew up and hit it.  Just before it hit the aircraft the hoist operator tried to jettison it, but it was too late.  They Navy is starting the recovery operation now, we know where it went in and it's only about 200 feet deep in that area.”  How high were they when the jettisoned I ask?  About 1,500 feet give or take is the answer.
“We talked with their engineers, none of them thought that the sub would behave like that!”  “Behave like what” I ask.  “You know, go flying around like an airplane.”  I stare at them for a long moment and then ask “how do subs work?”  The answer I get back is one of my favorites.  “I don’t know, I guess they kind of fly through the water?”
We ended our support for the test and left the Army and Navy to figure out what went wrong, but I would have loved to meet the pilots of the MH-47 at the officers club and had them explain to me how a helicopter can have a mid-air with a sub at 1,500 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What are My Options

What are my options?  This should always be the first question asked and answered when we are confronted with a problem.  I find in my work it seldom is.  All too often leaders and commanders think they must direct solutions to appear strong and assertive.  
In briefings I watch the briefer rush to answer questions, even before they can be fully asked.  It is as if speed is the essential part, and accuracy or correctness just coincidental.  
In meetings where we are discussing the potential expenditure of very, very, large sums of money I watch the commander move swiftly to direct technical solutions without any real consideration of the cost, technical risk, or potential for success.  All too often without the insight or knowledge of what is involved.
What are our options?  Such a simple question.  As we look at our lives, how often do we stop to consider our options?  Each day we awake, we start the morning routine and move forward with our lives.  Do we spend any time considering what choices we have to make?
Prayer, or meditation, or contemplation, or whatever is central to you should be a time to consider your options.  I think far too frequently we spend time wishing for change, or asking for new wisdom or for someone to fix the issue.  Perhaps we should ask “What are my options?”
As our government polarizes in debate between the left and the right, what are my options?  What should I do, what can I do, how can I do it?  If we believe we control our destiny than these questions we must each answer for ourselves.  If we bury our heads, and allow our elected officials to forget they work for us then we have little to complain about when it turns in a direction we do not care for.
If you write; only to complain and never praise then, like a parent who disciplines only when the whim strikes, you can expect a government that seems unrepentant.  What are our options when we talk with our elected officials? 
As we deal with life, and death, we always have options.  Before you act, before you speak, before you walk away, know your options.

A Quiet of the Morning Thought

Another week has come and gone
The days have joined together
I oft' times wonder who am I
and to what purpose set

There are those who dream grand things
and there are those who don't
It seems always the case
that opposites must balance

As Helen Keller once time said
"I am but one, but still I am one"
So too do I believe
As I set forth, in my way
let me be that one who does.

Thank you all who stop to read
my thoughts, as I do ponder
I pray thee well, and life fulfilled
as you go far beyond today

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Holidays in DC

As the holiday season settles upon us, it is grand to see the politicians continue with the old traditions.  First we see the newly empowered Republicans pushing for tax cuts, and the embittered Democrats complaining about how morally bankrupt it is to give rich people the same thing we give to the rest of the nation.  Clearly the idea that rich people should be considered equal to the common man is an anti-American ideal.

Neither side is willing to consider limited spending, or actually passing legislation that deals with a single issue.  If you can't cram your favorite pork into a bill why have one?  I have but one thing to say.

We clearly didn't throw out enough Congressman in November.

Monday, December 13, 2010

There I Was.



It was in the winter of 1993 when my unit was directed to assist in humanitarian relief efforts over Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I was minding my own business, running the Crisis Action Team when the Director of Operations told me I was to be the mission commander for a three or four aircraft deployment of the 7th Special Operations Squadron.
We deployed to Rhein-Main AB, Frankfurt Germany.  It was the base we had left about 9 months earlier, so it was like homecoming, except we were all staying in this really nice hotel out the back gate.  The MC-130H the 7th SOS was flying was brand new and not all the capabilities were qualified yet.  For example its radar was still getting the bugs worked out and the aircrew couldn’t drop from high altitudes.
The mission of the Air Force was to fly down to Bosnia and airdrop resupply bundles to people who were starving.  The second job was to not get shot down while doing it.  So everyone was flying about 25,000 feet above the ground and dropping bundles with parachutes rigged to open up when they were about 2,000 above the ground.  This meant the aircraft had to fly to a precise point and then calculate the effects the wind would have on the bundle while it free fell and then the effect it would have while it was drifting under the parachutes.  What I thought  to be a premiere squadron, told me they couldn’t do what every C-130 crew in the AF could do, they had to fly in Low Level and airdrop from 1,000 feet or less.  So that is what they planned to do.  We briefed this foolishness up to the the three star Admiral in charge, before he finally explained to the squadron commander he was not about to put a valuable aircraft and its crew at risk from small arms fire and surface to air missiles just to drop beans.  The job was just to drop so the bundle landed near a city in the right country.  The squadron was convinced this was too hard to do, so they put their collective heads together to see what options might exist.
What they came up with was genius for two reasons.  It worked and it was a lot cheaper than what went before it.
One of the missions the 7th SOS trained to do was to drop propaganda leaflets.  This required they throw out cardboard boxes filled with small leaflets to inform the general population or entice the enemy to surrender.  They started to think of the humanitarian meals as if they were leaflets.  The meals are packaged just like the military meals ready to eat (MRE).  The have a very tough plastic bag outer wrapping and then individual components wrapped inside.  They asked themselves, why not throw out the MRE’s individually rather than in a box under a parachute. 

Once they figured this out, the General we worked for had two questions.  Would the boxes break apart and what would a meal do it it hit someone while falling from 25,000 feet. In his words we didn’t want to kill someone with a falling refrigerator.  We had some government engineers who were there to help trouble shoot the problems we were having with our radar so we put them to work on figuring out the terminal velocity of the meal and what it would feel like if it hit you.

MRE
I can remember driving up to the building we were working out of and seeing the engineers in this small control tower that was about 6 stories high.  One was at the top throwing down meals, the other was running around the ramp trying to get hit by it.  While I was there the security police drove up to ask me what was going on.  I told them it was a classified military project.  They watched for about five minutes before driving away.  Last I saw they were laughing and shaking their heads.  The verdict on question 2: if hit by a meal it would leave a welt like you were hit with a well thrown softball.
For the first challenge we got permission to drop a couple of boxes of MRE on a drop zone in Germany.  Grafenwoehr was about a hour east of Frankfurt and a drop zone the unit was very familiar with.  We loaded up a couple of hundred MRE’s into big cardboard boxes and flew over to drop them.  We had video cameras on the ground and in the plane to document the results.  It worked perfectly, the boxes left the plane and when they hit the airstream behind the plane they blew apart.  All the MRE’s looked like a cloud as the tumbled to earth.  We came home with a lot of back slapping.
I headed off to brief the General that we had a plan.  He liked the idea because it was something the French and Italian allies could drop.  His only question was who was cleaning up the drop zone at Grafenwoehr.  I told him we had that covered, so the next day a couple of sergeants and I headed down to pick up the 200 or so MRE’s.  Fortunately for us the German boars had found them, and apparently had no qualms about eating the pork patties.  We spent about three hours picking up the wrappers.
So there we where with a new tactic, we just needed permission to try it.  After about a week of briefings to senior officers we were cleared to give it a try.  We loaded two aircraft with about 15,000 pounds of meals each.  They were loaded in about a dozen large boxes specifically cut to make sure they broke apart when the wind hit them.  As sunset approached the aircraft taxied out and took off. The aircraft took off and headed south to Bosnia.  As they approached the drop zone they unpressurized the aircraft in preparation for opening the aft ramp.  It was then we discovered one thing we had overlooked.  What would happen to the packages when they were at 25,000 ft.
Like I said the packaging was a very strong plastic bag that was sealed to be air tight.  At 25,000 everything expands because the pressure is gone.  For example, at sea level atmospheric pressure is about 14.7 lbs/sq inch.  At 25,000 is is about 0 lbs/sq inch.  So these airtight containers puffed up, just like a popcorn kernel.  In fact, the box lids all blew open and meals popped out of them just like a box of Jiffy Pop.  Over the right point the loads were pushed out and began their 4 mile journey to earth.
The feedback we received was they were scattered all over, kind of like manna from heaven.  This had a unexpected plus of making it hard for the warlords to control the food and in turn the people.  Sometimes necessity really is the mother of invention.  This was the first example of a system that has become known as TRIADS (regardless of what anyone says it gets its name from the name of the box we used to carry the drops.


Information on Tridads

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It’s Not My Job and It’s Not My Fault

Two frequently used excuses I would like to put into context.
It’s not my job to run the government, and its not my fault the country is now trillions of dollars in debt.  Whose fault is it?  In our republic we, the citizens, elect our representatives to enact legislation supposedly for the nation.  We have allowed those representatives to stay in office for term after term so they no longer function for us, but for those who contribute to their campaigns or in other ways enrich them.  They have lost complete understanding of the value we place in our tax dollars and look at funds only in the abstract.  If keeping a Representative or Senator in office for life is not our fault whose is it?  Each is just one small voice, but as the tea party has begun to teach we can band together and be a chorus.  If we want to be a nation, we must be involved and pay attention to what our representatives do with our tax dollars.  If we look to them to fix everything they will fix nothing.  If we look to them to be smarter than us we fail to give ourselves the credit we deserve.  We must look first to ourselves for solutions and then to the government, not the other way around.
It is not my job to teach children, and its not my fault children don’t learn.  Do we really think it is the fault of bad teachers?  Is the world made up of universally bad teachers?  If it is not your job, as a parent or adult, to teach children then clearly it must be your fault they can’t learn.  If we forsake our role as model for children to follow, and we let them believe pro athletes are the best, we get kids who think dunking a basketball or running a 4.4 forty is all that matters in life.  We get kids who know they know more than their elders, and think drugs, either performance enhancing or recreational, are the way to be cool.  Unless we are hermits, each of us influence children everyday.  If we are rude, they learn rudeness, if we are mean they learn meanness, if we hate, they hate.  If, on the other hand, we show them respect and demand respect in return, they will learn respect.  If we are honest, and demand honesty they will learn that too.  If, when dealing with teachers, we listen, we challenge, and we don’t accept our kids excuses when we get notes home, perhaps they will learn.  Teachers are not always right, but neither are they always wrong.  It takes both Parents and Teachers for children to learn.
It’s not my job to keep this family together, its not my fault we are getting a divorce.  Really?  Is divorce really “no fault?”  If not no fault is it always the other sides fault?  Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate reasons for divorce, and there are times marriage must end for the preservation of life, but I think we’ve reached a point in our society where marriage is no longer a vow, a commitment, or a blessing.  It is more of a phase, kind of like acne.  When things are inconvenient we walk away.  It seems trite to “stay together for the kids.”  and the entertainment industry is now showing us we really don’t need to, unless we want a SITCOM or a reality show, but whose job is it to show children commitment and the conflicts life inevitably brings to you and the adversity you have to work through together?  Its not my job is it?


 is my job to leave the world better than I found it.  If each of us would take this as our first responsibility I wonder what tomorrow would be like?

Friday, December 10, 2010

To Advocate Versus to Govern

So as I understand it the Democrats are now willing to lambast the senior voice of their own party, the President, over his issue of tax cuts for the wealthy.  They will then turn around and say it is the Republicans fault the country fails.
General Sherman would be proud of this “scorched earth” approach.  To bad, no one seems to know how to compromise and govern for the public good.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nature

The day breaks cold and clear
Nature is filled with sounds and strife
A raptor soars high above
Searching for his pray
In the fields a small deer
Warmed by his mother, stirs to life
Moving through tall grass
Seeks only to play
A mouse scurries in fear
The day offers no comfort
To its nest, 
At last to rest
Nature offers freedom
We each have a place
All contribute
in the circle of life

As you can tell I am no poet, but I think from time to time it is good to play with words.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So Let Me Get This Straight

Congress is again in session, the Republicans are pushing their agenda, from a position of strength, the Democrats are countering the Republican position on Moral grounds.  Really?  Clearly they have all reached this belief independently and it is coincidence it seems to be a party talking point.
Senator Bernie Sanders, VT, said today,
"In my view, it is a moral outrage that at a time when this country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else that the Republicans would deny extended unemployment benefits to 2 million workers who are desperately struggling to pay their bills and maintain their dignity. It is also beyond comprehension that the Republicans would hold hostage the entire middle class of this country so that millionaires and billionaires would receive huge tax breaks. In my view, that is not what this country is about and it is not what the American people want to see...” (Common Dreams.org)
Sen Mary Landrieu, LA, says "I'm going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy," (Huffington Post)
Both Senator’s appear to share the belief the principle role of government is to realign wealth.  To give to those who have not prospered, the wealth of those who have.  Both have contributed to the massive government debt we now have, yet somehow extending the tax cuts to 2% of the population will single handedly bankrupt the country.  As Senator Sanders says, “Our job is to save the disappearing middle class, not lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy and increase the national debt that our children and grandchildren would have to pay.”  Where was that concern for debt last year?
Senator Landrieu said; "It's what I'm calling the Obama-McConnell plan. We're going to borrow $46 billion from the poor, from the middle class, from businesses of all sizes basically to give a tax cut to families in America today, that despite the recession, are making over a million dollars. I mean, this is unprecedented. Unprecedented. I want to repeat that," (Huffington Post).  Does she listen to herself?  By law the poor do not pay taxes, so I am not sure how we can borrow something they don’t give.  With regards to precedent, when she voted for the original tax cuts wouldn’t that be a precedent?  Wait this must be the newly found fiscal responsibility everyone is talking about!
On November 30th, The Alexandria Town Talk (thetowntalk.com) ran an associated press article where Senator Landrieu joined with both Democrats and Republicans to block a Senate rule to “ban the practice of larding spending bills with earmarks -- those pet projects that lawmakers love to send home to their states”  Where was Ms. Landrieu’s moral indignation then?  Wouldn’t these earmarks borrow the same money from the poor that she is so concerned with now?  Maybe fiscal responsibility and moral indignation is intended to be like a sweater, you put it on when it suits you.
Call me callous, but it is this kind of approach to governance that makes term limits such an attractive constitutional amendment.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 7th

Tomorrow is December 7th, a day that shall live in infamy.  Lest we forget, it is the day that brought the US into World War II.  For most of us we only know what we see in the history books, but it is the 9/11 of my parents and my grandparents generation.

It is the day a nation, that prided itself on its warrior culture and honor, apparently allowed the Army and Navy to pursue a plan of deception to begin this conflict.  (Howard W. French (December 9, 1999). "Pearl Harbor Truly a Sneak Attack, Papers Show". The New York Times.)  Popular history has always said they just screwed up the timing and initiated its attacks before it declared itself.  According to Wikipedia, 2,402 US personnel were killed and 1,282 were wounded.  It also indicated that 65 Japanese were killed and one was captured.

This singular event spun a nation that had mixed feeling about global engagement into what is today a global super power.  With our industrial capacity we were able to replace allied losses of material and dominate the global struggle.  The Axis powers of Germany and Italy joined with Japan were never in a position to make up for that disadvantage.  It would be an interesting speculation on what alternative course the world would have taken if Germany and Italy had not declared war on us.

So where are we some 69 years later?  Well, for one thing we clearly don't have the industrial capacity we had then.  We've shut down most of our critical manufacturing plants and moved those industries overseas.  One has only to look at the number of textile plants we have, or the number of heavy industry plants like steel to realize we are no longer self sufficient.  I would think our jobless rates reflect we are becoming a nation of services, dependent on others, just as Great Britain was dependent on Empire at the onset of the second great war.  There are only so many McDonalds jobs available if only 1 in 15 is actually producing a product that will bring in profit from the global market.

We no longer have the natural resources we had back then.  We've never been keen on the commitment to renewing our environment when it interfered with profit. As the economy has become more and more dependent on hydrocarbon based natural resources the dependance on those countries with access to them has increased.  Clearly our foreign policies must take into account the relationships we have with them as we determine what is in our national interest.

National will, in the 1942 we were willing to commit to whatever it took and our citizens were asked to make significant sacrifices.  After 9/11 our leaders made the commitment to pursue a vague and uncertain enemy, but not to ask our citizens to alter their life styles to accomplish this.  So it should not be surprising that a nation that has become dependent on fast food, would lose interest and demand a change, just as they did in the Viet Nam conflict.

I would recommend a book called On Strategy by Harry Summers should be reviewed so we understand that none of our leaders seem to know or recognize the Strategic issues we face, choosing rather to focus on the Tactical problems because they are easier to deal with.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When Pigs Fly

A mentor of mine once told me a story of when he was a young airman in Special Operations.  They were developing a new recovery method called the "STAR" or Surface to Air Recovery, it was invented by a gentleman named Robert Fulton who the Great (x?)...grandson of THE Robert Fulton we've all read about for inventing the steam powered ship.  Apparently inventing runs in the family.  STAR is also known as the Fulton Recovery System.  If you've seen the John Wayne movie "Green Berets", or perhaps a James Bond movie or Batman you may have seen how it works.  If not, here is a link from YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5GJ4cu311o

During the testing they wanted to see how the system worked with live weight, without putting a human at risk.  Since it was designed to lift two men they figured they would use a 500 lb. pig.  The plan was to sedate the pig, lift it into the aircraft and then herd it into a crate and bring it home.

The testing was being done over the airdrop ranges around Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Everything went as planned on pick up.  The pig was successfully lifted into the trail position and began the process of being winched onto the airplane.  It was only when they got it to the ramp that they realized it was no longer sedated.

As they brought it on board they had one really pissed off porker to deal with.  They unhooked it from the harness and tried to push it into the pen.  Instead the pig took off squealing and shitting all over the cargo compartment.  After running around the front of the plane it went charging off the ramp into space, falling from about 2,000 feet to the North Carolina countryside.

I can see this in my minds eye!  I can imagine a country farmer walking out of his house in the morning on the way to the fields when all the sudden a 500 pound pig comes crashing to earth. "Come quick Martha, pigs are falling from the sky!"  Being North Carolina the next statement would be "fire up the barbecue."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What do You Do When Your Brain is Full of Old Quotes?

    In High School I was in Civil Air Patrol.  It was, and still is, an auxiliary of the US Air Force,  conducting search and rescue for aircraft lost in the United States and education for young people.  It also teaches some basic skills to its cadet members.  It is kind of a Boy or Girl Scout organization for kids who like the Air Force.
    As part of the training we took a course on leadership.  The one thing I can't get out of my head from that course is a quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.
"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes -- and ships--and sealing-wax -- Of Cabbages -- and Kings -- And Why the Sea is boiling hot -- And Whether pigs have wings."
     To this day I don't have a clue about what this had to do with leadership.  I know in the past 40 years I haven't had to talk to any of those I have been  responsible for about any of those topics.  I have had, on occasion, told someone I would do something when pigs fly, but that is about as close as I've come.  But, on the other hand, they did lead a squadron of clams to the dinner table.

    In 10th or 11th grade English I had to do a dramatic reading.  I chose to read from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber.
    . . . "It's the millionaire banker, Wellington McMillan," said the pretty nurse. "Yes?" said Walter Mitty, removing his gloves slowly. "Who has the case?" "Dr. Renshaw and Dr. Benbow, but there are two specialists here, Dr. Remington from New York and Mr. Pritchard-Mitford from London. He flew over." A door opened down a long, cool corridor and Dr. Renshaw came out. He looked distraught and haggard. "Hello, Mitty," he said. "We're having the devil's own time with McMillan, the millionaire banker and close personal friend of Roosevelt. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish you'd take a look at him." "Glad to," said Mitty.     In the operating room there were whispered introductions: "Dr. Remington, Dr. Mitty. Mr. Pritchard-Mitford, Dr. Mitty." "I've read your book on streptothricosis," said Pritchard-Mitford, shaking hands. "A brilliant performance, sir." "Thank you," said Walter Mitty. "Didn't know you were in the States, Mitty," grumbled Remington. "Coals to Newcastle, bringing Mitford and me up here for a tertiary." "You are very kind," said Mitty. A huge, complicated machine, connected to the operating table, with many tubes and wires, began at this moment to go pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. "The new anesthetizer is giving way!" shouted an intern. "There is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!" "Quiet, man!" said Mitty, in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine, which was going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep. He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials. "Give me a fountain pen!" he snapped. Someone handed him a fountain pen. He pulled a faulty piston out of the machine and inserted the pen in its place. "That will hold for ten minutes," he said. "Get on with the operation." A nurse hurried over and whispered to Renshaw, and Mitty saw the man turn pale. "Coreopsis has set in," said Renshaw nervously. "If you would take over, Mitty?" Mitty looked at him and at the craven figure of Benbow, who drank, and at the grave, uncertain faces of the two great specialists. "If you wish," he said. They slipped a white gown on him; he adjusted a mask and drew on thin gloves; nurses handed him shining . . . 

    I cannot get "pocketa, pocketa, queep, pocketa queep" out of my head.  Some people hear voices, I hear "pocketa, pocketa, queep!"  Thank you Mrs. U!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Individual

There is a place, deep in our hearts, where we go when we are alone.  It is filled with the memories of our life, both happy and sad.  For some it is filled with dread, and despair, for others it seems to burst with joy and exaltation.  I wonder why that is?

In psychiatry and psychology the doctors and therapists attempt to deal with those issues.  Doctors, through training fall naturally towards a pharmacological solution, and the drug companies are more than happy to formulate a chemical solution to balance the biology of the body.  It is as if all that matters is the PH level is right, or one chemical or another needs to be balanced.

Psychologists, because they can't prescribe drugs, look for alternative ways to resolve the conflict and pain for those who cannot seem to climb out of the darkness.  They can offer strategies, exercises, meditations, or a variety of choices, but at the end of the day it ultimately comes down to the individual.

It comes down to the individual... this is a truth for so many things.  We as individuals can choose our destiny, or we can give it away.  We as individuals can celebrate our lives, and the lives around us, or we can see only the darkness.  We as individuals can shape the world around us, or we can sit back and complain.  We as individuals can see the hopelessness in a quest, or we can set one foot in front of the other and move forward.

In the battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force was vastly overmatched by the German Luftwaffe both in numbers and technology.  Yet the RAF won. How?  Why?  It came down to the individuals who were fighting for their survival, who adapted to the changing world, who overcame the challenges they faced.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
By my desk hangs a picture of a Hurricane Mk IIC signed by survivors who flew it in the great air battles over Britain in summer of 1940.  The Spitfire is the glamorous aircraft, but the Hurricane carried the brunt of the battle.  It is there to remind me of the sacrifices made by those who went before me.  In the words of Sir Winston Churchhill "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."  These men faced fear and challenges I cannot imagine and stoically carried on.  I wish I had their strength.

As we individuals pursue our lives the question we must answer each day is do I celebrate my life, and strive to make it and the people I affect better, or do I allow the world to shape me so that I sink into despair?  For me this choice is simple, for others it may not be.  It is also the reason I am a fiscal conservative and libratarian.  I don't think larger government can or should make this choice for me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why are Political Commentators so Mean?

My simple question this evening is why do you have to be mean if you are a talking head talking about politics?

This has been a question I've had for some time.  At the 2008 elections I had wondered if the vast Democratic majority would learn the lesson's from the past and move to govern in the center and would they return to civility in the way the left and right dealt with issues?  We know from the experiences of the last two years they did not (for the sake of fairness the Republicans didn't make much effort either).  We also know from this past election they paid a price for their decisions to remain completely partisan.
(C) Art@BrokenTeapot

I really think John Stewart nailed it when he critiqued the left and right wing commentators as fanning the flames of hate that are leading to the inability of the government to govern.  It was amusing to watch Mr. Olbermann and Ms. Maddow take such great issue with being cast in the same light as Messrs. O'Reilly and Beck.  The "clearly we are not as bad as the other guys" defense struck me as, at best, childish in its approach.

I follow a couple of conservative blogs, and will from time to time drop in on a couple of liberal or progressive blogs to see what they are saying.  What I find is, for the most part, a waste of time.  The Blog owner will write about some perceived crime against his or her view, (both sides do the same thing) and everyone will pile on with a sentence or two of righteous indignation.  There isn't any real discussion of a pressing issue, analysis of options available, and second or third order affects from the decision.  It is such a pity, we have become a population that can only think in sound bites.

In entertainment (AKA Television and Radio News), I think Mr. Limbaugh has set the standard that all must follow.  His attack style of commentary now means that everyone must attack, or they will not have the ratings to continue.  I guess therein lies the problem.  We drive this kind of virulence because we watch or listen.

As our Representatives struggle for television air time, and national recognition so they may further their individual ambitions they have learned the way to get it is to make outrageous statements and establish unsupportable positions.  When that happens one side jumps to attack, and the other is forced to defend.  It is even better if we can make the argument personal.  I really think TV did this when they started to segregate the country by color.  Are you a Red or a Blue?  Are you with us or against us?

Maybe... rather than attacking an opinion we disagree with we should listen.  There must be some value in the position or the proponent wouldn't have it.  What is that value?  Is there any other way we can find the same value?  Debate and compromise used to be a good thing.  To bad it isn't still.
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