17 December 2009

The Godfather: Chicago Style

Even though Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) denies the rumor, the claim that the White House, specifically, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, threatened to put Offutt AFB on the BRAC list (Base Realignment And Closing) is certainly plausible. It also illustrates the profound ignorance of the people now in charge of the Executive Branch.

Consider the importance of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. It is home to Strategic Command (STRATCOM). StratCom is the heir to many of the responsibilities of Strategic Air Command (SAC) had when is stood down in 1992. In addition, it has other missions and responsibilities world-wide. This is not some run-of-the-mill organization. One of the functions of StratCom is to serve as an alternate command center. The function was carried out on September 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush flew to Offutt AFB to use the command control facilities at the StratCom command center. In addition, the 55th Wing is stationed at Offutt; it has responsibilities world-wide too. While the main contingent of aircraft assigned to Offutt is some version of the RC-135, the E-4B is also present and flown by the 1st Airborne Command Control Squadron (1 ACCS). Not only that, the Navy E-6B Mercury is a regular visitor to Offutt AFB, and for good reason. You can go to the link to see for yourself the mission of that aircraft.

Then there is the physical location of Offutt Air Force Base. Sitting at nearly the mid-continental United States, it is as far away from a potential ICBM or SLBM threat as you can get.

To support all of that activity, the infrastructure at Offutt is, if not unique, a rarity among Air Force bases.

To close Offutt you would need to find a home for the diverse missions that are located there. In addition, you would have to replicate the infrastructure that supports the base. Finally, it is not possible to locate all of those missions to another mid-continent site because there is none.

And then there is the BRAC process itself. BRAC is a creation of Congress. Congress acts on recommendations from the Executive Branch and is the ultimate decider of what is to remain open and what is to be closed. Many bases that were on the 2005 closure list remain open. It is difficult to envision a Congress so reckless as to run up the financial and political costs necessary to close Offutt.

Threatening to close Offutt Air Force Base illustrates either profound ignorance or an excess of chutzpah.

20 October 2009

The Day the Queen Came to Town

It was twenty-five years ago. I was on my last assignment of active duty at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. On a day in September, one of the security people from Headquarters Strategic Air Command called a meeting with several of us base support folks; only base security and airfield management were invited. When the meeting started a civilian stood next to the security officer. The civilian turned out to be a member of the Secret Service.

We were informed that Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (at least the six northern counties) would be passing through in a few week's time. Her transportation, a Vickers VC-10 operated by the Royal Air Force, would need refueling. It turned out that the Queen would be coming from Sheridan, Wyoming, where she was visiting her racing manager (horse racing, that is) in Buffalo, Wyoming.

It turns out that Queen Elizabeth was on an unofficial tour of the United States. She was to visit Kentucky and Wyoming because she had horse racing interests in both states. The Wyoming visit was especially significant. Her hosts, Lord and Lady Porchester, were descended from British citizens who had settled in Wyoming in the 19th Century. Lady Porchester, although American born, was a granddaughter of Oliver Wallop, an Englishman and early investor in Wyoming cattle and horse ranching. Lady Porchester's brother was US senator from Wyoming, Malcom Wallop. We didn't know any of those details at that point. All we knew was that the Queen wanted her refueling stop at Offutt AFB to be as low-key as possible.

The VC-10 had to land at Offutt for refueling because the runway at Sheridan, Wyoming, which was as close as the RAF could get the Queen to her Wyoming hosts, was too short for the aircraft to take on sufficient fuel for a non-stop flight to London. The longest runway at Sheridan is 8300 feet, and the airport altitude is 4021 feet above sea level.

Initially, the plan was for the Queen and her party to deplane and wait in the VIP lounge in the Base Operations building at Offutt. To do that and insure adequate security, we were going to have to evacuate everyone who wasn't critical to the Queen's security or the refueling of her aircraft. That included a US Navy personnel office; a SAC airlift operation; a MAC airlift operation; and almost all other base operations folks, other than the on-duty dispatchers. Now the VIP lounge was okay for generals and the odd politician passing through, but this was the Queen of England. General Bennie Davis, who at the time was Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), vetoed the VIP lounge as the place where the Queen would while away the hour or so it would take to refuel her aircraft and continue on to London.

General Davis had a point in nixing the VIP lounge idea. There had been a recent flair up of trouble with the IRA; they had bombed several locations in/around London. Besides that, there were Irish sympathizers on both sides of the Atlantic -- even around Omaha, Nebraska. I didn't know that detail at that moment in time, but I would meet some of the more rabid neo-Irishmen just a few years later. I was told that some of them gave active support to NorAid, a front group that funded the IRA. I suppose that the AFOSI (the Air Force equivalent of the Navy's NCIS) briefed General Davis on the local IRA supporters, some of whom were Irish-born. In any case, General Davis intended to host the Queen in the inner sanctum of the SAC Headquarters building, Building 500. In Building 500, she would be safe from anything the IRA might be tempted to try. We still had to evacuate the Base Operations building, however, because it was right on the route the Queen would take to/from Building 500.

After General Davis decreed that the Queen would await her aircraft's refueling at SAC Headquarters, the rest was pretty easy. Without explaining too much of the why, I went around to all the tenants and told them that on 17 October they would have to leave the Base Operations building at a certain time in the afternoon. I just told them it was a security issue. No one seemed to mind that they would get the afternoon off.

As the day approached we were told that we could inform all of the tenants of the Base Operations building the reason why they would be required to leave. They were also told where to stand to get a look at a real live monarch. Everybody was okay with that. There was no sign that the neo-Irish had taken any offense by the revelation that their hated enemy would be on Offutt Air Force Base for an hour or so.

The day of her arrival, we were given a detailed time table of what would happen and when. Having been assigned to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, prior to coming to Offutt, I was passingly familiar with how things worked when the Royals were traveling. Some of the RAF I worked with told me that everything was planned down to the minute. In addition, similar to security for Air Force One, all Royal Flights had the airspace around them for several miles cleared of other aircraft. Now that Queen Elizabeth II was about to land at Offutt I was going to get a demonstration of what they meant. The first item on the time table was that the Queen's VC-10 would land at a specific time. Okay, I thought, let's see how they pull that off.

Prior to the Queen's arrival my Airfield Manager and I were giving the runway and taxiways a once over, just to make sure the everything was in good order. Then we waited. Ten minutes prior to the scheduled VC-10 touchdown time, a VC-10 appeared approaching Offutt's Runway 12, that is, it was approaching from the northwest. As the aircraft passed over mid-field, the pilot executed a tear-drop approach. It was clear that the way they landed exactly at the time planned was to arrive early and do a precise timing maneuver to put them at touchdown when they wanted to be there. Sure enough, the VC-10 flew a tear-drop maneuver and landed within thirty seconds of the planned time.

In addition to the touchdown time there was a precise time for the aircraft to come to a halt, for the exit door to open, for the Queen to depart the aircraft, and on and on. Someone must have spent more than a little time working out a moment-by-moment time table for this stopover of a little more than an hour.

The VC-10 came to a stop at the planned parking spot and began the engine shutdown procedure. I could see that this one bore the name of Captain Albert Ball, VC. Ball had been a Royal Flying Corps war hero during the Great War, as the British call WWI. He died not at the hands of a German pilot but because he flew into a thunder shower and lost control of his S.E.5a.

Sure enough, the exit door opened exactly at the time given, a passenger debarking ramp was rolled up. Exactly at the time given on the time table, Queen Elizabeth II appeared at the exit door and stepped onto the ramp. General and Mrs. Davis waited at the foot of the ramp. The Queen descended the ramp, was greeted by General and Mrs. Davis, presented with a bouquet, and was whisked off to SAC Headquarters.

Since the Queen wanted this stopover to be low key, there was no brass band, and the color guard was the regular SAC security forces in their every day uniform. It turned out, however, that every member of the RAF cadre at Offutt was given the afternoon off for this event; their families were present too. As the Queen's motorcade departed the flight line there was a cheering throng, each waving a Union Jack. There was more to this planned stopover than we knew of. In any case, Queen Elizabeth II of England, and General Bennie Davis had high tea at SAC Headquarters while the worker bees set about putting enough fuel on her VC-10 to get her safely to England.

Refueling that VC-10 turned out to be trickier than everyone thought. A fuel truck was waiting in the wings, so to speak, and rolled up moments after the greeting party left for SAC Headquarters. The refueling equipment was quickly connected to the aircraft and fueling began. It was going much more slowly than expected. The RAF crew refused to let our ground support people anywhere near the fuel panel on the VC-10; they were going to do it their way. At one point the chief of Offutt Transient Maintenance came up to us and briefed us on the slow pace of the RAF crew and their rejection of any assistance in getting the Queen's aircraft refueled. To make matters worse, the RAF crew's fuel management wasn't the best in the world; several times jet fuel vented from the VC-10 wing vents. Great, now fire trucks would have to wash down the fuel spill before the Queen boarded her aircraft.

Time was running out; there was just a few minutes left before the Queen and her escorts would return. We knew that there was no slack in the timing so everything was going to have to go perfectly to get the show back on the road. Finally, the RAF crew was satisfied with the fuel load. The fuel truck quickly packed up and left, and the fire truck moved in to wash down the fuel spill. With just seconds to spare, the fire truck moved off as the Queen and her escorts returned to the aircraft.

Everything else went smoothly, and in short order the Queen had reboarded her VC-10, it was made ready for flight, and taxied to the active runway. The VC-10 made its takeoff roll and soon disappeared heading out in a northeasterly direction.

As a post script, I should mention that as part of the security arrangements, local news reporters, especially TV news, were not allowed on Offutt to cover the visit of Queen Eliazbeth II. That irked them no end; the best they could do was park their trucks on the approach end of Runway 12 to catch some footage of the VC-10 as it made its approach to Offutt. The TV news ran that footage, along with a little verbal lament on the Friday evening news broadcast.

09 October 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize

The sages of the Nobel Peace Prize have awarded Barak Obama the Peace Prize for 2009 for, I guess, getting himself elected President of the United States of America. Wonder what prize he will get if he actually succeeds in fulfilling his agenda of change.

I'm waiting for the day when someone rejects the prize because that groups them with the likes of Yasser Arafat, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter.

I'll probably have to wait a long time since narcissism seems to be a criterion for selection.

28 July 2009

Rewriting History

Barak Obama has, once again, shown himself to be devoid of any sense of American history. A few days ago I saw him in an interview proclaiming that victory in Afghanistan would evoke the scene of Emperor Hirohito coming on board the USS Missouri to surrender to General Douglas McArthur at the end of World War II. You can watch a short clip of that interview here.

Obama's claim notwithstanding, Hirohito did not come aboard the USS Missouri that day in September, 1945, and he signed nothing in the presence of McArthur or any other westerner. His emissaries did the signing. This is just one more example of Obama's grasp of history in general and American history in particular. Not many weeks back Obama put words into the mouth of Winston Churchill, claiming that the British did not torture -- even as civilian targets in London were being reduced to rubble. Churchill said nothing of the kind. However, the Colonel Robin "Tin Eye" Stephens, commander of Camp 020, did have such a policy. The story of "Tin Eye" Stephens is an interesting one in its own right and can be read here. Winston Churchill did not dictate, or even adopt, "Tin Eye" Stephens's policy. That was a convenient bit of political fabrication by Barak Obama. The author of the article that inspired Obama's fabrication can be found here. By the way, The Times of London is one of the few British newspapers I'm inclined to trust.

In a larger sense, Obama's weak grasp of history, if that is what it really is, is a reflection of the public education system in the United States. While the Obama administration makes daily headlines by grabbing power and property from the private sector, his plans for public education are more opaque but much more disturbing, if you are paying attention. The public education system has been failing for years; it shows in test scores over a span of thirty years and more. And who hasn't seen a segment out of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking?" If the claims I have read are correct, the show's producer never had to do much culling to get what you saw on TV.

In my own experience, the quality of public school teachers, at least, is declining. I taught in the College of Business Administration at a university for about ten years, starting around 1991. The courses I taught were cross-listed; that means that students with majors other than the business majors could enroll. We weren't doing any mathematical analysis beyond high school algebra -- and we were doing it on a financial calculator. Over the decade I taught those courses I noticed a trend. The engineering majors, actuarial science majors, and some business majors, tended to cluster in the higher levels of achievement for the courses. The majority of the business majors clustered in the middle. The education majors, journalism majors, and psychology majors tended toward the lowest levels of achievement. Since it happened over some ten years I don't think it was a statistical fluke. From what I have seen since, the trend continues. Science teachers that don't know science; history teachers that don't know history; the list goes on.

As I see it, a large problem is that the education system is no longer focused on education; it is for indoctrination. You see that with the doctrine of Political Correctness that appears almost everywhere nowadays, especially in public schools. One proponent of indoctrination over education is Bill Ayers. Yes, it's the very same Bill Ayers who was in a lead position in the domestic terror group the Weathermen. Yes, it's the same terrorists group who planted bombs at various government and university sites, mainly in the early 1970s. Here's a list of some of their mayhem. Sol Stern has the goods on Ayers and his ilk. Stern reports on the activities of Professor Bill Ayers and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) here. My own experience and observations tell me that Sol Stern knows of what he speaks. The insiders in the "education system" are intent on subverting it with their "social justice" agenda. It is indoctrination rather than education and it is being taught in teachers colleges throughout the United States. An example of that flared up last October when it became known that Bill Ayers was invited to speak to the Teachers College at University of Nebraska - Lincoln.

Editor's Note: it used to be called the Teachers College, but now they have inflated their claim to fame by calling it the College of Education and Human Sciences. Yeah, right.

A strong outcry over the speaking invitation to Bill Ayers ensued and the heat just became too intense; the college had to "disinvite" him. The apologists for the college claimed that it was an honest error in judgement to invite Ayers. Much more likely is that the error in judgement was expecting that no one would notice or care who was speaking and what his agenda is. I suspect that the faculty of the "College of Education and Human Sciences" is already largely in the Ayers camp and this was going to be a friendly exchange of ideas. In any case, Ayers did get a final say last November in the Omaha World-Herald; they printed his claims that "it is the duty of scholars to challenge dogma." Unfortunately, a link the the World-Herald piece no longer exists, but you can read a copy of the op-ed piece here. In fact, it is Ayers who is the dogmatist and his dogma is the leftist-communist dogma that many were subjected to for decades and ultimately rejected.

Which brings us back around to the issue of rewriting history. The young are gullible by nature; some never outgrow the tendency. I saw it in myself; I saw it in my children and grandchildren; I saw it when I taught at UNL. Even college students will faithfully write down whatever the professor is saying, almost always without a word of challenge, regardless of whether what the professor is saying is factual or not. It is easy to corrupt the young with a false history that the likes of AERA put forth with their "social justice" agenda and more. Once the real history of America is lost to its citizens it will be easy to corrupt all of society and turn it away from the freedoms we have enjoyed for over two hundred years.

If we don't stop the corruption of the education system in general, and the public education system in particular, it will be too late. When those with a false history grow up and become a majority the battle will pretty much be lost. The revisionists will have won because once people have been indoctrinated with a false history it is hard to undo it. After all, they learned it in school and a president of the United States said it. It must be true.

16 July 2009

Apollo 11

Most people of a certain age recall where they were and what they were doing when especially memorable events took place, for example, the attack on Pearl Harbor, V-E Day, V-J Day, JFK's assassination, the launch of Apollo 11.

The where and what of the Apollo 11 launch remains clear to me because on that day I finished a three month tour of duty in Thailand supporting fighter strikes against North Vietnam. Our flight and ground crew, plus some passengers, departed U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Base, which is south-southeast of Bangkok about 80 miles, as the KC-135 flies. We were headed for Kadena Air Base, Okinawa on the first leg of our trip back to Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. While we launched in the early morning darkness on 17 July it was still daylight on 16 July at the Kennedy Space Center, where Apollo 11 had already launched. We didn't know that though. When we arrived at Kadena that morning we were able to see replays of the Apollo 11 launch from just a few hours before. We knew that the astronauts were on their way to a moon landing.

Two days later we launched on the second leg of our journey back to Ramey AFB; this time our destination was Hickam AFB, Hawai'i. According to my flight log, it took us ten hours and six minutes to make the flight. It was late on 19 July, Honolulu time, when we landed.

Apollo 11 was in lunar orbit. In the time it had taken us to fly from Thailand to Hawai'i Apollo 11 had flown to the moon.

The next day was a layover day at Hickam for us; it was also the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon. It was a Sunday, and not much was going on at Hickam, in fact, everyone who could do so was sitting in front of a TV set someplace. The lounge of the transient aircrew quarters we were assigned to was full; every seat was taken and everyone was glued to the TV set. Since everything was being reported in real time it seemed like it took forever for Armstrong and Aldrin to get in the LEM, make the descent to the lunar surface, and make a successful landing. Then there was another forever until Armstrong stepped out of the LEM and put the first human footprint on the lunar soil. When that happened there was jubilation all around.

The tension was broken when both astronauts stepped onto the lunar surface, but there was still a lot that had to happen before they would safely return to Earth. Unfortunately, after the moment Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface I don't recall a thing.

15 July 2009

The Distinguished Senator from Minnesota, Part II

Senator Al Franken (D) Minnesota, is now addressing Judge Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing for a seat on the US Supreme Court. What can a profane clown add to the proceedings? Apparently not much more than another windy speech.

Good choice, Minnesotans.

H/T: Theo Spark

04 July 2009

Fiery Fourth

The year must have been around 1953. I had two younger brothers and one younger sister. My father made it a tradition to have a large box of fireworks for the July 4th holiday and celebration. Since he was a local businessman I think he got some of the leftovers from one of the local fireworks vendors. Most years there was a family picnic in the back yard with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins attending the festivities. At twilight the sparklers started sputtering, followed by the fountains, pinwheels, and small star shells. Anything bigger was illegal in Illinois. At some point the big municipal display started going off several block away so our local display was punctuated by the big stuff being supervised and set off courtesy of the local American Legion post.

Twilight brought out the sparklers and a few fusees (a flare on a stick) that were in box of fireworks Dad had brought home. My six-year old sister was bored with the sparklers and wanted to hold a fusee. How she got the fusee I don't know, but it was not a master stroke of parenting to give a six-year old kid a hot, sputtering fusee. What could go wrong? Fusees burn with a bright light (this one happened to be green) and molten combustion products fly off the burning end. They are something you want to be careful with. In any case, my sister was holding a burning fusee and getting dangerously close to the box of fireworks Dad would soon be lighting. Big brother that I was (about age 12) I told little Sis to move away from the box of fireworks. Of course little Sis refused to move. Once or twice more I tried to get her to move away from the fireworks box with her sputtering fusee. At some point she swung the hand holding the fusee away from me and toward the fireworks box. As she swung her hand a glob of molten stuff came off the fusee and arced toward the open fireworks box. I watched, literally in horror, as the molten stuff dropped into the box and landed squarely on the fuse of one of the fireworks. The fuse lit immediately; my only reaction was to run like hell.

In a few seconds the ignited firework began doing its thing; that set off a chain reaction and seconds after that the whole box of fireworks was going off all at once. Everyone, young and old, was trying to clear out of the back yard and get as far away from the fiery shower that was coming out of the fireworks box. There were red and green fireballs flying; a pinwheel went sailing into the air; sparks were flying everywhere; a neighborhood friend who was stand next to me watching the spectacle was hit by a fireball.

After watching for a few stunning seconds, I decided to try to put the fire out. Being twelve I grabbed a pan of water and tried to approach the now fiercely burning box from behind. Fortunately for me, our neighbor was a member of the local fire department and he had a much better plan than I did. He grabbed a garden hose that was still connected to the outdoor tap; even better, the hose had a circular lawn sprinkler attached to it. The fireman turned on the water full force and approached the flaming box from behind the lawn sprinkler's water spray. The fireworks were beginning to burn themselves out, but still burned brightly. The fireman put a quick end to that bit of excitement and doused the box thoroughly until the whole thing was a black sodden mess and no smoke could be seen.

The remainder of the evening was spent recovering from that bit of unplanned excitement, including personal accounts of what people did to save themselves. Little Sis took the brunt of the recriminations for ruining the entire day (at least that's what we kids thought). Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, although a few people were singed by sparks and fireballs. We all were lucky.

For years afterward a July 4th celebration couldn't pass without someone recounting at least once how little Sis had blown up the backyard fireworks box. As best I recall, after that year there were no more backyard fireworks displays at our house.


A brother remembers.
"I will never forget that evening. I remember being behind the bushes where our yard was separated from Arendt's (where the garage stood) I was on the ground and watching the fireballs flying everywhere. I think the pin wheel you mentioned landed on Tilden's roof down the street, or at least one of them did. Our back yard reminded me of scenes from the Three Stooges movies, I saw later in life. The whole event seemed like it lasted an eternity, but it was probably a couple of minutes in total time. I remember Marvin Steege getting hit with a fireball going horizontal over the ground. Years after that event, I asked Dad where he use to get the fireworks. He told me he bought them at Reid's Sporting Goods there in downtown Bloomington. Dad went in the day before the 4th, and Mr. Reid would give him a deal on them because he did not want to carry them over, for obvious reasons."

...And a cousin remembers too.
"Ahhh yes I remember that day. I was about 5 at the time. I think I was standing there watching Martha having fun with the flare, wishing I had one too. If I recall the only thing that didn't get torched was a few spinners that had been set up earlier in the back yard. I watched them as I recall and that was it.

I made the mistake of mentioning this story to Martha at my Mothers funeral. The look she gave me was, well, intense."

01 July 2009

The Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme

The Evil Bernie Madoff got 150 years in prison for running the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time. Actually, it's the second greatest Ponzi scheme of all time. The greatest Ponzi scheme is the Social Security System.

Like all Ponzi schemes Social Security worked pretty well as long as there were a lot of people putting money into the system. All those "contributors," i.e., workers, from CEOs to packing plant employees -- that's 95% of the work force -- have put a Congress-decreed part of their earnings into the system. Most of the money collected goes right back out again in payments to "earlier investors," i.e., people who managed to live until age 65, along with permanently disabled workers, and the survivors of workers who had died. Along the way, politicians promoted the illusion that workers had a pension fund building up in the system, but that was never true.

Fortunately for the politicians the proportion of workers to Social Security recipients was large -- around 40 workers per recipient at the end of WW II. In 2006 that ratio had dropped to 3.3 workers per recipient. Two things happened: advancing medical technology gradually extended life spans, and after the post-war baby boom faded people began having smaller families. The net result is that many fewer workers are having to pay into a system that immediately redistributes their tax payments to a growing number of recipients. Uh-oh.

Of course, Lyndon Johnson wanted to have his shot at a presidential legacy so in 1965 he persuaded Congress to exacerbate the problem by adding Medicare into the Social Security System. Bad idea. Medicare is simply adding to the funding problem. The Ponzi scheme is getting nearer to collapse because the number of people putting money into the system can't keep up with the number of people getting money out of the system. Now that's a legacy.

Some politicians actually have a conscience and have tried to fix -- or propose a fix to -- the funding problem our government-sponsored Ponzi scheme faces: adequate funding. Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) Nebraska was one. It has been about twelve years ago now, that Kerrey and his RINO compatriot, Chuck Hagel, periodically would come back to Nebraska to pitch his fix for Social Security. Of course, he was only talking about "fixing" the old age benefits, but at least he was on the right track. He wanted to privatize at least a part of Social Security so that workers would have more control over the amount of cash they would have at retirement. It was pretty clear that Kerrey and his aides had at least looked at the problem in proposing partial privatization. Hagel clearly didn't have a clue and was just mouthing politi-speak as a warm up act to Kerrey's ideas. Of course, the idea never took off among Democrats, and when Republicans started proposing privatizing Social Security the Democrats fell on them like a mob of screeching seagulls.

So the problem remains and the Obama administration wants to do more of what Social Security already does: spread the wealth. We already are getting a preview of how well an expanded income redistribution system works: it's running out of funds. Taxation is a dead weight on the economy and smothers economic growth so adding more taxes to pay for more income redistribution is going to be a killer for growth and the jobs growth creates. Most of the "green jobs" we hear about don't really exist, and when they do they are in some other country where specialized knowledge and lower labor costs already exist. Most of the "green jobs" I've heard about are in the administrative bureaucracy, i.e., the unproductive overhead, that will monitor, regulate, and ultimately stifle whatever innovation comes from this move toward a "green economy."

So. Who will take the fall when this, the biggest of all Ponzi schemes collapses? It won't be the politicians, unless voters finally learn the truth about this long-running scam. In truth, the generation now growing up will be taking the fall because, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "The problem with Socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other peoples' money."

The Distinguished Senator from Minnesota

Caligula sent his horse to the Roman Senate. Minnesota sends Al Franken to the US Senate. A horse's ass or a profane clown, take your pick.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds

30 May 2009

The Walk of Life

About a month ago I spotted the beginnings of a mourning dove nest atop a corner post on the fence that surrounds our backyard. "Typical doves," I thought. Always making nests in really risky places and vulnerable to attack by predators, other birds, and the weather. I went on about my business and a few days later I saw a dove sitting on the nest. She (I assume it was a she) sat tight, even when I came up close to look. Although I didn't keep a close eye on the nest it seemed like she was always there and almost always in the same position on the nest. I wondered whether she ever flew off to find something to eat. One day I got my answer to the eating question. Another dove was there, presumably her mate. He was bringing her food. He also brought additional nesting materials and poked them into the nest structure even as she sat on it.

Over the next couple of weeks she sat there through fair weather and foul, heat and cold, sunshine and rain. I did notice that even though the nesting spot was out in the open, these doves had placed in it such a say that it and their own coloration formed a very good camouflage against the background of the gray fence post and surround slates. Grackles, those thugs, came and went past the nest, but none of them seemed to take notice. Grackles will destroy a nest and eggs and kill nestlings if they get a chance. So will blue jays and squirrels. I saw some squirrels skittering along the fence top, but papa dove (I guess) always placed himself between the squirrel and the nest but never attacked the squirrel like jays and grackles do. And then there are the feral cats in the neighborhood; sewer cats, we call them because they hang out in the storm drains.

I suppose that a couple of weeks into the project the two eggs hatched because the dove seemed to be riding higher in the nest. If you look closely you can see some pinfeathers sticking out from under the nesting dove. Life went on for us. Since the grass was growing like crazy I had to mow weekly. I deliberately tried to stay away from the nest as much as possible, mowing the area around the fence post only after everything else was mowed. The first couple of times the dove left the nest but quickly returned when I finished mowing around the fence post. Then she seemed to get used to it because I could mow right up to the post and she would sit tight. I guess she decided I was just a noisy nuisance and not a mortal danger.More time passed and it was clear that there were a couple of nestlings being tended to. Papa dove would come and go while mama dove just sat on the chicks. We wondered how the chicks were being fed. One afternoon I looked over at the fence post and saw that one of the adult doves was on the nest and one of the chicks had its head in the adult's throat. It looks like the adults bring food in their crops and pass it to the chicks by regurgitation. Pretty safe way to protect your young. An adult is always on the nest protecting the kids while the other is off foraging.

Mama dove was a good parent. The wave of warm weather we were experiencing suddenly changed: it became cool, almost cold, and rainy. But she sat there with the rain showers rolling off her back making sure that her brood stayed covered.

Another week passed. The weather warmed again and the chicks were noticeably larger. Sometimes they would peek out from under mama dove but most of the time she made a determined effort to keep them out of sight. One of our dogs started nosing around the base of the fence post, but I couldn't see any signs of bird droppings on the ground. Maybe she smelled the doves but couldn't locate them.

As we checked in on the doves, now on a daily basis, the size of the chicks changed dramatically. They seemed to get bigger by the hour. They were getting so big that mama dove couldn't keep them covered. Sometimes she would offset herself on the nest and the two chicks would peek out and look around. Both doves were almost always close by now. Still, other birds and predators seemed to be unaware that they were there. It was clear that the chicks had more than just pinfeathers.

As the days passed the chicks were more and more allowed to look around and remain uncovered. They seems as unalarmed by our presence as the adult birds, although there was at least one adult bird around at all times. Then yesterday the more adventurous of the two, I guess, started perching on top of the fence slats with one of the adults. It was clear that it was almost time for them to go out into the world. I looked like they had most of their flight feathers, but they still lacked the long pointed tail of the adults. They were also noticeably smaller than the adults and their feathers didn't have the smooth coloration of the adults.

This morning, when I let the dogs out around 6:30 I looked over at the nesting post. It was empty, except for the nest. The doves clearly are pretty neat about the droppings their young leave. I looks like everything just stayed in the bottom of the nest. Those filthy grackles take every poop sac their young produce and scatter it all over the neighborhood -- mainly on our back deck.

That was the first time I've seen doves successfully raise young. In the past storms or predators have always destroyed the nest, the eggs, or the chicks. This time they managed to get the job done.
UPDATE: Now I have a clue as to where the chicks went. They headed to the deep cover of the shrubbery. The parents are still taking care of them for a while.

03 March 2009

The Global New Deal

I heard a discussion on Fox News Channel a while ago in which British PM Gordon Brown was quoted as calling for a "global New Deal."

I can well understand why Brown would call for such a thing, and it is epitomized in a quote by Margaret Thatcher: "The problem with Socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money." Clearly, the British government is running out of money and it is looking for other pockets to pick. The USA is still relatively productive so that is the direction Brown is looking.

People like Brown, and the people who administer the United Nations, are the best argument there is against a "global governing body."

02 March 2009

Formulas for Success

A blogger at Puffington Host (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds) has finally come right out and admitted that he wanted the US-led war in Iraq to fail -- and it was/is a US-led effort despite the claims from the Left about the war being a unilateral effort. What a surprise! His reason for rooting for the bad guys? Well, the way the Bush administration proceeded is the direct opposite of how he feels that the US should exercise its power. Fancy that. He would have preferred that we had talked Saddam to death rather than doing it the old fashioned way. Ditto for Uday and Qusay and their ilk.

But George Bush chose the direct approach and earned the ire of everyone Left. You know the resultant response: protests and efforts to undermine the war effort. Who can forget Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claiming in April 2007 that the war was lost? The war might well have been lost, had not the Bush administration finally taken serious steps to root out opposition and destroy it. So much for politics and diplomacy. Now, however, it looks like the war in Iraq is won. It would look very bad for the Obama administration, now, to take actions that would alter the expected outcome for Iraq.

On the other hand, the lefty blogger is upset with Rush Limbaugh because Limbaugh is quoted as saying that he wants Obama's economic policies to fail. Well, that's not what Limbaugh said, actually. You can read the transcript of his speech at Fox News.com. Limbaugh didn't so much say he wanted Obama's economic policies to fail, rather, he said he wanted Obama's over arching plans for changing the culture of the United States of America to fail. He wants Obama's social policies to fail because they are, in a word, Socialism. Socialism has been an ongoing failure wherever it has been put in place. Socialism is virtual assurance that almost all citizens will be reduced to the same level of misery. The ruling elite, of course, are excluded from that economic prison sentence.

It's not so much a matter of wishing that Obama's economic policies fail as it is the fact that they are doomed to failure. As a matter of economic fact, the New Deal policies that promoted huge rounds of deficit spending in order to stimulate the economy did little to improve the economic lot of American citizens. FDR, and now Barak Obama, are listening to John Maynard Keynes for economic advice. In defense of the FDR administration, they were listening to the then current thinking of Keynes. A much much wiser and older Keynes admitted after WW II that deficit spending was not the way to go. Rather, tax cuts do more to stimulate an economy than deficits. So, an Obama administration has the benefit of history and the words of an early hero and advocate of Socialism to go on. Rather than read all the way to the last chapter to learn what Keynes had learned from experience, the Obama administration prefers to try a redux the part of Keynsianism that failed.

Keynsianism reloaded is going to fail just as surely as it did the first time around. Karl Marx is quoted as saying: "History repeats itself; the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce." There have been some farcial moment lately, but it remains to be seen how this all plays out.