Monday, December 22, 2014

22 December 2014 Norma Jean Baty RN

          Following a 14 year battle against follicular cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma, she succumbed this morning to a malignancy that has no cure.  She’s already written her own obituary,  I can’t top that and won’t try. 
          Her nursing career stretched 50 years, beginning during WWII.  She completed over 10,000 hours as a hospital volunteer after retiring from nursing. 

          We’ll miss her.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11 November 2014 And the guns fell silent; if only for a brief moment

          There’s always supposed to be a formal time and date to cease hostilities between opposing forces.  There’s always supposed to be a treat or formalized agreement signed by dignitaries who know that the life span of that document will be somewhat less than the time required for all signers to travel home. 
          There are always changes in borders defining which combatants now control which bits of terrain, unless one combatant happens to be Israel.  Of course, many of the problems in today’s middle eastern wars stem from the final actions of the allies as WWI ended and the old empires were carved up and handed around as bonuses to the  Allies who defeated the Central Powers.
          WWI ended with the loss of millions of soldiers as the methods of slaughter were improved by industrial design.  The battle field became more lethal than anyone could have imagined but the use of maneuver units remained based upon methods dating back to the earliest recorded conflicts. 
          WWII followed on quickly as the technology of mass murder evolved into methods of killing that were truly apocalyptic in efficiency and hellish in nature.  As always, WWII ended with the declaration that future wars would now be impossible, as no people or nation wished to bring about so much death and horror into the world. 
          We rapidly discovered that such hopes had no foundation in reality.  We’ve failed to enjoy a decade that was not marked by wars in some manner. 
          There’s no reason to believe that the future will be any less brutal.  We’re ramping up to recycle the war in Iraq. 
          There have always been the thin red line, the long gray line, historic combat units tracing their histories back to some war, some land seizure, some national insult, religious intolerance, or any other event that one can imagine. 
          I’ve played my part in this eternal game.  I’m among the luckier participants.  I left the game with all the moving parts intact.  The injuries I received were less visible and less audible. 
          Today, Veteran’s day, remembrance day, what ever name you know it by, once again honors the fallen and advances that slight hope that the next time we hear the guns fall silent, they will truly remain silent.

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 November 2014 Though it isn’t really war, we’re sending 1500 more

The news today is infuriating.  We are now committing another 1500 of our men and women in uniform to the false hope and unreachable goal of building an Iraqi army that won’t desert of turncoat on the field of battle. 
          We’ve spent billions on this task during the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq.  We’re no planning to spend 5 billions more as the Obama gang tries to prop up a tottering fa├žade of a nation and its armed forces.  With the GOP slated to take over Congress, we’ll spend the  dollars to continue our role in sucking petro bucks out of Iraq and into the offshore accounts of the energy barons of the 1%.  Those are the dollars that were supposed to pay for the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq.  Remember?  Those are the same bucks that vanished by the shrink wrapped pallet every time another smoke screen obscured vision and a neo-con bag of bull shit filled the fans of Fox News.
“Though it isn’t really war, we’re sending 50,000 more to help save VietNam from Vietnames.”  Tom Paxton. 
Only a short effort to update Paxton’s lyric -  “Thoug h it isn’t really war we’re sending 1500 more to try to save  Iran from Iraqis.}

          Today is the anniversary 97th of the Great October Revolution.  Fittingly, it is also the birthday of Lev Davidovitch Bronstein (later Leon Trotsky – father of the Red Army.)  Where is he now that we really need him?

Friday, October 17, 2014

17 October 2014 Congress demands Ebola action

          We now know of three cases of Ebola that were diagnosed in thes Unites States.  One was a visitor from Africa.  The other two are nurses who worked with th primary patient.  300, 000,000 Americans are now panicking about a disease that they will most likely never acquire. 
          Congress, guardians of the people, so they say, has been stumbling all over itself to make it appear that they are doing something to provide for the health and well being of Americans.  They held a high profile, televise conference yesterday whit each member asking essentially the same questions that they failed to listen to as the various agency doctors tried to answer.  It was apparent that the elected, exalted members had no ghost of an idea about virology, epidemiology, logistics as related to delivering health care, or a host of other things that determine whether or not we can properly diagnose and treat a virulent hemorrhagic fever caused by a virus that has a very high mortality rate. 
          Over the last decade, Congress has refused to adequately fund CDC, NIH, and other research treatment facilities and program.  They spent much time insisting that we should have a single medical person overseeing and guiding the various effots to handle a potential Ebola outbreak similar in nature to the Spanish influenza that followed WWI and killed millions.  However, Congress still continues to block the appointment of  very highly qualified candidate for Surgeon General because he made an anti-gun comment. 
          Yesterday, some of the GOP insisted that Obama should use the National guard to contain and control ebola patients and ebola quarantined citizens in some sort of isolation camp.  Sound like black helicopter? 
          The various hospitals are more or less prepared but the corporate nature of most of our hospitals will result in inadequate and dangerous work safety for health care workers when the MBA goons start buying cheaper, inadequate personal protective gear for employees to use. 

          Then, of course, the  rumors are bound to emerge.  After all, we’ve already seen countless claims that Obama is a Kenyan socialist determined to destroy America and hand it over to Islamic fundamentalists.  Is it, then, so difficult to believe that he might secretly bring in Islamic terror babies infected with ebola at birth so that Sharia law can replace our existing laws?  After all, Ebola is an African virus.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

15 October 2014 blackmail photo

          I’ve been looking for this photograph for a long time.  I recalled its existence but not as many of the details as I thought.   A visit with my mother and sister, Suzanne, led to an afternoon spent prowling through old photo albums.  This little gem popped out, and I jumped on it, secured it, and now intend to use it for my own nefarious purposes. 
          Every family seems to generate blackmail photos.  I spent a fair amount of energy avoiding all photography events.  On the other hand, my mother has quite a large collection of photos taken during her high school days and during her nurses training at Jewish Hospital in St. Louis MO where she was a member of the Army Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII.  Generational gaps narrow down quite a bit when the younger folks get to see the older ones when the older ones were younger. 
          While I didn’t discover any blackmail photos, I got to see her as she was when she was young, single, and in the pipeline for service in a combat theater.  That’s somewhat of a unique view, one that we early Boomers should try to establish for all the families who had members in similar situations.  There’s really not an equal opportunity for Gen X and Millenials as there is no large national effort such as WWII that involves the entire populace in a common effort.  Korea and VietNam differ due to the smaller numbers of men and women who wound up in those wars while the nation largely ignored the troops unless directly related. 
          I promised some of my Compendiot friends that I would post this photo if I ever located it.  So, here I was about 1972 along with older daughter Caitlin. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2 October 2014 Xin Loi Dau Tieng

The mail today included a notice that the Army has rejected my attempt to have my records corrected to reflect wounds received in August 1969 while serving with the 1st Infantry Division in Dau Tieng VietNam.  This effort was refused despite the description of the event by a former soldier in the same unit.
           When I first asked for the record mod in  2002 I had no knowledge that anyone else could partially corroborate my claim.  This summer I stumbled across a book written by my former comrade in arms.  He wrote about the event in a book published in 2011.  I was able to contact him and he agreed to provide what support he could in reopening the claim. 
          Since then, I’ve also made contact with the unit’s former XO.  He remembers me but was not present on site that day.  He and I talked by phone and he provided a lot of information to fill in blanks and illuminate situations. 
          I intend to meet with the author sometime before year’s end. 
          While my medical records indicate shrapnel injuries, visible on X-ray, there is no documentation that I acquired the shrapnel in-country. 

          I’ve no further reason to pursue the matter any further.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

13 September 2014 Uncle Sam needs your help again

          “Come on all you big, strong, men; Uncle Sam needs your help again…
So go the opening words of The FISH Song by “Country Joe and the Fish.” 
          The song linking the nature of foreign war with the San Francisco music scene of the middle 1960’s is indelibly stamped into the gray matter of much of the Boomer generation.  The song was penned by Joe McDonald, a veteran of the U.S. Navy.  I had committed it to memory before becoming one of those “helping Uncle Sam.”  I can still pull up the lyrics and the melody with no hesitation. 
          Of course, I can also easily recall the increasing numbers of troops poured into S. VietNam, and to the air war over N. VietNam.  I, and thousands of others who had reason to be concerned, watched the presence of U.S. troops in S. VietNam begin with advisors on the ground to help the S. Vietnamese build an army that might actually stand a chance of fighting the Viet Minh ( later Viet Cong) and the PAVN forces that reached southward of the 17th parallel.  The loss of advisors led to security forces to protect the advisors.  It then became necessary to defend aircraft on the ground and the troops that had to service the aircraft.  In just a short period the number of U.S. troops had climbed to over 100,000 in country.  By the time I vacationed there, the total sacrificial boots on the ground exceeded 500,000 pairs.  Over 3,000,000 men and women serving in uniform for the U.S. took part in the ground and air wars that lasted ( for the U.S.) from 1954 – 1973. 
          Despite the millions of tons of explosives, napalm, and white phosphorous dropped from the skies over VietNam and neighboring nations, there was nothing to cause anyone other than LeMay and his disciples to imagine that a ground war could be won by air strikes.  It didn’t work in Europe during WWII.  It didn’t work in VietNam.  War always comes down to the level of the infantry unit. 
          Now we are seeing the same arguments put forward to justify a return to Iraq and surrounds.  Despite more tons of ordnance delivered by manned and unmanned airframes, ground is still captured and held by the queen of battle.  If we allow ourselves to be sold another excursion to Iraq with side trips to Syria, we’re only proving once again that our political leaders have no awareness of U.S. military history; or that of any other nation.   However, ideology is not something that any number of troops can eliminate.  We need to take another hard look at the cost of our military involvement in the Middle East, at which companies and which countries benefit from U.S. troops bleeding and dying, and what sort of effort can be expected and demanded by surrounding nations. 
          At least, in the VietNam, we were smart enough not to step into the same swamp twice.  It appears that we are going to make that encore mistake now. 

"Give me an "F"!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

11 September 2014 question of the day where were you

At home in Palmetto FL.
Watching buildings fall, people die, and the porosity of our borders exposed to a populace that had been allowed to believe in the inviolable safety of life in the U.S. as compared to other western nations.
           At the same time we were watching the rapid development of TS Gabrielle as it bore down on us. What normally would have been an around the clock news event in 2001 was mostly ignored by the media that was repeatedly following every pronouncement to extinction. The usual flight out of the storm's path that would have jammed the airlines as the wealthy left their waterfront homes did not take place due to the national ground stop.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

9 September 2014 obsolete music media

Music, specifically genres of music, cycle in and out of popularity.  The mechanism to store and replay music have their own histories. 
          The earliest storage media I have seen/heard, was the cylinders that brought voice to Edison’s phonograph.  They had very limited capacity and were prone to damage. 
          Next, in my awareness at least, were the wax 78 RPM discs, widely recalled as “platters,” “discs,” and records.  These also had limited storage capacity.  They would shatter if dropped or otherwise allowed to contact hard surfaces.  They would deform if they were allowed to become to warm.  They reinforced the 3.0 minute playback format and gave rise to the term “disc jockey.”  We have about 15 “78’s”
          Spin-offs from the 78 RPM format gave us the 45 RPM single and the 33 & 1/3 RPM album.  These two products were made of a vinyl compound, less likely to shatter but still prone to heat damage.  We still have about 200 of these “33’s” in the house.  We programmed a two hour live broadcast using only “33’s” for WMNF radio in Tampa some year back.  We currently have a turntable that can play all of our old wax and vinyl records
          Reel-to-reel magnetic tape, residing on large reels attracted some tech weenies.  Mag tape is limited in durability, easily damaged by heat, dust, and other insults.  Storage requires a narrow temperature range and low humidity.  Tape aficionados quickly learned how to splice tapes.  The tapes became larger in width, allowing more channels per tape.  Thousands of VietNam veterans bought large reel-to-reel systems at PACEX, only to discover that the heat and humidity of VietNam, allied with the dust of the dry season, could eat tapes and decks in a very short time.  Many of these systems were handed down to troops rotating in. 
          About this time, cassette storage began to worm it’s way into the storage market.  Automobile audio offerings were the 4 and 8 track cassettes.  There is no viable market for these leftovers.  They may still be seen at the random flea market booth and at some estate auctions.  Prone to heat damage, irreparable if broken, We have none.
          The 8 tracks were replaced by the 2 track cassette recording capable of holding up to 90 minutes of music/cassette.  These were easy to produce cheap to buy at the lower ends of quality, and were favorites of concert tapers who used them by the thousands. Somewhat easily spliced if broken, heat sensitive, the automobile dashboard soon became a home away from home for commercial record label offerings as well as what came to be called bootlegs.  We have quite a few of these in the house.  Audio quality could be very high for analog storage.  It could also be dirty and next to unlistenable.  There was a great variance in soundboard feeds and audience tape quality. We have two tape decks that will work if cleaned and tied into an amplifier and receiver.  Neither vehicle will play these.
          The CD, CD-r. DVD storage formats appeared next.  Cheap to manufacture,  heat sensitive, originally thought to be a cleaner form of digital storage and replay compared to analog sources, the CD’s were later discovered to degrade with time.  Again, we have many around the house.  The recently traded Pathfinder contained both a cassette deck and a multi-disc CD player.  The Tucson has a single CD player, as does the Xterra. 
          This brings us to the point of flash drives, small devices holding immense amounts of data.  The audiophiles prefer a lossless digital storage system such as “FLAC.”  Most younger people, non-boomers, prefer an MP3 format.  It allows more data compression – greater numbers of stored items per unit.  They may not be able to discern the difference in a lossless and lossey playback.  Certainly, their lifelong exposure to high volume life has degraded their hearing; most of them have yet to discover this as they continue to boost the volume pots on all sources of audio input. 
          The Xterra has a USB connection that allows me to feed audio into the dashboard player. This replaces the 10 cd’s I had stacked and permanently resident in the Pathfinder.
           Currently, I have about 40 GB resident on two flash drives to use in those instances when the local FM public station is not proving my preferred content.  The player is satellite capable but the buy in and maintenance fees are more than I care to assume right now.  The process now requires ripping CD’s and cross-decking them to the USB for the Xterra.  I don’t want to pay to stream of download music that I already own in a usable format.  Nor do I care to have the music I prefer lost in some “service” that will form a new string of popular singles and albums such as is currently marketed to younger generations.  I’ve earned my right to be cantankerous and complain about “modern music.”



Saturday, September 6, 2014

6 September 2014 Try to remember

Or try not to remember

          The formative years of my youth included quite a lot of music.  I listened to the jazz musicians – big bands, small groups, and the random soloist.  The musical theater spun its own list of songs that received popular radio play time and were often covered by various vocalists.  These were often saccharine in nature, mawkish beyond repair.  “Try To Remember” fits that category all too well.  Unfortunately, it is also one of those songs that sticks to your brain like napalm.  Long after it has been heard, the echoes keep rolling around inside your brain like the smell of hellfire on tree lines. 
          That’s sort of a capsule encompassing the music and culture of my younger years.  The later years of the folk revival generated many “folk” groups putting a smooth outer surface on older songs, linking in some nostalgia, and touring from college to university to small club venues, carrying their polished, largely apolitical harmonious offerings to people who still preferred acoustic music powering songs that could be shared among party attendees putting away one last scotch and soda before traveling homeward. 
          The bland nature of those songs was in direct conflict with the political and cultural events of the period.  The folk music stuck around until Dylan introduced his electrified material, The Beatles cut Sergeant Pepper, and the generational demand to be heard shared airtime with the spread of FM stations in the bigger markets. 
          Think of 1965-66, there’s still a lot of folk influence to hear in the antiwar lyrics of the day.  But the touring groups still have their niche available.  By the end of 1976, there’s no folk music to hear beyond the late night public radio shows that are becoming something of “old soldiers’ homes” for a generation’s folk musicians.
          The culture has changed markedly as has the music.  “Sympathy for the Devil?”  Nothing better describes the nature of the VietNam War.  Add in “Fortunate Son” and “Morning Dew,” and the history is easily recounted. 
          But despite the change in my listening habits and the absence of the bland and mawkish from the radio and the streamed networks, every time September rolls around, the smell of distant napalm and the barely audible sound of “Try to remember” crawls into my consciousness.  I can’t predict how long it will stay, repeating, looping, demonstrating the longevity of mediocre music and the pervasiveness of random memories.  I’ll try to suppress the song.  But that’s much more easily said than accomplished. 
          So, it’s early September, the leaves are already beginning to change and to fall.  The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and behind “Try to Remember,” I can already hear some syrupy voice ushering in the next season with “Oh it’s a long long time.” 
          Enjoy it or not, these earworms keep gnawing their way into memory.  What surfaces in your mind that you can’t eject or erase?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2 September 2014 The executioner’s face is always well hidden

A second American  journalist has been brutally murdered by ISIS.  There is a third captive  journalist already in the queue. 
          The U.Ss media and that of other Western nations have chosen to not air the entire video due to the graphic and grisly nature of the murder.  Wat we Americans are allowed to see is a fragment of the ISIS video that shows a docile victim, wearing an orange jumpsuit ala Guantanamo, kneeling in the dirt while the supposed executioner waves a knife around and promises more “executions” of Americans and other Westerners.  This seems to be the same murderer who beheaded the journalist Foley last month. 
          This hostage taking  and subsequent murder of the hostage by Islamic terrorists has to be stopped.  This murder of U.S, and Western allies must not be allowed to determine the course of politics in the Middle East.  Islamic fundamentalist must not be allowed to rampage, pillage, and rape their way to a statehood that would drag the regional culture back to the 8th century. 
          To begin, the ISIS killings are not “executions” but murders.  Executions are carried out by nations with legal systems that are acting in accordance with constitutions and legal frameworks.   ISIS is not a nation, the Koran is not a constitutional document.  Thus, the act of killing hostages is murder and should be treated and discussed as such by our media and our government. 
          I have no compunctions concerning the hunting down and execution of ISIS killers by our government or those of other Western nations.  
          In this age of resurgent anti-Semitism brought about in part by the repetitive bloody sacrifices of Gazan and other Arabs by their fundamentalist Islamic leaders and funding of the continual wars against Israel, the U.S., and other western nations, it becomes important that the pro-arab political correctness that exists widely across the U.S. be reversed and that the true brutality of ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the other gangs of thugs and brigands sponsored ultimately by Iran be honestly depicted as the murderous cowards that they are.
          What our media shows us is a much watered down glimpse of murders of unarmed, helpless  hostages using a particularly brutal and painful means.  The murderer and any other gang members in sight have their faces covered tp prevent them being identified by physical or electronic means.  This is consistent with many of the propaganda video emanating in the middle east.  Most, if not all the participants have their faces covered.  They apparently lack the courage to be known when committing rapes, robberies, murders, kidnappings, and other crimes that would cause them to be arrested and tried  in a country with a functional government.
          Dylan provided the title line today.  He also provided the tag.  When the West has grown tired of fundamentalist Islamic depradations, it will finally inite in action against them.  ISIS and others need to know, “it’s a hard rain gonna fall!”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

28 August 2014 The women are smarter

          It is interesting to connect with men I served with in VietNam.  The  bits and pieces of our every day existence , which we assume would match fairly closely, seem to have been less well matched than we think we recall.  Even within a company sized unit the discrepancies are much more evident to me today than they were then. 
          The EM, once assigned, tended to remain with  the same subunit.  The Officers were shuffled around more frequently.  They needed both staff and field assignments to further their career goals.  I can recall that I served under three company commanders.  Yet I can only put a name and face to one of them. 
          As a medic, I had far less negative or confrontational with African -American troops than  others did.  The major confrontations occurred between the senior NCO’s – men with WWII, Korean, and Vietnam experience – and the young African Americans who were draftees and too often unqualified for any of the military occupations specialist training slots, other than 11Bravo – Infantry.  They wound up in line companies for the larger part of their tours.  They might wrangle a short period just before DEROS to fill guard posts, push LIP day laborers, help with camp sanitation, etc. 
          My job was to take care of everyone in the company, not just those who shared my lack of melanin.  In doing that I had to be able to triage on the fly and reassess the situation as necessary.  I also had to listen to what people were telling me on the surface and deeper down.  People who were sent to enlist in order to avoid being sentenced to jail did not view their participation in the South East Asia War Games as necessary to advance their futures in the “world.”  They made it clear to the Senior NCO’s that they had not respect for their authority and no intention of doing anything not necessary to their own eventual DEROS and ETS.  Inside the wire, racial relations were iffy among younger troops.  Outside the wire, the hostilities were usually in abeyance.  Cooperating with the leadership group tended to make one more secure in their chances of a safe trip home.  More later

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

26 August 2014 Stir the memory pool and see what remains

          From 1968-69 only a few names made the journey back with me.  I spent much of my tour avoiding friendships and even casual acquaintance. 
          This month has been unusual.  Two names have floated to the pool’s surface and I’ve been able to make contact with them in one manner or another.  It’s been a very interesting period of reconnection.  One of the names belongs to a Sgt who worked in the S-3 shop, doing 12 hour days.  The other, to a Lt. holding multiple responsibilities that kept him sleepless. 
          Though we three were all assigned to the same company, our duties kept us largely separated.  The nature of the company was that it had more officers than most companies in an infantry company.  The brigade commander and his staff expected to be served by the non-staff EM and officers.  The company HQ personnel were responsible for the needs of the entire company as well carrying out the  security, communications, logistics, motor pool, health care, and other tasks that keep a military unit operational. 
          The Sgt. and I got along well.  The Lt. and I got along well.  The Sgt. and the Lt. don’t recall each other.  Although we lived within meters of each other, we were, at any given time to be at three different parts of our AO, depending upon what the Brigade was doing under direction from Division.  Neither the Sgt or I recall many names not related to our duties.  The Lt., by nature of his duties, probably had more contact with the EM and NCO’s than either the Sgt or I. 

          It will be interesting to see what these contacts lead to.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

24 August 2014 Safe all weapons before entering

          In 1969 I was nearly done in by a M134 minigun mounted on the back of an M37 ¾ ton truck.
The gun malfunctioned and expended 40 or so 7.62 mm rounds in my direction inflicting multiple shrapnel wounds on me.  There was no one at the truck when the gun found it necessary to execute a solo performance.  I am interested in finding other incidents of spontaneously firing M134 miniguns.  
From this image, it is apparent that physically rotating the barrels will cause unintended firing.  I have to wonder if severe repetitive  vibration could cause the same malfunction.  At the time I was wounded our 8 inch howitzers were executing a fire mission from Dau Tieng RVN. According to the operators manual, the M110's typical rate of fire was 3 rounds per two minutes when operated at maximum speed, and 1 round per 2 minutes with sustained fire.
          The concussion generated by firing these howitzers was incredible.  Buildings, bones, and teeth were rattling from the overpressure. 

            “In the M134D the internal clutch ass­embly feeds ammunition into the feeder/delinker only while the gun is being fired. Upon releasing the firing circuit, the gun continues to rotate briefly, thus expending and ejecting all ammunition remaining in the chambers. This ensures that no ammunition remains in the chambers, thereby mitigating the risk of a cook-off in a hot gun or an accidental discharge during servicing. Dillon’s innovative design also negates the need to remove five separate components, in order to ensure that the gun is clear of ammunition (as was required with the old M134 system). They achieved this with a two-piece safety sector/top cover allowing easy access to the internal components, as well as physically interrupting the mechanical firing mechanism. By simply removing these two inter-connected components, the gun is then rendered completely safe and can be easily inspected.”

If anyone knows of similar minigun incidents, please let me know

Friday, August 22, 2014

22 August 2014 No mud little manure lots of heat

          Yesterday’s excursion to the fair is behind us. 
          We found a very close parking space but had to pay an addition 2 dollars above the public parking.  We wound up in the parking lot of a Masonic lodge that appeared to have been, formerly, a church of some brand. 
          We wandered through some of the commercial and 4-H exhibits.  All the baked goods were secured behind glass doors in display cases along the walls.  I did wind up being offered a sample sugarcoated pecan.  One of my least favorite nuts, but I smiled and ate it.  The TN Wild life resource agency has a great permanent exhibit there.  The display path enters a cave high in the TN mountains. When exiting, the topography and biosphere is what is found bordering the Mississippi river. 
          We’d planned on an early dinner, finding sustenance either at the philanthropic organization booths or from the midway venders.  By the time we got to the far end of the fairground, we were hot and dripping sweat, tired of standing on concrete, and not able to justify paying for greasy food that neither of us wanted or needed. 
          The fairgrounds were much cleaner than I expected.  There was no mud, very little manure except in the animal barns, and the midway was just warming up, so that the combination of velocity, g-forces, caffeine and grease had yet to have affected many riders. 
          There was no rain yesterday.
Today, woke up to 70°F temperature at 0630.  Dog days are back.  The morning hike with Mike was like walking into a steam bath.  I did find sufficient energy do all the mowing.  Trimming remains for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

21 August 2014 Mud, manure, and grease

The Appalachian Fair, Washington County TN’s end of summer celebration of children returning to schools that are too hot to inhabit is in full swing this week.  The return to school dates are a hold-over from the days when children were required to help with planting, harvesting, haying, and the other tasks that kept farmers busy.  This anachronistic practice is now slaved, not only to agriculture, but also to high school and college football programs.  With local schools trying to match college semester and break calendars, the school years are now impacted by how many days football teams are allowed to practice before fall semesters begin. 
          IN most parts or the U.S. county fairs take place in late July and early August, with winners in the various competitions progressing to state fairs for further judging. 
          This scheduling usually results in such fairs taking place in sweltering heat and humidity.  The local weather will determine whether dust or mud is the determinant ground condition.  Even in devastating drought conditions bringing ankle-deep dust, there will be isolated areas of mud that result from animal care chores.  Mixed with both mud and dust, the amount of manure created by the livestock exhibits is sufficient to guarantee that it will be tracked all over the fair grounds to ensure that every attendee will carry some home on their shoes, even if they did not view the animal barns. 
          The midway with its neon, loudspeakers, and mechanical amusements carries its own aroma.  Mixed with the barnyard miasma is the airborne grease that boils off from countless deep fryers that provide the unhealthy breaded products that pass for midway food.  So factor in the smells of dropped or discarded food, spilled soda, and the vomitus found beneath the carnival rides.  Suddenly the animal barns don’t smell as bad.
          We are bound for the fair this afternoon.  We’ll take advantage of “Seniors” day to half our admission price.  We’ll wander the grounds, view the beasts, look for something less noxious than the norm to provide some sort of dinner, and avoid walking near or beneath the rides. 
          There is a large slate of local and more widely known performers.  We don’t recognize any of the listed performers and won’t be paying to attend outdoor music events.  We’ll skip the monster truck races (cancelled last night due to thunderstorms), the monster truck and tractor pulls, and the demolition derbies.  When one considers that this is a race week at Bristol, every trip onto the public roads is too likely to result in demolition. 
          The forecast for this afternoon calls for highs in the upper 80’s and a 50% chance of thunderstorms.  The uniform of the day calls for shoes that can be washed if necessary upon return.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

19 August 2014 Which wire do I cut

          The Xterra goes back to the shop tomorrow.  The monitor for  the reverse cameral has to be fixed so that it is either on intentionally or non-active.  I do not want the bright blue screen it displays telling me that there is no video feed.  Driving at night with that either in my face or reflecting off the windshield  is frankly dangerous. 
          I received no information from the seller about returns, repairs, problems with installation or any other matter.  What I did discover was that Amazon regards them as a third-party seller.  In order to get a replacement unit I must send the entire unit to Amazon so that they can return it to China.  Since I paid more than the unit is worth to have it installed, I have no desire to pay to have it un-installed so that I can pay return shipping.  I received e-mail from the seller thanking me for my purchase, offering yet more worthless connection tips, and telling me that all problems can be resolved in a friendly manner. 
          They have provided me no way to contact them.  Amazon has no way to contact them here or in China.  We are not amused. 

          Our mechanics think that they can insert a switch or relay to provide a fix.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

16 August 2014 Beware the ides of august

          Forty-five years ago, in the wilds of New York, the Woodstock music festival took place.  While 400,000 people attended, closing roads to the site, and creating national news, I and about 400,000 – 500,000 others were far more concerned about the war in VietNam.  I was in the last month of my tour, sweating out the days at Dau Tieng.  I knew nothing about the music festival until I saw a very small item in “Stars & Stripes” just before boarding a plane out of Bien Hoa.  
Compare and contrast, if you will, the two groups: festival attendees and troops.  The two populations were roughly equivalent in numbers and mean ages. 
Woodstock is recalled for the size of the crowd, for recreational drug use, for unprepared attendees, for ferrying performers in and out of the venue by helicopter, for on-site medical care, for torrential rain and mud slides.
Vietnam was notable for recreational drug use, helicopter transportation, on-site medical care, for torrential rains and mud. 
In VietNam the preferred drugs were ethanol and pot.  The military has a long history of tolerating ethanol abuse.  Pot use was likely to get one a court martial and a trip to Long Binh Jail (LBJ)  At Woodstock, LSD, pot, ethanol, and almost anything else one can imagine was at least marginally available.  T
Most of the 80 arrests at Woodstock were made on drug charges involving LSD, amphetamines and heroin.  Marijuana smokers, estimated to be the majority of the audience, were not arrested at Woodstock.
          Helicopters ferried the performers to and from the stage and their off-site lodging. 
          Helicopters were our lifeline in VietNam.  Everything moved by rotary wing aircraft.  We were picked up for insertions, provided close air support, resupplied with ammunition, food, and water, medevac,  and sometimes extracted by those marvelous vehicles and their heroic crews. 
          Medical care at Woodstock was mostly minor ER in nature.  There were three births, three documented deaths, and not a lot of other documented injuries/illnesses.  In VietNam, the gamut of injuries and illnesses included malaria, dysentery (amoebic and bacterial) intestinal worms and othe parasitic infestations.  Battlefield injuries were immediately infected, including burns, blast trauma, lacerations, gunshot and shrapnel wounds that harvested parts of young men without concern for their lives.  The use of helicopters as air ambulances was responsible for saving many injured who would not have survived any slower means of transport to surgical hospitals. 
          At Woodstock, there was heavy rainfall catching many attendees with no rain protection or insulation from the resulting water and mud.  Large mudslides were created and provided communal amusement.  In VietNam the SW monsoon was still in effect.  Troops lived and worked in mud, ankle-deep or deeper.  Rain was always a factor during the SW monsoon.  The troops in the field were always uncomfortable, hot,and wet or cold and wet until the monsoon direction reversed and the conditions changed to hot and dusty.  No one in the field would have enjoyed mudslides. 
          The festival ended after 3 days, leaving a mountain of trash behind for the promoters to clean up.
.  In VietNam the war was ongoing.  The process of “Vietnamization,” shifting the burden to our unwilling and often incapable allies was beginning.  The drawdown was initiated, making it even more likely that some small action somewhere might interfere with our departure..

 I was treated to a ten day drop, courtesy of Nixon and Kissinger.   I prided myself on being resistant to superstitions.  However, after some shrapnel injuries early in August, I stayed close to a bunker at nearly all times.  I avoided all crowds except a ETS party held for a flight warrant officer on the roof of Michelin plantation building where we consumed champagne and watched the fast movers work over Nui ba Dinh.  That, to the best of my memory, took place during Woodstock.  We had great fireworks to watch. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

13 August 2014 They’re rollin’ out the guns again

          Iraq has been a nest of vipers since it was created at the supposed end of WWI.  The continual tribal and religious conflicts that keep it internally in turmoil are now made more complex by the invasion of even more fundamentalists striking out of Syria and bringing widespread murder with them. 
          The Iraqi national army, which was supposedly trained to fight and defend the patchwork nation of Iraq, at a cost of billions to U.S. taxpayers dropped their weapons and bolted at the first sign of contact by the invading ISIS.  This allowed the invaders to further arm their forces by capturing weapons and other hardware left for the Iraqis by the U.S. when it officially departed Iraq. 
          Now, with the Iraqi army a joke, unable to defend it’s own nation, there are an unknown number of U.S. military advisors and diplomats still in Iraq.  These people must be protected and that task requires a real military, not our untrustworthy pseudo allies who spend their training time chanting Shia slogans aimed at the Sunni who comprise ISIS. 
          Currently we are blowing holes in the ISIS convoys and positions to prevent them reaching U.S. personnel.  To make matters even more difficult, the ISIS sunni have been killing any non-Muslims they capture by invading the towns and small cities on their route to Bagdad.  They are trotting out the convert of die modus operandi.  They are offering this choice minorities who still live in Iraq.  Thousands of Yazidi have fled en-masse to a mountain near the Syrian border.  They arrived there with no food, water, medicines, or suitable clothing.  The ISIS promptly surrounded the mountain with intent to kill them all.  The initial plan to massacre was partially prevented by units of Iraqi and Syrian KURDS.  To prevent mass deaths among these refugees, the U.S. has been targeting ISIS, dropping ordnance on their lines using drones and Navy aviation.  With some decrease in the AA capacity of ISIS, we have followed on with air drops of necessities.  Kurdish units have escorted or convoyed some thousands of Yazidi to Syria; then to Kurdish Iraq.  The current estimate waiting to be rescued is around 40,000.  This is an extremely large number of people to evacuate to safety.  The burden is going to fall upon our military. 
          The current plan is for the U.S. to deploy more advisors to determine how many actual refugees there are and how best to extract them.  What ever method is chosen, it or it in combination with plan B will require our troops to return to combat roles in Iraq.  The total deaths attributed to Bush/Cheney is still growing. 
          There is no hope for any real unification of Iraq.  The Sunni invaders are behaving much like the Germans who invaded Ukraine and Russia.  Even more disturbing, the minorities report that their own neighbors are helping to round up and execute the minorities.  This is horribly reminiscent of the Holocaust. 
          Meanwhile, back at the kibbutz, the Israeli/Hammas cease fire is once more not holding.  Rockets were fired into Israel today from Gaza. 
          ISIS has been an effective and mostly cohesive force in Syria and Iraq.  Hammas has a large store of mostly inaccurate ballistic rockets.  But both of these groups must eventually realize that they are outnumbered and massively outgunned.
          “ You can hide in the caves, they’ll be only your graves, but you can’t get away from the guns!”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

9 August 2014  Where talk is cheap and vision true
          19 years ago Jerry Garcia died of CHF complicated by sleep apnea, diabetes, and decades of substance abuse.  He was honored, eulogized, memorialized, and ushered into the pantheon of R&R demigods in suitable fashion.  There was the public and usual fight among  the heirs and descendents.  His wife at the time of his death was grasping for control of his property and wealth.  The post mortem fight grew so ugly that his body was cremated, and ashes scattered without notice to his previous wife.  Another aliquot of ashes was dumped into the Ganges for reasons no one really knows. 
          There will be lots of tribute band memorials tonight.  While I’ve heard a lot of tribute/cover bands since Garcia died, I’ve never discovered a replacement for the music Garcia gave us.  I know a singer-songwriter or two who take me to many of the same places.  I encourage them whenever I can.
          This has been a week for medical appointments.  I’ve seen my primary care physician.  She ordered routine lab studies – all normal -, and ECG – the usual variant artifact that I’ve had since my 20’s showed up – a chest X-ray – haven’t had one since 2002- and sleep studies.  I generally have no problem getting to sleep but I wake Gloria up during the night and wake up feeling tired.  This may be due to PTSD, Parkinson’s, or something entirely different. 
          Yesterday I left for VA/Mountain Home at 0700.  I hoped to have the X-ray performed before my 0900 and 1040 ophthalmology appointments.  Radiology can be horribly backed up when the service is PRN.  Surprisingly, I was at the radiology desk at 0800 and the images were completed by 0815.  So off to the eye clinic for visual fields, retinal photos,  and then the wait for the  actual eye exam. 
          Following the eye clinic, I wandered down to the audiology department to ask for a new consult and new hearing aids.  The audiology dept is now operating on a walk-in and wait basis for evaluations.  I seem to have no further hearing loss compared to three years ago.  They ordered new hearing aids.  September should see them here for fitting and programming. 
          I renewed my offer to participate in audiology research.  Doing so won’t reverse my hearing loss but it might help some one else. 

          Picked up Chinese food in Johnson City and home for an enjoyable dinner.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

1 August 2014  Looking back for safety
          The major chore this week, beyond the usual household tasks, involves looking into the acquisition of a reverse mirror for the Xterra.  Given the decreasing range of motion that defines how far I can turn my neck to either left or right, some sort of amplified view should be available. 
          There are a large number of these products on the market that need to  be investigated and evaluated.  I don’t want to buy a piece of junk, but I don’t want to spend a fortune to provide rear vision. 
Dinner will be yellow squash baked with romano cheese.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

27 July 2014 Aging heroes

          The heroes of my youth have largely departed for their final landing zones.  As with all flesh, they age, decline, and depart after they have passed on their particular bit of wisdom &/or other impact to the society that they helped form by their existence and their actions. 
          YMMV as we say.  Your mileage may vary and my heroes may well be your archetypical demons.  I have a fairly broad range of qualifications for hero status.  Mine include jazz musician, folk singers, songwriters, some teachers, naval officers, WWII bomber crew members, submariners who fought in the Pacific.  You’ll find Dr. Jonas Salk in the list, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meier, and a few dozen others whom I think made the world a better place in some manner.
          Some decades ago I happened across a comic strip hero or two who lived in the Sunday papers or on the shelf as comic book characters.  Discarding the usual costumed supernaturally powered characters, peel back the layers to “Prince Valiant.”  Valiant was running around as an itinerate hero when I had yet to enter grade school.  He maintained his contact with comic reality by aging a bit as his adventures became more dangerous and his social life opened new world for his enjoyment. 
          Heroing, as a profession is similar to all occupation young men engage in to impress young women with the hope that they will be physically rewarded with bed, board, and lodging for a night or a year.  Obviously a hero who ages to quickly will grow grim-faced and be less pleasing to the young ladies. 
          Like most such heroe, Valiant needs to find some reward in the brief periods when he ends one adventure and begins the next.  There has to be a next to keep the story going and the home fires burning quietly. 
          The local paper just added Prince Valiant to their Sunday comics.  Gloria and I were commenting on the long history of the comic strip.  Though Valiant is married and has married children, he is rarely home.  He appears to spend most of his time out with the boys.  He’s been allowed to age gracefully in a slow and distinguishd manner; tall, powerfully built, rescuing damsels while his wife stays home raising the kids and running the castle.  Lately, she’s been having her own adventures, traveling about with her own retinue of females who solve their own sets of problems.  One has to wonder if there is a hidden story in the colored ink. 
          It seems that this group of regal women have aged much more slowly and still have a powerful capacity to bend the mend to their wills.  The strip if much more about their deeds and exploits now. 

          Valiant is noticeably older, somewhat grizzled, and though still heroic in nature, the body has been used too hard for too many years.  His hair is graying, his armor has more rust, his shield more knicks and divots.  As for the “singing sword.”  When drawn from scabbard, these days it grunts more than sings.   

Saturday, July 26, 2014

26 July 2014 The power of a mouse.

          Last summer the Pathfinder ingested one or more mice as they invaded its climate control fan and air pathways.  After a brief period of hot weather, the aroma of chopped mouse became a major problem.  Our mechanic replaced the mouse-coated parts then used some sort of odor adsorbent to diminish the smell of the tiny offending rodent.  The smell lingered in some other inner spaces of the vehicle. 
          The return of hot weather has offered proof that not all mouse molecules were scrubbed from the truck.  Gloria has a keen sense of smell and has found it to be more and more difficult to travel in the Pathfinder. 
          Add to the mouse damage, the continuing lack of ability to control the environmental  unit.  The failure of several push buttons which split and dove for the carpet left us traveling in a vehicle with limited AC, limited climate control functions other than heat.  Several year long searches have failed to find a replacement module and the buttons can not be repaired or replaced.  They are no longer available. 

          Yesterday we replaced the 2001 Pathfinder with a 2013 Exterra.  We had hoped to keep the Pathfinder longer.  Amazing the impact a single mouse can have.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

18 July 2014 Politicians throwin’ stones

          Slow rain all day so far.  We need it.  This cool weather has been very welcome. 
          The GOP plan to sue President Obama is another round of absolute idiocy and obstructionism on a scale not compatible with a working government.  Not content to waste $50,000,000 in repetitive attempts to repeal the ACA, Boehner now wants to use additional tax revenues in a foolish attempt to sue Obama for delaying the ACA. 

          If the GOP wants to broadcast its petty, ineffective, bigoted nature by filing lawsuits that lack standing, let them.  But taxpayers must demand that they fund such actions from the GOP coffers and from the pockets of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  If they want to delay, make them bear the financial burdens for yet another attempt to overturn the elections of candidates that they (GOP) did not like.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

17 July 2014 Estimated profits

          The anti-immigrant mob scenes taking place at our southern borders is all too reminiscent of the KKK protests against Afro-Americans, Jews, Catholics, and pretty much everyone in America who isn’t a white evangelical racist. 
          We are treated to daily video of people chanting anti-immigrant messages, hoping to prevent the Federal Government from relocating some of the many minors, unaccompanied, who show up at our borders hoping to escape crime, corruption, and the lack of any foreseeable future in their Central American nations of birth.  This describes rather well the reasons our European ancestors as they streamed into the new world without waiting for a visa.  Escaping from the famines of Ireland and other agrarian societies, the pogroms of Eastern Europe, the grinding poverty of colonial nations and the indentured servitude, chattel slavery, and judicial sentences; our forebears dodged the border guards as well as possible and set about becoming part of this nation.  They took what work they could to support their families, trading skills and determination for a chance to work in sweatshops, assembly lines, steel mills, and hundreds of underpaid, man-killing jobs that offered too little pay for jobs with no benefits. 
          On the backs of immigrants, huge fortunes were amassed.  The Carnegies, Asters, Vanderbilts, and other super rich took every advantage and left the employees to live in tenements. 
          Today, our anti-immigrants are quite willing to allow the use of migrant labor as long as the migrants leave when the job is done.  I’m referring to the “They’re taking our jobs, jobs!”  The folks screaming “USA” as if the initials transfer some immense unseen power aren’t going to take the menial job paying below minimum, and requiring backbreaking, brutal labor.  That’s why the migrants are here now
          It’s only a matter of time before the anti-immigrants find enough gun nuts to join in their hatred of folks who are different.  White sheets can be purchased at your local Wal-Mart.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

6 July 2014 Dogs in a pile

          We’ve survived another 4th of July.  There seemed to be less gunfire this year than the past few.  There were, however, lots of fireworks that were somewhat amplified by the echoes from the valley walls. 
          Loki spent much of the evening of the 4th alternately pacing anxiously and crawling into or under makeshift bunkers.  I spent much of the evening trying to calm Loki, and reminding myself that “those weren’t really mortars I was hearing; at least not real, weapons-grade mortars. 
          I guess I didn’t remind myself as well as I should have.  Gloria woke me up from some sort of replay or rerun that had me yelling and moving.  Last night, while there were replays of fireworks in the valley, I didn’t have a repeat encounter. 

          Steaks to grill tonight.  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

5 July 2014 Semper Fi and other Sousa grandeur

          Last night we stayed home and watched the PBS  Capital Fourth broadcast.  The initial performers were mostly people I did not/do not recognize.  Most of the music these people performed had little or nothing to do with the celebration of 4 July as “Independence Day.”  I would have enjoyed performances by American singer-songwriters  and musicians such as Arlo Guthrie, George Gershwin, and others.  There are enough great performers and great music to fill out the 90 minutes of programming that was broadcast last night. 
          It was only when the local fireworks already had Loki looking for a bunker that the national fireworks began.  The national fireworks are wonderfully impressive.  I’ve been privileged to see them in D.C., on the mall once.  That’s one of those things that would never have happened for me except for meeting Gloria. 
          The PBS programming used only four Sousa marches to background the pyrotechnics.  They used “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Washington Post,” “ The Thunderer,” and “Semper Fidelis.”   I’d be willing to bet that 50% of the attendees would not have been able to correctly identify those Sousa pieces.
          Annually, I am reminded of how many times we played those pieces and other marches during high school half time shows.  The band I played in was different from most then and even more today by nature of it’s performance. 
          Our band director wrote half time shows for universities as well as for us.  We performed precision drill show rather than pattern shows.  We performed a different show each time we stepped on to the field.  This meant using new music for each show.  Further, we had to memorize all the music, 60-80 pieces/per season.  No one carried music on the field or in parades.  Despite having ca. 200 band students, we marched only 124 in our half time shows.  The competition for on field slots was intense and exclusive.  There were band students who spent all of their high school years in the band but who never set foot upon the field. 
          Sousa was one of those rare people who manage to arrive at the perfect place and time.  His works have stood the test of time.  They cross genre and usage lines quite handily.  The same man who scored Semper Fidelis also penned the Liberty Bell march that became the theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

3 July 2014 Some folks are born made to wave the flag

Wednesday has come and gone.  The refrigerator sits un-repaired.  This does not bode well. 
Our meeting last night went well.  The courtroom was packed, SRO.  Most of the questions asked of our Congressman were reasonable questions and were answered in a manner that satisfied me. 
          However, there were some “open carry” nuts in the pack who kept demanding to know why VA was taking their 2nd amendment rights away by refusing to let them brandish long guns – or any guns at all – on VA campuses.  A large glue pad would have been good for dealing with them.

3 July 2014 The refrigerator repairs have been completed and we can reload it this evening after it demonstrates stability. 
          We ventured into Jonesborough for the kick-off dinner celebrating Jonesborough Days.  The event was a “low country boil” for about 200 people. 
          Th return of U.S. troops to Iraq takes some of the celebratory spirit out of the holiday.  Linked below are two youtube videos of songs that I am unable disassociate from VietNam.  Other veterans will have formed different musical links.  I can pull out of memory music from WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  I don’t have any such link for Afghanistan and Iraq.  I guess the folks up to their asses in expended brass will have their associations.  How can you fight a war without some sort of music?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

1 July 2014 Right on time hot and humid

          Yesterday’s refrigerator problem remains today’s refrigerator problem  The circulation fan that resides in the freezer compartment died in service.  While the upper compartment stayed somewhat cold, the lower compartment is far to warm for safe food storage.  All possible contents have been transferred to a chest cooler along with freezer packs. 
          The fan, of course, must be ordered.  The best estimate is for repairs to be completed Thursday.  If not, it will be a long holiday weekend without a working fridge. 
          The latest news is that a total of 800 troops are now assigned to Iraq.  They are intended to provide security to troops and other personnel already deployed.  This will include the Baghdad airport, and security details for the embedded advisors.  To aid in this mission, helicopters will be deployed as well as unmanned aircraft.  There will, of course, be the required maintenance troops and helicopter aircrews. 
          Forgive my hindsight, this looks a lot like VietNam II.  But there is a higher level of institutional idiocy about Iraq.  We’ve already fought that war and left it behind.  To cycle the whole damned thing again is just unbelievable.
          Words fail at this point.  I can only hope that the deployed folks make it home without looping the entire process.

Monday, June 30, 2014

30 June 2014 Monday with a vengeance

          Friday we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary.  It was a great weekend.  It is still amazing to both of us, how rapidly the time has flown since we met and since we married.  Thanks, again, to all well-wishers. 
          Yesterday morning brought  0.3 inches of rain.  Not a problem until factoring in the 2.5 inches from Saturday.  The creek behaved according to the laws of physics and demonstrated about a 1 foot rise along with the expected rise in rate of flow.  This morning, it is on its way back to summer conditions. 
          Last night we began to doubt the refrigerator’s function.  This morning there is no doubt.  It is not working as it should, not making ice, and not maintaining the desired temperature.  We’ve called for a service technician to visit it and diagnose its ailments.  The best option may be a new unit.  We would prefer a quick, easy, cheap fix, of course.  (pause for cosmic laughter).  See this space tomorrow for further lamentations.
          The SCOTUS just dropped another “fuck you very much” into the concept of no state sponsored religion.  The idea that corporations are persons was used again to push the nation toward a fundamentalist theocracy driven by evangelical corporations that continue to demand protection and funding as tax-exempt apolitical entities.  In honesty, these corporations and their fund raisers are as dangerous and as vicious as the current murderous bastards calling their selves ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic State. 
          The Iraqis have received five Soviet era Su-25 close air support aircraft last week.  Iraq boasts it will have them ready for use within 5 days.  I wonder how long it will be before they are used to defect from the Iraqi AF, shot down by ground forces, shot down by other nations’ AF, or flown into the ground by poorly trained pilots. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

27 June 2014 21 and looking forward

          21 years ago today Gloria and I married.  I’ve enjoyed those years with her more than I thought or imagined possible. 
          I have every reason to thank her for drastically altering the course of my life.  I try, not always successfully, to let her know how much I appreciate what she has done and what we have managed to forge of our lives together.  She most likely added years, happy ones, to my life.  She reminded me that I could smile and laugh.  She certainly prevented me from migrating to Alaska to work at Point Barrow. 
          So, Happy Anniversary, Gloria!  I’m eager to enjoy the adventures that we will discover in the next 21 years.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

25 June 2014 Among the many at RFK

          21 years ago tonight, Gloria and I found ourselves in RFK stadium, watching The Grateful Dead.  Sting opened the show and Bruce Hornsby sat in with the Dead.  This was the end of the East Coast Summer tour for 1963.  End of tour shows could be problematic and lackluster.  The 6-25-93 show was well played and was the better of the two RFK shows that year. 
          This show was the opening event in a very momentous and life-changing weekend.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

21 June 2014 No advisors were harmed in making this war

Thursday, the operative phrase was, “ No U.S. troops in combat.”  The advisors will working from desks and will not take part in shooting engagements.
Friday the operative phrase somehow shifted to ,”Advisors will be embedded with Iraqi units.  They may defend their selves, but only after being fired upon by insurgents.” 
          Today the message is that the advisors will be taking part in combat operations.  Not only is this political duplicity, it places our “advisors” at grave risk. 
          The official line is that our advisors need to assess the capabilities of the Iraqi army units.  We know their capabilities, we’ve spent the last decade training them to provide their own security.  Obviously, the lessons didn’t sink in.  What makes anyone believe that 300 or so Spec Ops troops will be able to impart loyalty for a government that is more concerned with religious payback for centuries of fratricide than with building a working nation that considers the needs of all its citizens. 
          The official spiel is that our troops will be there to call in the fast movers, bombers, and other air strike assets if they deem the situation requires them.  Our troops will designate and provide Bomb Damage Assessments.  The Pentagon, supporting our civilian leaders, talks about another round of teaching Iraqis to fight their own battles.  Some mention was made of teaching them to control air assets. That’s the part that requires a lot of salt to swallow.       We own and use a lot of high tech toys and tools to practice the modern arts of warfare.  We’ve been known to share this technology with our most trusted allies; Great Britain, Canada, a few other nations.  Does anyone believe that we are going to hand such equipment over to the Iraqi army?  I’d rather dump it off carrier decks ala 1975 than let the Iraqis sell it on the black market or give it to Iran. 
          The risk of ramping up a 3rd Iraqi war is increasing daily.  The first time we lose an advisor to ISIS, the chicken hawks will be screaming for more troops to be inserted to protect our advisors.  Count on it.  I’ve seen it happen.  Been there, got the t-shirt. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

20 June 2014 Deja Moo

Coming around again, military advisors to “train up” Iraqi soldiers and police to some degree of mythical competency that just might suggest a modern nation with a working and stable government. 
          Who’s going to provide these advisors?  Why the U.S., of course.  Although it has been suggested that such a training mission should include the armed forces and police agencies of other nations, including Europe, Asia, and the “Arab League, “ we need only glance backward to 2003 to see how much interest those other nations displayed then in becoming embroiled in another Middle Eastern morass.  They didn’t sign on then please Bush 43, and they won’t volunteer now to please Obama. 
          The last years the U.S. spent in Iraq were purportedly spent providing just such training to military and civilian agencies.  The current incursion by ISIS demonstrates only too well how much competency was achieved by the trainees.  There is little loyalty to the nation of Iraq among the Iraqi army.  What loyalty exists there is directed to religious sect, tribe, and family.  Sunni have no willingness to kill Sunni.  Shia have no willingness to kill Shia.  They will happily become a chanting mob and kill each other when goaded by sectarian Imams. 
          The “advisors” we are now sending into Iraq will be officially non-combatants.  They will supposedly fill only training and intelligence slots.  This is frankly unbelievable.  They will need to go outside the wire in order to train Iraqis and/or to collect intelligence.  At some point in the future, one or more of our advisors will become WIA or KIA.  The remaining advisors will be allowed to defend their selves with as much force as is required, including the use of manned and unmanned aircraft.  Escalation, just as in VietNam, takes place and the role of advisors suddenly changes.  It won’t be “mission creep” but mission expansion. 
          During the  VietNam war USARV provided a nightly briefing, known as the “Five O’clock Follies.”  There was a standing joke that all troops in Cambodia were required to jump into the air at 1700 hours, so that the briefers in Saigon could state, “As of 1700, we have no troops on the ground in Cambodia.”
          Now the descriptive phrase in vogue to describe troop presence is “boots on the ground.”  The quick and dirty work-around for that may become having our troops wear sandals or running shoes.  
Deja Moo, all over again!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

19 June 2014 Sowing more seeds of destruction

The Bush-Cheney admin are not content with the devastation that they visited upon Iraq.  Nor or they content with the economic damage they wrought upon the American citizens.  For Dick Cheney to accuse Obama of incompetence is a joke.  While I am less than thrilled with the Obama Admin, it’s failure to meet some of the promises made in the last two General elections is primarily due to the blatant obstructionism generated by the racism inherent in the red states and the intent by the GOP/teavangelists to roll the social, cultural, and political conditions backward to the 19th century.

This morning, as I stepped out to retrieve the newspaper and to deliver the trash can to it’s pickup point, it rapidly became apparent that we had been visited overnight by at least one bear.  The trash can was tipped over, trash bags dragged out and sampled or ignored.  One bag of trash was carried about 75 feet along the creek bed and scattered around the yard. Another was dragged down the firing lane and some of this was then carried or thrown into the creek.  This portion wound up in a narrow section of the creek surrounded by high growth of knotweed.  It was rather an uneasy time walking into the overhead cover, knowing that the first sign of a bear disputing custody of the trash would be an up close visual.  Sort of like walking into a likely ambush site.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

18 June 2014 Angry doesn’t begin to cover it

The response to Romney’s lament that “we are about to lose what we fought for in Iraq.  Another goddamned chicken hawk worried about losing his corporate profiteering privileges.
I wish I had written this.

This should scare the crap out of us all.  It certainly does me.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

14 June 2014 They broke it, not our job any longer

A friend of mine posted in a thread concerning Medical Lab workers and OCD -
We lab techs, I think, have certain OCD traits. It helps us do our jobs. I label canned goods with the dates that I get them, to make sure I rotate stock. I also date other things, mostly to see how long it takes me to use them - at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it
My reply was-
Perhaps the ultimate OCD example remains the Dead Head tapers and traders who have systematically collected every possible scrap of live performance related to The Grateful Dead and its offshoots. Despite the Band's breakup following Garcia's 1995 death, these collectors have continued to pursue recordings. They've moved from analog tape to digital tape to CD's and now through various forms of music storage as these have become a higher standard of storage and playback. There are 30 years of live material available, all reviewed and cataloged with venue information, guest musicians, hardware notes, track lengths, etc. . Data bases, annotated lyric websites, tape compendiums and other minutiae abound. This is the home planet for OCD I visit there frequently but since I possess only ca 1100 hours of this library/catalog, I'm not truly hard core OCD.
          There are many destinations in the OCD world, I’ve visited a few of them from time to time.  We tie flies to catch fish or for display.  We build scale model aircraft and ships.  We play chess, we write and play music ,    But these remain, for the most part, pass times rather than true disorders. 
          The 24 hour news cycle can become a source for obsession.  The ready availability of news about wars, natural disasters, and political idiocy can snare someone quite easily. 
          The last several days have doubtless trapped millions of viewers who are following the ISIS terrorists through Iraq.  Not surprisingly, the Iraqi army is crumbling and fleeing in a manner highly reminiscent of the last month of the VietNam war.  Officers flee rather than fight and the enlisted troops toss their weapons, uniforms, and run. 
          Not surprisingly, the Iraqi government is asking the U.S. government for military aid.  After we spent billions of dollars training their army, there is no cohesive military unit worthy of the name in Iraq.  In the presence of organized military opposition, Iraq demonstrates that its soldiers are of little use unless fighting against civilians who have no training and no weapons. 
          We need to  make it clear to Iraq that they will have to face this war on their own, without our help.   That should very well lead to the current government emulating that off the Republic of Vietnam in 1975