Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just Another Black Flag Day at TQ

I had put my thermometer outside last night to see how hot it was after I'd finished running. I never did go back to check it, and left it outside all night. There it was when I got home at 4:30 this afternoon.

Just another lovely Black Flag day at TQ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

File Under: With Friends Like These

The Clintons are the ultimate in political 'good cop, bad cop'. While she is out giving a lukewarm endorsement of Obama (wrapped in a speech about her favorite subject - herself!), Bill is there questioning a putative President Obama's effectiveness.

The latest big news in Democratic presidential politics is that Bill Clinton won't attend Obama's coron - I mean, acceptance speech tomorrow night. And in a not so subtle swipe at Obama, Clinton questioned 'Candidate X's' effectiveness even though voters might agree with his policies. Purely hypothetical, don't you know.

I know it's wrong to wish people dead, but, come on, wouldn't we as a country be better off without them? Haven't we had enough of their tawdry, power-grubbing orgy of the self? I know I have. And then some.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just How Hot is it?

The military uses a flag system to alert personnel to the risk of heat injuries. Green flag means no restrictions on physical activity. The index goes from green to yellow to red to black. Today was a black flag day.

Today when I got home from work, power was out in the trailers. Since it was dark and getting very still in the trailer, I put my camp chair outside and started reading my book. On a whim, I stuck my little thermometer on the outside of my trailer.

That picture was taken at 4:30 pm.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Comment from Anonymous

It's Sunday morning in Iraq and today is my one day off. I slept in late and woke up and checked email like I normally do. I saw that someone had posted an anonymous comment on my blog. Here it is:
SAW WHAT YOU WROTE ABOUT HEATH LEDGER. GO F*CK YOURSELF, HOMOPHOBE!!!!! [The rest of the comment is a statement from Heath's family about what a perfect specimen of homo sapiens he was, so I axed it.]
Let's take this apart quickly as I need to shower and go get lunch.

I vaguely recalled having written something about how the media would begin to canonize Ledger after he died so young. In fact, this is true since there is now a lot of talk about Ledger being nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 'The Dark Knight'. It took me about a half-hour to find what I wrote about Heath Ledger. Here it is in its entirety:
"I say it here... comes out there." That's one of Albert Brooks' line from "Broadcast News" and I use it pretty often to refer to my predictive powers.

A few nights ago I wrote in an email to a friend, "[S]o begins the canonization of Saint Heath."

Am I right or what? If you've even skimmed some of the articles about Ledger in the last couple of days maybe you noticed this trend towards hyperbole in the quotes from friends and coworkers. However, I think this quote from director Todd Haynes (I know, I know, consider the source) takes the cake:

Heath was a true artist, a deeply sensitive man, an explorer, gifted and wise beyond his years. There was no finer person on this earth. (emphasis added)

Really, Todd? There was NO finer person on Earth? Not one? Well, in that case, the rest of us should just kill ourselves since obviously human-ness has been done to perfection.

Pardon me while I wretch.
So, that is the sum total of what I wrote about Heath Ledger. What puzzles me is why this cretin that left the comment refers to me as a 'homopohobe'?

A phobia is an irrational fear of something. I don't have an irrational fear of homosexuals, I just find their conduct distasteful and don't want to have to be made to approve of it. This is something the left does quite well in the culture war. They mischaracterize the right. For example, if you are against affirmative action, you are a racist, against gay marriage a homophobe, etc.

Also, if you go back and read that post nowhere do I mention sexuality. And for a very good reason - Heath Ledger wasn't gay!

So, 'Anonymous', next time try having a coherent point. And if you are so sure of the veracity of what you are trying to say, try putting your name next to it, like I do, coward! Something tells me he won't be back. He knows he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Oh, one more thing, I try to keep this blog PG, so no profanity, please.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Pendulum is Starting to Swing Away from Obama

MSNBC has this item about John McCain now holding a five point lead over Barack Obama. About three weeks ago I wrote a long-ish post on Obama-mania. At the time, I thought that the American electorate would start to get fed up with the hubris of the Obama campaign and the overly adulatory coverage of the junior Senator from Illinois.

Every account I have read of the candidates' performance in front of Pastor Rick Warren's congregation scored the night a victory for John McCain. I expect that Obama will get a bump from his announcement of a running mate and the Democratic convention. I doubt McCain will get the same bump since the coverage for him won't be nearly so flattering. But McCain is slowly building momentum. Now he needs a solid veep pick and I think the election will be his.

Expect the media to launch an 'October Surprise' against McCain like they did with the 'news' of George Bush's drunk driving arrest (circa 1972) in 2000. That one didn't work. I do recall that the Iran-Contra special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, also handed down indictments against figures in that scandal (Cap Weinberger and John Poindexter, if memory serves) in October of 1992. But I think that Ross Perot cost Bush 41 the election, not Lawrence Walsh.

I hope that my prediction holds because I sincerely believe that Barack Obama is a dangerous choice for president.

Also, to put things in perspective, here's an item I cribbed from Chuck Muth's News 'n Views:

Number of years of military service:
John McCain: 22
Barack Obama: 0

Time in Congress:
John McCain: 9,490 days
Barack Obama: 143 days

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Buried Treasure at Taqaddum

As I mentioned previously, Al Taqaddum (TQ) used to be an Iraqi Air Force base. Before the start of the war in 2003, Saddam Hussein had most of his most advanced aircraft flown out of the country, mainly to Iran. The remaining aircraft were buried in the sand at various bases. Here are some pictures I took of some of the aircraft that have been unearthed here at TQ.

These first pictures are of Ilyushin-28 Beagle bombers. The Beagle is a jet bomber first introduced into service in 1950. (This Wikipedia page has a picture of these same abandoned Beagles at TQ.)

These next pictures are Sukhoi Su - 25 Frogfoots. The Frogfoot is a close air support/ground attack aircraft. This is apparent by the number of hardpoints under the wings for carrying large amounts of ordnance.

These next pictures are MiG-29 Fulcrums. Fulcrums are among the most advanced fighters in the world. They are 4th generation fighters like the Russian Su-27 Flanker and the American F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Falcon. Why on earth Saddam Hussein would bury them in the desert is beyond me. Waste of damn fine aircraft.

These next two pictures are MiG-21 Fishbeds. The Fishbed first introduced in 1959 is a 1960s era fighter aircraft that was exported to over 55 countries in the 60s and 70s. As you can see, these have not been completely excavated. Also, in all the pictures, you can see that the aircraft have been cordoned off with barbed wire. This is because an American serviceman was killed when he was trying to retrieve the parachute from one of the MiG-21s and accidentally triggered the ejection seat which he assumed was no longer operational.

I have more pictures of these same aircraft but those I will post on my Kodak Gallery, as Blogger's layout tools for posting photos are cumbersome and not very flexible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prince Charles Is A Real Wanker

Today's Drudge Report had a link to this article on the British newpaper, The Telegraph, in which Britain's Prince Charles goes on a long diatribe about genetically-modified (GM) food.

Ole Chuck has had a bee in his bonnet about the environment and GM foods for awhile. He's also a big global warming nut. But this is his strongest - and least substantiated - temper tantrum yet. In this instance, Mr. Princess Diana is succumbing to the same syndrome that affects many American Hollywood celebrities. Namely, he is using his celebrity to go spouting off on a topic about which he knows next to nothing.

This one is particularly bad since, without offering a single fact beyond anecdotal evidence of having seen the consequences ("I have been to the Punjab where you have seen the disasters that have taken place as result of the over demand on irrigation because of the hybrid seeds and grains that have been produced which demand huge amounts of water...Look at western Australia. Huge salinization problems. I have been there. Seen it. Some of the excessive approaches to modern forms of agriculture") he claims that great calamities have already taken place because of GM food.

Uh, no. Sorry, Charlie. The real calamity is that because of similar paranoia from the EU about GM foods, countries in Africa won't accept food that would save I-don't-know-how-many thousands from starvation.

Stick to what you know, Chuch. Polo, or something.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Did You Know...

...that as far back as 1950 the Supreme Court of the United States had already determined that aliens have no right to habeas corpus protections in the US courts?

In the 1950 Johnson v. Eisentrager
decision the court ruled that "[a] nonresident enemy alien has no access to our courts in wartime." In fact, that sentence is the first holding of the whole gosh darn opinion. How much clearer can it be?

In order to counteract the Rasul v. Bush ruling (in which the justices granted habeas protections to Guantanamo detainees), Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) of 2005. This law gave exclusive jurisdiction to all habeas petitions from Guantanamo detainees to the D.C. Circuit Court. This basically precluded any court from hearing habeas appeals from detainees.

However, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld declared that the DTA did not apply to cases pending when the DTA was enacted. So, Congress responded with the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006. The MCA "(1) denie[d] jurisdiction with respect to habeas actions by detained aliens determined to be enemy combatants, ... [and] (2) denie[d] jurisdiction as to 'any other action against the United States . . . relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement' of a detained alien determined to be an enemy combatant."

Pretty clear cut, huh?

As Lee Corso says, "Not so fast, my friend!" In Boumediene, the Court reaffirms its holding in Rasul v. Bush.
Petitioners have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus. They are not barred from seeking the writ or invoking the Suspension Clause’s protections because they have been designated as enemy combatants or because of their presence at Guantanamo.
How exactly do they square this ruling with Johnson v. Eisentrager? Not well, I am afraid. If my reading of the syllabus is correct, the Court holds that Eisentrager's holdings rest on the practical considerations of dealing with habeas petitions. In other words, it seems that Kennedy et. al. conclude that Eisentrager doesn't reject the concept of habeas rights for aliens, but merely responds to the practical difficulties of responding to such petitions.

Unfortunately, that is not what Eisentrager says in the first holding. Here is is. (Sorry for the length.)
1. A nonresident enemy alien has no access to our courts in wartime. Pp. 768-777.
(a) Our law does not abolish inherent distinctions recognized throughout the civilized world between citizens and aliens, nor between aliens of friendly and enemy allegiance, nor between resident enemy aliens who have submitted themselves to our laws and nonresident enemy aliens who at all times have remained with, and adhered to, enemy governments. P. 769.
(b) In extending certain constitutional protections to resident aliens, this Court has been careful to point out that it was the aliens' presence within its territorial jurisdiction that gave the Judiciary power to act. P. 771.
(c) Executive power over enemy aliens, undelayed and unhampered by litigation, has been deemed, throughout our history, essential to wartime security. P. 774.
(d) A resident enemy alien is constitutionally subject to summary arrest, internment and deportation whenever a "declared war" exists. Courts will entertain his plea for freedom from executive custody only to ascertain the existence of a state of war and [339 U.S. 763, 764] whether he is an alien enemy. Once these jurisdictional facts have been determined, courts will not inquire into any other issue as to his internment. P. 775.
(e) A nonresident enemy alien, especially one who has remained in the service of the enemy, does not have even this qualified access to our courts. P. 776.
I really hate Anthony Kennedy. We could have had Robert Bork, instead we are stuck with this schmuck.

Another PC Nightmare from Across the Pond

Here's another one from The Telegraph's 'Expat Bulletin'. I had no idea the Brits were so far gone. Scary. I think the conventional wisdom in the colonies is that the Brits are more level-headed than we.

Thoughts on China

I spent a month in Beijing in January of 2007. While I was there, I spent a good amount of time composing a blog post in my head (that I never did get around to writing) about why I didn't think China was going to become a superpower to rival the United States any time soon. My thoughts can be boiled down to these few key points.

China's economy is able to overcome structural inefficiencies with a vast amount of cheap labor. China is able to maintain a super-heated export economy by virtue of an undervalued currency that doesn't float on the international market and deflates the price of Chinese goods. China has a large butcher's bill coming due for its despoiling of the environment in the form of modernizing its industry and the looming health costs to its citizenry. China still has 900 million people living in rural poverty.

In the July 27th Outlook section of The Washington Post I found this excellent article which makes several of the same points and which goes into great detail about the demographic time bomb lurking in the Chinese population. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Obama's 'Lost Years'

The inestimable Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and long-time commentator on the ongoing culture wars, has a fantastic essay in The Weekly Standard on Obama's writings in two Chicago newspapers, the Hyde Park Herald and the Chicago Defender, from 1996 to 2004 while he was a state senator in Illinois.

Not surprisingly, an analysis of these writings paints a very different picture than the post-racial Obama the media is trying to sell the electorate. It's a long read but well worthwhile, especially for those considering voting for Obama based on his pithy rhetoric.

Read it here.

Pipe Dreams of the Left

This past Sunday The Washington Post ran an article in the Outlook [weekly opinion] section entitled 'McCain's Problem Isn't His Tactic. It's GOP Ideas.' by Greg Anrig.

Mr. Anrig seems to think that the pendulum of public opinion has swung back in favor of Big Government. Basically it's a load of bollocks. What I found most risible was this paragraph:
So they advocated creating health savings accounts, handing out school vouchers, privatizing Social Security, shifting government functions to private contractors, and curtailing regulations on public health, safety, the environment and more. And, of course, they pushed to cut taxes to further weaken the public sector by "starving the beast." President Bush has followed this playbook more closely than any previous president, including Reagan, notwithstanding today's desperate efforts by the right to distance itself from the deeply unpopular chief executive.
Look at the conservative ideas that he claims have been advocated and discredited. Not one of them ever saw the light of day! Numerous Republican politicians have tried to get the federal government involved in school vouchers. But the Democrats, most notably Ted Kennedy, deeply beholden to the NEA, block any and all attempts at a meaningful school voucher program.

Privatizing Social Security? This was an idea that President Bush tried to tackle but again was blocked at every turn by Democrats, deeply beholden to elderly voters. I still don't have a private retirement savings account and I still see those taxes taken out of my paycheck every two weeks. President Bush even tried to compromise on Social Security reform, promising no reduction in benefits for those who elect to keep traditional Social Security benefits. Nothing!

'Starving the beast'? What planet is Mr. Anrig from? One of the biggest critiques that conservatives have of President Bush is that he spends like a, well, like a Democratic congressman. The tax cuts worked. They led to increased tax revenues, but then the President and Congress blew it all!

This is one of the most infuriating aspects of the Bush administrations. It seems like he is trying to spend his way (prescription drug benefit anyone?) to winning praise from the Democrats. But like the kid who tries to buy friends, all it gets him is contempt. Small government conservatives want desperately to like and believe in President Bush but he has snubbed us in favor of profligate spending. He just doesn't seem to understand that Paul Krugman is never going to write nice things about him.

If anything conservative ideals are as popular today as they every were. It's just that those of us that believe in them see little hope of their achieving fruition under any likely Republican presidents. As for Mr. Anrig's claim that more people believe that the public sector should do more to help those in need, is it any wonder after the past three generations have been brainwashed by public school education and the mainstream media? What's amazing is that there is still a large segment of the population that knows that they know what is best for their families and neighborhoods and wish politicians would take their hands out of our pockets so we could act in our own best interests.

Pelosi Takes Obstructionism to New Heig - Make that Lows!

This is excerpted from Chuck Muth's 'News 'N Views' e-newsletter. It's quite simply outrageous.

As I'm on the road traveling, I'm a bit behind in my reading and writing. But a "big deal" happened last Friday, as House Republicans staged a revolt against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who desperately wanted to adjourn the House and go on her summer vacation.

But Rep. John Shadegg - Honorary Chairman of the 2008 Conservative Leadership Conference - and Republicans refused to leave despite Pelosi turning off the lights and ordering the House Chamber cleared by security. Instead, Republicans demanded that Congress stay in session and deal with the nation's energy problems and challenges. That's pretty much what happened in a nutshell, but here's Rep. Shadegg's first-person account of the revolt which he sent to supporters last Friday afternoon...

To: Shadegg Friends
From: John Shadegg

History was made today. Congress just recessed for a month-long summer break, leaving any solutions to high gas and energy prices to wait until September. But, while Republicans were on the floor to try to talk about energy solutions, Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House and then ordered the C-SPAN cameras off, turned of the microphones and turned out the lights.

After the microphones went off, I was determined to get them back on and actually guessed right on the code to turn them back on. However, Pelosi ordered them off again.

Then, Pelosi order all reporters out of the Press Gallery, so I immediately went there to talk to the press, which enabled the press to stay there, since a Member of Congress was in the gallery.

My Republican colleagues and I stayed on the floor to continue the debate on why we need to have more domestic production and why we need to move forward with alternatives like solar, wind, and nuclear. In my speech on the floor of the House, I said that this was our Boston Tea Party. (My full comments are at the end of this email).

As we continued to talk on the House Floor, more and more of our Republican colleagues joined us and demonstrated our commitment to the American people in finding solutions to lower gas and energy prices.

Republican leaders just sent out a notice looking for a bullhorn and leadership aides are trying to corral all the members who are still in town to come speak on the floor and sustain this one-sided debate.

Also, Republicans can thank Shadegg for turning on the microphones the first time. Apparently, the feisty Arizona conservative started typing random codes into the chamber's public address system and accidentally typed the correct code, allowing Republicans brief access to the microphone before it was turned off again.

"I love this," Shadegg told reporters up in the press gallery afterward. "Congress can be so boring...This is a kick."

My comments on the House floor this afternoon are below.

Shadegg's Comments on House Floor

Ladies and gentleman, all of you who are here in the House Chamber today, listening to us speak without the TV cameras on, and without the microphones on, are watching history. How many of you remember the Boston Tea Party? This is the Boston Tea Party! How many of you remember the Orange Revolution when they tried to repress free speech behind the Iron Curtain? This is that revolution!

In this great nation, powerful leaders cannot repress the right of the Minority to speak out. And, that is what this is about. This is about the right of the Minority to be heard on this floor, of this House, today, in this debate on the single most important issue facing this nation and that is energy policy! It's affecting the lives and livelihoods of every single American.

Now, make no mistake about it. Those of us who are here speaking want more production of American-made energy. But we haven't said it's our way or the highway. We haven't said we only want more production of oil. We haven't said we only want oil produced from the outer continental shelf. We haven't said we only want more oil produced from the Intermountain West, or more oil from ANWR, or even oil shale. We have said we want all of the above! We want solar! We want nuclear! We want wind! We want America to have the power it needs to get the job done.

Why would they turn off the microphones? Why would they turn off the television cameras? Because, the truth is, a majority of Americans want more American-made, American-produced energy. They are tired of being blackmailed by our enemies like Hugo Chavez. They are tired of being dependent on foreign oil when they know we have American petroleum we can use to power our economy.

You are watching history. You are watching an effort by the Minority to express itself. And you will go home someday, those of you who are young, and remember the day that you stood here. Because in America, freedom of speech rules. I will make a prediction for you right here, right now. We will, in this nation, produce more American-made energy in the very near future, notwithstanding Nancy Pelosi!

It is important to understand, that on this floor, both majorities and minorities get to speak. Typically bills come to the floor, and the Minority can offer amendments. We wanted to offer amendments for the last four months, amendments to look at the issue of where we can get more American-made energy. An amendment perhaps to allow drilling on the outer continental shelf for the thousands of barrels, tens of thousands of barrels, hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil that are off our coasts! We wanted to offer an amendment to allow us to drill on the outer continental shelf for the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

Now why do we want that? We want that for the average American because if we start producing our own oil and our own natural gas, prices would come down today and people would stop suffering! Please understand we didn't want to be here today. We wanted to debate these things in regular order. We wanted a chance to offer those amendments when the bills were offered.

We wanted the chance to offer one of those amendments just two days ago, when the Majority took up a bill they thought would affect energy prices. You know what the Majority did? They said "No, not a single amendment will be allowed." They bring the bills to the floor and the rule says no amendments. So no amendment could be offered. For three months, for three months, the Majority has suppressed the rights of the Minority to have a single vote on more American-made energy, and that's just dead wrong.

Let me end by thanking you for being here and for witnessing this moment in American history - this Boston Tea Party for America's energy. Today, we can overcome Speaker Pelosi with your help.

Great Krauthammer Op-Ed

This op-ed by Charles Krauthammer does a great job of exposing Nancy Pelosi's hypocrisy when she explained her refusal to allow a vote on more drilling as, "I'm trying to save the planet; I'm trying to save the planet."

It's getting harder and harder for me to contain my disgust with Madam Speaker and her ilk. As Krauthammer shows, this is nothing more than NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) writ large.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Template Change

As you will no doubt notice, I selected a new template. I did this primarily because the new one makes more effective use of the full width of the screen. I am sure it will take some getting used to (for me as well as my readers), but I hope you like the change.

What Part of 'Representative' Do They Not Understand?

It occurs to me that far too many Congressmen have forgotten the operative part of their job title, namely to represent the views of their constituents. Most polls show that nearly three-quarters of Americans favor tapping more domestic sources of oil. Americans are feeling the pinch at the pump and are tired of sending billions of dollars to places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Nigeria.

Yet Nancy Pelosi in the House, and Harry Reid in the Senate (supported by the likes of Dianne Feinstein and Barack Obama) remain willfully obstinate on this issue. They must think we are pretty stupid; that we don't understand the basic economic law of supply and demand. They claim that drilling for more oil will not lower prices; that it will take too long for the oil to reach consumers. Hello! Every day you put off exploring for more domestic oil just extends the time for it to reach consumers that much longer. Not to mention that there are several fields that could be brought on line with in two years.

Democrats love to blame the speculators. Yet they don't seem to understand that speculators are betting on the supply of oil tomorrow. If they hear that US oil companies are going to start drilling for more oil in ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf, they will start betting that the supply in the future will increase and hence the price will drop.

These so-called leaders are infuriating in their condescension towards Americans! They think that you and I are too stupid to understand these issues and that they and their staff know better.

Say A Prayer for...

...Morgan Freeman. CNN reports that he is in serious condition after a car accident in Mississippi.

Freeman is certainly one of our greatest character actors. Please keep him in your thoughts and let's all wish him a full and speedy recovery!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Well, We Can Hope, Can't We?

CNN had this teaser for a story: 'Is al Qaeda No. 2 wounded or dead?' My first thought was, 'Well, I f*cking hope so!'

As I eagerly clicked on the link, I was greeted by this headline: 'No evidence of al Qaeda No. 2's illness or death, U.S. says'

CNN! Bunch of c*ck-teases!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Shape of Things to Come?

Earlier this week I posted some links to some stories from a British newspaper that gives you an idea of the PC run amok there. Below is a passage I cribbed from a National Review Online essay. Given the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision, how much longer before American taxpayers will be shelling out for the upkeep of those who wish to destroy us?

As an example of where we might be headed after Boumediene, consider the situation in Britain. In June, Abu Qatada, a radical imam wanted in connection with bombing conspiracies in several countries, was released from jail after seven years of fighting his deportation. Qatada, whose recorded sermons were found in the Hamburg apartment of the 9/11 hijackers, was described by an immigration appeals commission as a "truly dangerous individual" who was "heavily involved, indeed at the center of terrorist activities associated with al-Qa'eda."

But judges in Britain will not extradite him to Jordan, where he was convicted in absentia, because his lawyers allege that the evidence against him might have been obtained by torture. Sending him packing under these circumstances, the court ruled, would violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

The result is a perverse situation in which, to protect the human rights of the man who issued a fatwa to kill the wives and children of Egyptian police and army officers, the British public pays a yearly tab of $1.1 million to cover Qatada's round-the-clock police surveillance, housing and welfare assistance for him, his wife and five children.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quick Hitter

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker has the perfect characterization of Barack Obama:
Obama is like the guy who ignores the “merge ahead” sign, speeds along the outside lane past other drivers waiting their turn, and expects to be let in at the front.
And you know what? I HATE that guy!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Some Pics

I don't normally post many, okay, I don't really post any pictures in this space. But I figure those of you reading this probably want to know what this place looks like. So, here goes.

This is my trailer, in all its glory. It's about, I don't know, 8' wide by about 18' long, with about 7' ceilings. (I'm saving up for a double-wide!) These first two pictures are the layout as I found it.

So, the first thing I did was to take apart the bunk beds. (Bunk beds? What am I? Six?) Then I put the desk across from the bed so I can see the laptop from my bed. Here's the 'After' picture.

Much better.

I have some pictures of some of the sights around the base, but I'll post them later. For now I will leave you with a couple of pictures of the dust storm we had yesterday morning.

Just a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

At Least We Aren't The Only Country Suffering From PC Run Amok

Several years ago I signed up for the daily 'Expat Bulletin' from the British newspaper, The Telegraph. (Don't ask me why, I can't remember.) Lately, I have been horrified by some of the stories I read in it. This must be a case of misery loves company. Rather than comment extensively on each story, which would take me days, I'm just going to give a link/blurb.

Witness warns police of threats against his life and property and is subsequently killed by illegal immigrant.

Children in the UK aren't being taught to behave either.

Vocabulary police are active in Britain, too.

NHS is near bankruptcy and the government still spends money on touchy-feely programs.

Woman who was not screened for criminal background prevented from taking her severely disabled son to school. (This one is particularly distressing.)

'Yuck' could be racial slur among preschoolers. (Another one that is particularly distressing.)

Britain's most senior jurist says Muslims should be able to adopt facets of sharia. In other news, camel's nose sighted under tent.

Christian couple fired for declining profits in pub where they had banned swearing, stage protest by barricading themselves inside.
(Do as I say, damn - watch that mouth!)

25% of Britons to be vetted for crimes against children says new government bureaucracy.
(Companion piece to mother barred from taking disabled son to school.)

It's hard to know who is to blame for this one, but it's probably lawyers.

Can someone please explain to me why the EU has a rule about the size of kiwi fruit?

Apparently the police in Britain don't have better things to do.

I wonder if they got the idea from the pamphlet distributed by the Mexican Foreign Ministry with tips on how to enter the U.S. illegally.

You get the idea. Britain is in thrall to the forces of PC as much, if not more, than we are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

In Transit To Iraq

After successful completion of CRC, it was time to deploy. I drove from Fort Benning to Atlanta, dropped off my rental car and flew to Washington, Dulles. Thank goodness I was on United. I was able to use a 500-mile upgrade to upgrade myself to first class. Domestic first class is nothing great, but I get so few opportunities to use those upgrades that I was glad for the chance.

From Dulles, I got on another United flight to Kuwait. I haven't been to Kuwait since the end of 2003. The last time I flew there, I had to go through Frankfurt and then connect to a Lufthansa flight to fly to Kuwait City. Since that trip, United has opened a direct flight from Dulles to Kuwait. Thanks to my travel on the State Department contract, I still had a couple of system-wide upgrades. These things are gold for the frequent flier on United. You get six of them per year if you attain the highest status with Mileage Plus. They are like 'Get Out of Jail Free' cards. You can use them to upgrade one class of service without using any miles. So I was able to fly to Kuwait in business class. Unfortunately, I still didn't fly on one of the United aircraft with the upgraded business class cabins. One of these days...

For the flight to Kuwait, I had stayed up all night the night before so that I would be able to sleep most of the 12 hour flight. This was kind of a mistake, since I would be arriving in Kuwait at 5:00 pm, but it sure made the flight go faster. After dinner, I racked out and only awoke with about 30 minutes until landing.

At the Kuwait airport, I checked in with the Air Force and waited for a shuttle bus to take us to the transit base, Ali Al Saleem Air Base (AAS). We were herded on to buses and driven to AAS. I was kind of surprised that they made us keep the curtains closed. Perhaps it was for our safety, since everyone on the bus had at least a Secret clearance.

At AAS, I checked into the billeting office and was assigned to a tent. Then we went to another desk where we surrendered our passports so the Air Force could get us visas. Finally, I went to another desk to get on the list to fly to Baghdad.

The tents at AAS where you stay waiting for your military (MIL) flight are large tents built on foundations with six sets of bunk beds. Upon entering my tent, I was pleased to see a familiar face. Bob Tsui (pronounced like 'tray') had been a traveler on my last contract, but on another team (Alpha). He also worked for Stanley. It was great to have someone to show me around and offer advice on what kind of things I would need in Iraq. Bob is working on a Marine contract in Fallujah now.

I spent two days at AAS. I didn't really sleep while I was there. One reason was because I had slept on the flight to Kuwait. The other was because there are several formations and roll calls every day. The formations are where they call your name for your flight. They have those every four to six hours. If you miss your formation, you may miss a chance to catch a flight. I was scared that if I slept I would oversleep and miss my ride.

After two days, I finally was assigned a seat on 'Convoy-01'. I put on my body armor and helmet, gathered up my duffels and went to the holding area. After a wait of about an hour, we were driven out to the flight line to embark our aircraft. In this case, Convoy-01 was a Lockheed C-130J from the Japanese Air Self Defense Forces. We took off mid-morning and by midday I had landed at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).

I was finally 'in country'.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Minimum Wage Myths

On today I found this extra-shoddy piece of editorial disguised as 'Latest News'.

For years the media have been distorting the truth about the minimum wage in order to gain sympathy for raising it. This piece is a textbook example of this type of shoddy reporting. In fact, I think they probably just keep this same story in a 'Boilerplate' directory on their computer networks and trot it out every so often and just update the numbers.

First of all there shouldn't even be a minimum wage. When you artificially set a floor on the price of a good, then you necessarily restrict the demand for it at some given levels. That is just basic economics.

And there is plenty of research that demonstrates that the minimum wage hurts precisely those workers it is designed to help: low-income teens from poor neighborhoods. If there were ever an example of the "We-Must-Do-Something-To-Be-Seen-Doing-Something" style of politics, this is it. Perhaps that is why one of its biggest champions has been Ted Kennedy.

So, let's begin carving up this story, shall we? First we have the title, "Minimum-wage workers live on the edge". Ooh, sounds scary, doesn't it? It's supposed to. Of course, like Obama's message of unspecified change, it really doesn't tell us much. If one lives on the edge of a cliff, a crevasse, an abyss, well, yes, that is bad. But if one lives on the edge of a golf course, a lake or a nude beach, being on the edge can be all right.

Next, following the formula for puff pieces like this, the writers tell us a sad story about someone who is affected by whatever it is they are blowing the lid off of, in this case, the evils of the minimum wage. This article is no exception. We are told a story about Timothy Davis, a 21-year-old who works full time at Wendy's in Atlanta. It describes Timothy's struggle to make ends meet while working for minimum wage for five paragraphs.

This is hugely disingenuous because it is anecdotal evidence and does not give the reader a sense of the proportion of the problem. Also, in this case, it is a bad anecdote upon which to base your argument. The article's opening sentence tells us that three months ago Mr. Davis decided to rent an apartment and move out on his own.

Ok. Let's stop right there. When politicians and reporters demagogue this issue they always portray the minimum wage as something which it is not and was never intended to be. The minimum wage is an entry level wage. It is the least amount of money the law will allow you to work for. It is not designed to be a wage upon which one can build a life, buy a house or support a family.

So, even though the article is trying to get me to sympathize for Mr. Davis, already I don't because in the first sentence the writer has already told me that Mr. Davis has poor decision-making skills. If he is working in a fast-food restaurant and is making minimum wage, Mr. Davis should have looked at moving in with some friends so the rent would be cheaper and the cost of the utilities can be shared. Or perhaps he should be living at home until he can get some kind of job training that will allow him to earn more. What he shouldn't be doing is living in an apartment by himself in a major metropolitan area.

After five paragraphs, the authors finally give us some context of the problem. We are told that, "[a]ccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.3 percent of American hourly workers -- 1.7 million people -- are paid at or below the federal minimum." That is 2.3 percent of hourly workers, not all workers. We are told that 1.7 million people are working at minimum wage. According to that same Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 the size of the entire US workforce was 151.4 million people. In other words, this is a problem for 0.011 percent of the total workforce. Kind of puts things in perspective.

Let's read on a bit further, shall we? In paragraph eight we learn that, "[m]inimum-wage earners tend to be unmarried part-time workers in service-industry jobs who are under 25 years old and have not completed high school." In other words, the average minimum wage earner is the most uneducated and unskilled worker in our workforce. Frankly, at $6.55 these workers are likely overpaid, not underpaid. If what you are doing takes no education and no skills, how much do you really expect to make at that particular endeavor?

Paragraph eleven begins with this sentence, "About 60 percent of minimum-wage employees work in the leisure and hospitality industry, primarily food and drink establishments. However, many of these employees receive tips as a significant portion of their income." In other words, not even all of that 1.7 million figure cited in paragraph five are really even earning minimum wage. So really we are talking about less than 0.011 percent of the workforce. Hardly an epidemic.

The article continues on to describe the hardships that such workers endure, such as "find[ing] ways to cut corners, watering down milk and filling up on 'cheap and filling carbohydrates instead of protein,' which can lead to health problems". We are told that Mr. Davis "doesn't buy gasoline, choosing instead to rely on Atlanta's mass transit system."

A Google search turned up a link to the Employment Policies Institute's website that informs the reader that "[t]he average family income for employees who will 'benefit' from the recently enacted $2.10 minimum wage hike is $46,889. Why? Six out of seven of these employees either live with their parents or relatives, have a working spouse, or are single and don't have children." In other words, six out of seven minimum wage earners are not, like this story's lead, Mr. Davis, "living on the edge".

And here is another fact that's editori - that is, "reporters" don't think you need to know.
Virtually all minimum wage employees will see their incomes rise as they increase their value to employers by gaining skills through experience. Analysis of US Census Bureau data shows the median raise these employees receive is six times higher than that of employees earning above the minimum wage.

This traditional growth out of entry-level employment explains why less than 1% of employees above the age of 25 are working at the minimum wage.

In short, CNN is guilty of playing fast and loose with the facts in this so-called news story to give its readers a distorted picture of the plight of the minimum wage worker.

I know. You're shocked.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Is Obama Ever Wrong?

Check out this item from WTOP News. Apparently, Senator Obama was going to visit wounded soldiers in Germany, then changed his mind. And he blames the Pentagon.

I guess the visit with wounded soldiers lost some of its luster when he found out that campaign staff and the press couldn't accompany him.

Do you suppose that would have stopped Senator McCain? Or President Bush?

So much for 'change'

I just saw this item on CNN.

I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you. It seems Barack Obama went to Iraq, left, and still hasn't changed his mind about the war.

So much for his being the Great White Hope of the Democrats.

Well, of course he didn't change his mind. Despite the fact that he went on one of those famous Congressional "fact-finding" missions, Obama managed not to find a single fact while in Iraq. He went over there knowing that his decision to oppose the war was one of the key things that got him where he is today. It would be political suicide for him to change that view now.

Heck, he can't even admit that the surge worked. Instead, when pressed for a comment about the surge, he gave the self-serving answer that we don't know what would have happened had we just listened to him.

Assuming he gets elected, and that proposition looks "iffier" every day, he is going to fit in just fine. Face it, folks, Obama is just another Democrat, committed to the idea that America isn't any better than any other country and that there is no problem that government can't solve.

"Change We Can Believe In", indeed!


Obamania has reached such a deafening crescendo with Grand Tour of Europe that I feel I would be remiss in not commenting on it. I hadn't wanted to, since it would only add to the din, but I feel like I have to.

First of all, let's deal with the obvious. Barack Obama is an undistinguished politician who is his party's nominee because of his race. I say this without malice and it would have been equally true that sex was the determinative factor had Hillary Clinton become the Democrats' standard-bearer.

Close your eyes. I am going to ask you to imagine a politician. His name is John Smith. John Smith is a telegenic, articulate, middle-aged man. He has impeccable academic credentials. He had a short career in the private sector and then returned to his home, a large urban city, to become a community organizer. He spent three years working with a community development organization before attending a very prestigious law school. He excelled in law school and graduated with high honors.

He returned to his hometown where he resumed his work in community development, working with underprivileged residents before joining a small law firm specializing in civil rights legislation.

After four years practicing law, he runs for the state legislature. He gained accolades for his work trying to improve the situation of the underprivileged residents of his state. Next comes an unsuccessful run for the House of Representatives.

Four years later he wins an impressive victory in the Democratic primary in his campaign for a seat in the US Senate. His expected opponent, the Republican incumbent, drops out of the race five months before the election. With less than three months before the election, the Republicans decide to run a candidate with national name recognition but few ties to the state. Smith wins the election.

During his first term he works with several Republicans on some key issues, such as border security and immigration. Still, he remains a largely unknown quantity.

Before completing his first term, Smith decides to explore running for the presidency largely on the basis of a keynote address at his party's national convention that propels him into the national spotlight.

Seriously, would you vote for him? Would you expect him to become the star of a bona fide media circus? Perhaps, you might say, one day with more Senate experience and maybe some executive experience, he may be considered presidential timber. After all, for an elected official, Senator Smith is still a young man.

But as is? I just don't see it.

Consider some other relative newcomers who have surged to prominence. Let's start with Fred Thompson. He captured the country's attention, briefly, but then petered out. And I would argue that Mr. Thompson had both more experience and more name recognition (having had a successful acting career) than Mr. Obama.

Mitt Romney had a very successful private-sector career as a CEO, before rescuing the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake. He followed that by winning the governor's mansion as a Republican in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts. By any measure, Mr. Romney has significantly more experience than Mr. Obama.

A similar argument could be made for Michael Bloomberg. Also, these two men are capable of self-financing their campaigns. Mr. Obama is the black John Edwards, without the hugely successful career as a trial lawyer and the resultant money with which to finance his campaign.

So what to make of this hysteria? First of all, there is no doubt that Obama is the subject of genuine enthusiasm among younger voters. But that was true of Howard Dean in 2004 and he imploded spectacularly. And I would argue that they youth vote is unreliable and fickle. (Even though E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post argues that this is the year - finally - when the youth turn out en masse. I'll believe when I see it.)

Frankly, I think Obamania is largely a media-driven phenomenon. The media are the ones who determines who gets coverage and in what measure. And I think their decision to get behind Obama was determined by two factors: his vote against the Iraq War, which the media detests, and his good fortune in not being Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton's cold calculating persona along with her naked lust for the presidency, combined to make her that most fatal of qualities in a candidate, unlikeable.

What I find most maddening and mystifying about Senator Obama is how little of substance he seems to say. His campaign slogan, "Change We Can Believe In", tells us nothing. Change in and of itself is neither good nor bad, unless we know what we are changing from and towards. If I offer to "change" $100 into $50 for you, is that a good deal for you? Of course not. And if I ask you to give me $100 without telling you what it is for, are you likely to give it to me? Again, of course not.

I think Obamania is going to backfire. In the midst of all the hysteria, what the media hasn't told you is that Obama and McCain are basically in a dead heat now. And now Obama's campaign is beginning to smack of pride and narcissism.

I hadn't realized that up until a few months ago, Mr. Obama used to adorn his podium with a seal, complete with a motto in Latin. In the words of columnist Charles Krauthammer, "Who does Obama think he is?"

In Germany, he asked to make his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where John Kennedy famously uttered "Ich bin ein Berliner" and where Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall". Obama can point to no such achievements. Trying to associate himself with these men who faced down a deadly enemy in the Soviet Union reeks of conceit.

Consider this exchange:
“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.

“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter reminded the adviser.

And that gentle reminder was from a reporter. Even the people who helped him get where he is are softly suggesting he rein it in a bit!

I think he and his staff have gotten caught up in the hype. I think the more strategic course of action would have been to sit out the 2008 campaign and wait to be courted as a vice presidential candidate and gained experience in a national campaign. If he weren't successful on a national Democratic ticket, then I think he would have done well to serve a term or two as governor of Illinois or mayor of Chicago so that he would have some executive experience to bring to a presidential race.

I think the American people are going to decide that Mr. Obama has gotten a bit too full of himself. He is already acting as though he is the president when many people have not made up their minds about him. With his relative dearth of experience, I think they will decide that it's too much, too soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quick Hitter

It occurs to me that an Obama victory in November will not be a victory for race relations in the US. The Democrats would nominate Krusty the Clown in an effort to retake the White House and dance on George Bush's political grave.

Reporting on Obamania in Europe

Here's yet another item I cribbed from Taranto and 'Best of the Web'. It's from a BOTW reader who is commenting on the fawning coverage of Obama's visit to Germany.

Here's the AP's opening paragraph.

In this city where John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all made famous speeches, Obama will find himself stepping into perhaps another iconic moment Thursday as his superstar charisma meets German adoration live in shadows of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate.

(An aside: I don't know about "superstar" charisma. I find him rather vapid, completely lacking in substance. Methinks the media is projecting a bit too much.)

Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton... Huh? Clinton?

Read on. It's hilarious.

The Associated Press story you quote refers to famous speeches delivered in Berlin by John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

We all remember the first two speeches, but what's Clinton doing in that group? Am I the only one who's forgotten the vivid imagery of 1994's "Chisels of Liberty" speech? Should I be embarrassed that I hadn't realized that those immortal (and pithy) words known to the most casual student of history, "Nichts wird uns aufhalten. Alles ist moeglich. Berlin ist frei," were actually first spoken by our 42nd president? Heck, I thought that was from Lincoln.

Or maybe the the AP is referring to Clinton's equally memorable 1998 remarks honoring the Berlin Airlift, the oft-quoted "Berlin Is Still Berlin" speech. If only I had a nickel for every time subsequent presidents, commencement speakers, and just plain lovers of the spoken word have borrowed that great line!

It might even be in danger of becoming a cliché. Sure it's an instantly identifiable and resonant phrase, but do we really need even one more newspaper headline using it for a play on words? "Cleveland Is Still Cleveland." "Beckham Is Still Beckham." "Bacon Is Still Bacon." Yeah, yeah, we get it. I imagine it's even worse in Germany.

The Editorial the New York Times Doesn't Want You to Read

You may have heard how the New York Times recently refused to run an op-ed on the war in Iraq submitted by Senator John McCain while running one submitted by Senator Barack Obama.

Here is the op-ed the Times didn't want you to read.

In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation “hard” but not “hopeless.” Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that “our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence.” But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, “Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress.” Even more heartening has been progress that’s not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama’s determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his “plan for Iraq” in advance of his first “fact finding” trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.

Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military's readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.

No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five “surge” brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.

But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his “plan for Iraq.” Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be “very dangerous.”

The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we’ve had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely.

I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it. But if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Brilliant Essay by Andrew C. McCarthy

In the past I have recommended to my readers the writings of Andrew C. McCarthy on "National Review Online". He writes about the law and the War on Terror.

Mr. McCarthy is, according to Wikipedia, "a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. He was most notable for leading the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others. The defendants were convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and planning a series of attacks against New York City landmarks. He also contributed to the prosecutions of terrorists who bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, resigning from the Justice Department in 2003."

Here is a link to an essay entitled "Suspend the Writ" that appeared on National Review Online today. In it, Mr. McCarthy demonstrates the dangers inherent in the recent Supreme Court decision Boumediene v. Bush in which Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the Court's four liberals to grant habeas corpus rights to detained enemy combatants. I couldn't possibly do a better job than Mr. McCarthy in explaining the pitfalls of this horrific decision that was wrongly decided for so many reasons. It also goes a long way to explaining why Justice Kennedy is perhaps the most dangerous justice this country has ever seen.

I highly recommed this essay to all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In the Pipeline, Part II

I last left off my account of my transition to Iraq in Camp Dawson, WV. Before I dive in to my impressions of Iraq, I wanted to comment on the Army's orientation process.

All military and civilians deploying to the US Central Command's (CENTCOM) theater in Iraq must go through a weeklong orientation process at the Continental US (CONUS) Redeployment Center (CRC) at Fort Benning, Georgia (Home of the Infantry - although soon it will be home to the Army's Armor School).

How to describe CRC? The Army, as with any large organization is a bureaucracy. And like all bureaucracies, it has myriad paperwork requirements to satisfy. CRC is the Army's way of doing that and it is excruciating because the process seems to be geared towards special needs kindergartners.

Part of the problem is that military and civilians alike are processed together. This is not the most efficient way to do this since there are different strictures for each group. And even though many of the civilian contractors are former military, some are not. And it's just needless to treat civilians like military. I'm sorry. I have many skills and learn quickly but I don't respond well to being marched around like a soldier.

I could excuse some of the efficiencies if the Army were new to this deployment process. But they are not. They have been doing this, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for five years now. There is just no reason for them not to have learned some of these lessons by now. Here's a prime example. One of the things that they do during CRC is to issue you your body armor. This is about 40 pounds of armor for almost your entire upper body, a gas mask, Kevlar helmet and first aid kit. Why on earth do they give you this stuff at Ft. Benning? Worse, they issue it to you before you have even finished CRC. Conceivably, at some point you may become non-deployable in which case you would have to give it all back.

Even crazier is if you refuse the equipment. There are many guys who are returning to Iraq or Afghanistan and who already have this equipment. If you don't want to have the gear issued to you, you need a memo signed by an O-6 (Colonel) or GS-15 or higher. If you don't have such a memo and don't want the gear, what do they do? They charge you $2900 for it. You read that right. If you don't repeat don't accept the gear, you have to pay for it. Excuse me?

Of course, none of this goes to answer the most basic question, which is, why don't they issue you this crap in Kuwait just before you enter the theater? No-one seems to know.

Here's another example of the lunacy. In order to deploy, you have to be medically cleared. Rather than give you a physical there, you have to get one before you go. I spent $360 for a physical and blood work prior to going. That expense is reiumbursable from Northrop Grumman. Presumably, Northrop Grumman will slap their overhead on it and bill that to the Army. So, instead of me getting a physical and blood work that would cost the Army about about $200, they are going to spend about three times that much for the exact same procedures.

Want more? Ok. In order to deploy, you also need up-to-date immunizations. When I went through medical clearance, I was informed that I needed three immunizations. Did the Army give me those shots? Of course not. They sent me off-base to a private clinic where I spent $190 for three shots. So, once again, Northrop will reimburse me, add their overhead to the cost and bill the Army. So, instead of immunizing me for about $50, they are going to spend roughly ten times that much for three shots.

Still want more? One of the other big things you do at CRC is get your CAC card. CAC stands fo Combined Access Card and it's your military ID that gets you on base, into the dining facilities, PX, gym, etc. They marched us onto a bus and drove us to an office where we were briefed, filled out some forms and then we waited. And waited. And waited. I and a bunch of other guys ended up waiting six hours to sit in a chair, have our fingeprints and photographs taken electronically and get our badges printed. Elapsed time from when I sat in the seat? About 12 minutes.

That's not the worst part, though. While I was there, I talked with another fellow who already had a CAC card. Recall that the first C stands for Combined (as in combined armed forces). He had to sit their all afternoon to get another CAC because the one he already had said 'Air Force Contractor' and not 'Army Contractor'. Now the CAC is a 'smart card'. It has a chip that has some electronic certificates loaded onto it. The Army, if it wanted to, could easily load their credentials on to a CAC printed by the Air Force. They just don't.

And they want us to do this once a year! In case you were wondering why I plan on staying longer, I can now answer that one of the reasons is to avoid having to go to CRC again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Aren't they just making his point for him?

During lunch hour here in Iraq, we have the misfortune to be subjected to MSNBC's "Countdown" with Keith Olberman. I am not sure exactly when it was Mr. Olberman made the transformation from sportscaster to pundit. I do know that his transformation from sportcaster to tool is complete, though.

Keith's big story today was the resignation of Sen. Phil Gramm ('the man who brought us Enron and the current gas crisis' - who knew Phil Gramm had so much power?) as John McCain's national campaign co-chair. This is in the wake of Sen. Gramm's comments that America is becoming a nation of whiners.

So, what did the media do for the next four or five days? Whine about it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Typical One-Sided Reporting

This week I came across a couple of examples of the deceitfulness of the reporting being done in the War on Terror.

No doubt you've heard about the nine soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. It's a terrible loss. But I wonder if any of the accounts you've read put the battle into any kind of context. For example, did you read anywhere that the force of 25 Americans and 20 Afghans were attacked by a force of some 200 Taliban fighters? And did you also read that the Taliban KIA were estimated at 35 - 100? In other words the good guys killed anywhere from 4 to 10 times as many bad guys.

The second example was in an AP report on one Omar Khadr, 22. Mr. Khadr is a Canadian and Pakistani citizen. His father is described as being an al Qaeda "financier". Young Omar is being detained at Gauntamo Bay. In fact he holds the dubious honor of being the youngest detainee.

The article was written on the heels of video tape footage released by his lawyers trying to gain sympathy for poor young Omar. They hope that by bringing his detention to the attention of the Canadian public, the Canadian government will request his release. There is a description of how Omar asks for medical attention for wounds suffered to his arms.

What's curiously absent in the piece is the reason for Omar's detention. Then 16 year-old Omar killed a Special Forces medic in Afghanistan with a grenade. I think that is slightly relevant, don't you?

Pelosi Piffle

Remember how the media gushed about what a great Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was going to be back in 2007? How she was tough and savvy, yada yada yada.

Didn't happen. Ms. Pelosi has led an essentially do-nothing Congress into its lowest approval ratings ever.

But it's all George Bush's fault!

Ms. Pelosi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that President Bush has been a "total failure". I know I have probably said this before a hundred times, but I really believe that you have to have your sense of shame surgically removed to be a Democrat politician.

When questioned about Congress' low approval ratings, Pelosi predictably blames Bush. She interprets Congress' low ratings as public disapproval for failure to end the war in Iraq. A war the consensus of which is now going very much better than it had been. Of course this is just spin. Pelosi well knows that public opinion is now very much different vis-a-vis the war than what it was before the Surge.

Democrats are feckless idiots. Most people know this. It's just too bad that they have such a fawning audience in the national media.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quick hitter

I know that I need to post an update about my transition to the new job in Iraq. I promise this is forthcoming once I get settled in at my site and can get hooked up to a proper (i.e. non-military) internet connection. But in the meantime...

Will someone please tell Brett Favre to shut up and retire already? I am really tired of this guy. Hey, Brett, you're a gutsy player who had a sure-fire Hall of Fame career. Now stop tarnishing that image by whining like a little baby.

I saw something on ESPN the other day about how he is now claiming he was "pressured" into retiring.

Puh-leez! I may have been born at night, but I wasn't born LAST night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In The Pipeline

If you are a more than occasional reader of my blog, you'll know that normally this space is dedicated to my pointing out how Democrats, and liberals in general, are trying to screw up the country.

However, you probably also know that I recently took a job with Northrop Grumman IT as a BISA System Administrator for the Army in Iraq. So, I am going to start documenting my experiences in Iraq.

Ok, to start, I'm not in Iraq yet. Monday, June 23 was my first day with the company. I spent that day at company headquarters in McLean, VA, learning about the company and benefits, etc. Pretty boring stuff. Tuesday I drove to Camp Dawson, WV, for two days of training on the system I will be working on.

Camp Dawson is located in eastern West Virginia, near the Maryland border, about 100 miles near due south of Pittsburgh. It's an Army National Guard Training Facility. In fact, it's the - wait for it - Robert C. Byrd Army National Guard Training Facility. According to my friend, Dave Manzano, this is where all Army National Guard and Reserve Special Forces units conduct their training.

Today I got my first hands-on with the Biometrics Identification System for Access (BISA). Conceptually, what the Army is doing with biometrics is very similar to what the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs is doing. The Army is also using very similar or in some cases the same equipment. Obviously, this gives me a leg up in learning about the system.

I have one more day of training then on Friday I'll drive to Pittsburgh, fly to Atlanta and then drive to Ft. Benning, GA in Columbus, GA, on the AL/GA border.

I took some pictures of Camp Dawson which I am going to post in an album on Kodak Gallery. They should be up some time later this evening.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This just in from Cloud-Cuckooland

I would really like to know why are we taking the word of terrorists over that of our own soldiers.

Today's CNN Homepage features a story declaring that there is no doubt that our soldiers committed torture at Abu Ghraib. Of course, they reprinted the photo of the dog menacing a poor defenseless detainee. (Never mind that there is no evidence the dog's handler ordered his K-9 to attack the subject in question. Minor detail, that.)

What really galled me is this paragraph:

In a 121-page report, the doctors' group said that it uncovered medical evidence of torture, including beatings, electric shock, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, sodomy and scores of other abuses.

This report is based on testimony given by former detainees to a Massachusetts-based group, Physicians for Human Rights. The group reached that conclusion after two-day clinical evaluations of 11 former detainees.

What people seem to forget is that all the al-Qaeda training manuals US forces have uncovered so far all instruct detainees to lie about their conditions and claim that they were tortured.

Gee, do you think it's possible that al-Qaeda is trying to manipulate the media?

Nah. Couldn't be.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This is pretty cool

I can't recall how I stumbled on this but I thought it was funny. Here's a link to the HTML code so you can display your own badge.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm Shocked! Shocked I Tell You

Their tax returns show that Bill and Hillary Clinton have hauled in a fortune of $111 million since they left the White House in 2001 through last year. But that hasn't stopped them from taking every penny of taxpayer money potentially available to former presidents.

Federal records show that Mr. Clinton's pension and office expenses totaled over $8 million since he retired, compared with only $5.5 million for former President George H.W. Bush and $4 million for former President Jimmy Carter during the same period of time. The money goes for everything from a full-time office and staff to travel and telephone reimbursements. The cost of lifetime Secret Service protection is not included in the calculations.

- John Fund, Political Diary, 4/11/08

The Bureaucratization of War

Disagreements and coordination problems high within the international military command are delaying combat operations for 2,500 Marines who arrived here last month to help root out Taliban forces, according to military officers here (in Afghanistan). For weeks the Marines - with their light armor, infantry, artillery and a squadron of transport and attack helicopters and Harrier strike fighters - have been virtually quarantined at the international air base here, unable to operate beyond the base perimeter.

(D)isputes among the many layers of international command here - an ungainly conglomeration of 40 nations ranging from Albania and Iceland to the U.S. and Britain - have forced a series of delays. Unlike most U.S. military operations, even the small details of operations here - such as the radio frequency used to evacuate a soldier for medical care - must first be coordinated with multiple military commands.

...For Marines, who are accustomed to landing in a war zone and immediately going into action with their own plans, the holdup has been frustrating. . . . Marine operations planning, which is routinely completed in hours or days, has gone on for weeks while they await agreement and approval from above.

- David Wood, Baltimore Sun, 4/11/08

But It's President Bush's Fault!

This is an awesome piece I cribbed from Chuck Muth's "News 'N Views" e-mail:

Remember the election in 2006?Thought you might like to read the following. A little over one year ago:

1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.

Since voting in a Democratic Congress in 2006 we have seen:

1) Consumer confidence plummet;
2) The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $3.50 a gallon;
3) Unemployment is up to 5% (a 10% increase);
4) American households have seen $2.3 trillion in equity value evaporate (stock and mutual fund losses);
5) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $1.2 trillion dollars;
6) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure.

America voted for change in 2006, and we got it!

- Author unknown; forwarded to us by a News & Views reader

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Little Levity...

...courtesy of Chuck Muth's "News 'N Views":

An old, blind man wanders into a Democrat bar in Washington, DC, by mistake. He finds his way to a barstool and orders a beer. After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender, "Hey, you wanna hear a Dumb Democrat joke?" The bar immediately falls absolutely silent. In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says,

"Before you tell that joke, sir, I think it is only fair, given that you are blind, that you should know five things: One, the bartender is a Democrat with a baseball bat. Two, the bouncer is a Democrat. Three, I'm a 6-foot-tall, 175-pound Democrat with a black belt in karate. Four, the woman sitting next to me is a Democrat and a professional weightlifter. And five, the lady to your right is a Democrat and a professional wrestler. Now, think about it seriously, Mister. Do you still wanna tell that joke?"

The blind man thinks for a second, shakes his head and finally mutters: "Well, no; not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."

This is a disgrace

I was checking out a video on YouTube that someone sent me when I found this one.

It's a video of an Army National Guardsman being beaten severely by members of the Las Vegas PD at McCarran Airport.

I've written about this before, so I will try to not go on at length. The rank-and-file TSA staff have a thankless job. They are made to enforce policies that have little rational basis. These policies are the legacy of the former Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta. The airline industry had the bad luck to have Mineta as the Secretary charged with regulating their industry at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

In my opinion, the formative experience of Mineta's life appears to have been being interned during WWII. Although Wikipedia gives no dates, Mineta would have been around 10 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Assuming he spent the remainder of the war in internment, he would have been about 15 at the time he was released.

This was highly unfortunate for the airlines and their customers as Mineta insisted on policies that treated everyone as a potential terrorist, rather than use profiling to identify those likely commit terrorism.

Watching the news report of the incident, it appears that the Guardsman contributed to this situation. He does seem to have lost his temper. However, I can totally sympathize with him. I spent the last six years being regularly subjected to this treatment by the TSA - and I was working on a contract DIRECTLY RELATED TO BORDER SECURITY!

On the whole I think the flying public has been remarkably patient with the Mineta regime. What's surprising is that there haven't been more such incidents and that TSA personnel haven't been the subject of the occasional beating themselves.

What's really ludicrous is that the TSA is so slow to revise these idiotic policies that really don't do that much to make us safer. After all the terrorists have already used planes as weapons and are unlikely to do so again. Should they try another 9/11-style attack, they could just as easily use other permitted items to kill cabin crew. And with the flying public alert to the threat and the example of the passengers of United 93, putative terrorists would have to have a heck of a plan to get away with it again.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Global Warming, Fait Accompli?

Not so fast, my friend! as Lee Corso, of ESPN's College Game Day, would say.

Check out this article sent to me by my friend Bill Carroll.

I wonder if Al Gore will give back his Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is This What The Media Call A Recession?

Cribbed from "Best of the Web", who got it from a piece in The Washington Post, if these are the hardships the media are touting as signs of an economic downturn, then they have a tough sell on their hands.

The last thing Marti Tracy wants to do on a Saturday is clip coupons. But last month the 34-year-old Bowie resident felt she no longer had a choice. She'd already given up organic meat and decided to buy organic milk only for her 2-year-old son, not for the whole family.

Tracy and her partner also stopped buying the cereals they like in favor of whatever was on sale; stopped picking up convenient single-size packs of juice, water or crackers; and, in order to save gas, stopped going to multiple stores. "I find the whole thing a huge hassle, but I've reached a tipping point," said Tracy, a government human resources specialist who is pregnant with her second child. "Clearly, I'm not unable to feed my family. But I just can't feed my family the way I'd like to feed them."

Reading Recommendation

I am up early this morning and catching up on the emails in my Inbox, many of which are the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web", edited by the brilliant James Taranto.

One such email contains a link to a video which purports to expose Senator Barack Obama's links to The Weather Underground's William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who the video claims helped launch his political career.

This got me to musing about why so many young people of that era developed such hatred and revulsion for a country that had given them nothing but affluence and opportunity. I think that Robert Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah offers the best explanation.

My reading of Bork's thesis is that these young people, who had not earned their affluence by dint of facing the twin hardships of the Great Depression and World War II, felt guilty for their (in their minds) ill-gotten gains. They couldn't make sense of a world with so much cruelty and suffering for some but not others (themselves included mainly among the latter group). Having forsaken religion (a potential source of comfort and guidance), and rather than work constructively within the system created by their forefathers that had served them and their country so well for so long, they lashed out at it for saddling them with their guilt.

I can't think of a better, more cogent explanation. The book is a good read, even if Bork does let his contempt for these 60s radicals shine through unabashedly.

As The Old Saying Goes...

..."Denial ain't just a river in Egypt".

Reuters reports on a U.N. employee who taught science and practiced engineering:

By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli air strike that killed the 33-year-old last week also laid bare his apparent double life and embarrassed a U.N. agency which has long had to rebuff Israeli accusations that it has aided and abetted guerrillas fighting the Jewish state.

In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq's work with explosives. And his family denied he had any militant links at all, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home.

But militant leaders allied to the enclave's ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad's "engineering unit"--its bomb makers. They fired a salvo of improvised rockets into Israel in response to his death.