Saturday, February 15, 2003

I just re-read the masterpiece of prose that is Bill Whittle's latest essay, and I was reminded of the only time I ever saw a live shuttle launch.

I had been in the Navy for less than a year, and had just completed my apprenticeship school (for radar technicians) in Virginia Beach, VA. In an odd coincidence I had graduated boot camp on my younger brother and sister's 13th birthday (they were twins), and had graduated (at the top of my class) from "A" school on my mother's 51st. I spent two weeks with my family in Texas before reporting to my first assignment, the Navy's Pinecastle Electronic Warfare Center, in beautiful Astor, Florida. This base was also a bombing range with frequent visits from pilots of all branches of the military. We were located about 90 miles south of Jacksonville, halfway between Ocala and Daytona Beach. Not very close to the Kennedy Space Center, but I thought I might be able to get lucky and catch a launch on one of my days off (if I ever got one).

It was a cold morning and I had been assigned to KP (kitchen patrol, for those who have never served in the military) duty. We had just completed clean-up from breakfast and done lunch prep. Since lunch service didn't require our direct assistance, I had a few minutes grace before dishes needing to be washed would have started piling up, so I told the cook that I was going to step out for a smoke. I walked out into the empty common room where a big-screen TV was playing some soap opera or other, and just as I lit up a cigarette, it broke into live coverage of an imminent Shuttle launch. I sat there for a moment or two until I realized that I was sitting only about 80-100 miles away from the launch site (I was kinda vague about the exact distance, because I hadn't had time to figure it out exactly). I quickly walked to the front of the building, which faced to the south. I tried to determine which direction the launch site was from where I was standing, and tried to estimate where I would see the column of smoke rise above the treeline (we were in the middle of a fairly large forested area). I watched intently, and thought about how lucky those seven people were who got to go into space for a living.

I saw the first hint, then a rapidly climbing dot of light and I started grinning like a pirate at something (in the words of Spider Robinson) "the size and weight of a small apartment building that was being thrown so high and far that it wasn't going to come down until it was damned good and ready." I made a promise to myself on the spot that if I ever had a chance to see one up close I would pay anything, promise anything, do anything - whatever it took to get there.

That was how I felt on that cold, cold morning in central Florida. On January 28, 1986. At 11:38 am. Watching Space Shuttle Challenger lift above the treeline.

Then the unexpected. A sudden cotton ball of smoke and fire and the terrible forked smoke trails of the suddenly freed solid rocket boosters. I didn't know what I was seeing, but I did know that it was different from the other launches I had seen on TV. I stood transfixed for a few seconds trying to puzzle it out, then decided that I needed to know more than I could from 80 miles away, so I went back inside to the (suddenly filled) common room. The room that had been totally empty when I had left it not three minutes before. Men and women were quietly sobbing, and I heard the choked voice of the commentators say, "It appears that there has been a major malfunction aboard Challenger."

I pointed over my shoulder and stammered, "I saw it. Out front. It's out there right now..." and two people sprinted for the front of the building, followed by a few others. I couldn't even share in the mourning, because I had dishes to wash.

I never did get to go see a launch in person, because I had transferred away from that base to a frigate stationed in Mayport before NASA risked another launch. In another odd coincidence, my ship was assigned to patrol duty off the coast in case of another disaster for the launch, and I was sitting at the SPS-40 air search radar, watching the little green line rotate around the display, hearing the NASA guard circuit over my headphones, whispering the countdown along with the robot-like voice, and praying so hard to prevent another disaster I could almost have etched those unspoken words into the aluminum bulkhead with sheer willpower.

An amusing bit of data has stuck with me all those years. I tracked that Shuttle on my radar scope, and when I lost her at about 100,000 feet, her ground track was moving toward us at almost Mach 5. That's about a mile every second, and still accelerating.

Despite the losses of both Challenger and Columbia, if NASA were to come knocking on my door tomorrow (that's a hint, in case anyone from there is reading this), I would sign up for the next flight almost before they had finished asking. Most of my friends would look at me like I'm crazy, but there are a few of the closest who would offer to fight me for the chance.

I still think I'd win... ;-)

God bless those brave souls, and their families.
I know I am probably behind the curve on this one, but Bill Whittle has created another masterpiece. It is about Courage, and Columbia, and ... well, just go read it.

It'll be well worth your time, I promise.
I fully support the idea of spreading democracy around the globe and I've added a new button (at the bottom of the column on the left) which will lead to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy. Here's the web page with the graphics and code you can add to your web sites, if you want. It's well worth the effort to show your support for the idea of real democracy in Iraq.

Of course, it is possible that you might be one of the minority that doesn't support the idea of allowing the people of Iraq (and North Korea, when the time comes) to determine their own destinies. If that is the case, could you do the world a favor and remove yourself from the gene pool? Thanks bunches.
I ran into an anti-war person while I was on-line earlier this morning and I just have to try and explain why I support this action. First, this is not a "War on Iraq", this is the "Battle of Iraq", as a part of an ongoing effort in the "War on Terror". Just like during WWII, it was not a "War on France" when we invaded at Normandy, even though we hadn't even touched German soil. It was just a starting point.

We have additional reasons, having to do with the elimination of a megalomaniacal madman, who is hellbent on obtaining nuclear weapons. Not because it would benefit his nation to be able to hold off the Western powers, and not because we don't want any Muslim nations to have nuclear weapons (cv Pakistan), but because the instant Saddam got his hands on chemical and biological weapons, he used them. Twice. First, against a neighboring nation in a war that he had started, then against his own people to quell a Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq.

He invaded Kuwait in an attempt to steal the oil reserves, despite the fact that there have been claims that his nation has the largest oil reserves in the Gulf region. He has done nothing since taking power but murder political opponents, torture dissidents, invade his neighbors, ignore UN Security Council Resolutions (17 of them, so far) attempt to destroy the environment by setting fire to those oil wells he didn't just destroy, causing the world's largest oil spill (while the environmentalist tree-huggers ignore him, because they would rather complain about the limitation of the habitat of the purple-spotted tree frog), and more pollution than even Beijing makes.

That environmental destruction was in direct violation of international law and the cease-fire agreements that he signed to bring an end to the Gulf War, back in 1991. There have been other binding resolutions issued by the UN Security Council regarding the "Oil-For-Food" program, the establishment of inspection teams to monitor the destruction of Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I was going to try and list a summary of all the various Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq, but there are just too many of them to list separately.

Iraq has ignored almost every one of them.

But we now see these anti-war protestors (who, unsurprisingly, didn't say a word when Clinton ordered the bombing of Baghdad in response to Iraq kicking out the UNSCOM inspectors in 1998) protesting "Bush's War", comparing Bush to Hitler, whining "It's all about the ooiiiiiillllllll!", and we now have dozens of suicide targets "human shields" whining about the "U.S. aggression". They have completely ignored the most recent UNSC Resolution 1441, which says (quite clearly) that this is Iraq's "final opportunity" to comply, and any failure to comply or any further material breach will be met with "serious consequences", which the French and Germans apparently think means absolutely nothing at all. Germany has even said that they would not support the use of military force, regardless of the provocation or most obvious violations.

If the UN Security Council cannot even muster the intestinal fortitude to enforce its own resolutions, then it has degenerated into nothing more than a debating society, and has no further relevance on the world stage, much like the League of Nations did prior to WWII. If this has become the case, then it is no wonder that Saddam has been ignoring them all this time, and we are under no obligation to pay attention to their "harshly worded notes" or French vetoes of Security Council Resolutions.

The complaints about "American Imperialism" and "Unilateralism" need to take a look at what those words actually mean. I would also suggest that they read Bill Whittle's essays on Empire and War. He puts it so much better than I ever could.

As for the concerns about Unilateralism, I would further suggest that France, Germany and Belgium should be more concerned about those charges than the United States. Those three nations have stopped any action to assist Turkey (the only NATO member nation who is a mainly Muslim nation, and the only one who borders Iraq), despite the NATO Treaty invocations, where the vote was 16-3 in favor of helping Turkey. (Guess which three voted against the assistance?) Hell, even Greece is in favor of helping Turkey defend itself, and those two nations have been at war since Helen of Troy was being wooed!

France has threatened a Security Council veto of any resolution requiring enforcement of any previous resolution against Iraq (every single one of which France voted in favor of passage), which prevents the UN from enforcing its own rulings. There are more than 20 separate nations (many of whom were former Soviet client states) who have pledged unconditional support for any military actions against Iraq, and dozens of others who allow such things as military overflights (including Iran, who has authorized overflights for Search and Rescue).

If just those three nations have prevented the dozens of other nations from acting with UN or NATO support, who is being "Unilateralist"?

For those that complain that the inspectors need to be given "more time", we've been waiting for 12 years... How many more years are you willing to wait? Or is it just until Saddam finally manages to get a nuclear weapon? Remember that the burden of proof is not now, nor has it ever been, on the UNSCOM or UNMOVIC inspectors, but is on Iraq to be forthcoming, open, and cooperative. Not a single inspector (except for perhaps Scott "I'll show you mine if you watch me play with it" Ritter) has claimed that Iraq has been in the least helpful.

As I may have mentioned before, when South Africa wanted to divest itself of its nuclear weapons, it called up the UNSCOM inspectors, and requested they come down and take the material away. The inspectors were met at the airport and immediately taken to the nuclear plants, given full disclosure of all relevant documents, and there was absolutely no question in anyone's mind of South Africa's full and unconditional cooperation.

When Kazakhstan suddenly discovered nuclear material that could have been processed into nuclear weapons, they panicked and called the United States to come take control of it. In the most heavily armed convoy in Kazakh history, UN and US personnel went into Kazakhstan and moved that nuclear material out of Kazakhstan and into safer storage facilities elsewhere.

I believe that anyone who is actually protesting this war has either not looked into the truth and is just protesting George Bush and his administration (such as Moore, Sarandon, Streisand, et al. who would be protesting something else about Bush's policies even if we were ignoring Iraq), or is actively trying to defend the Butcher of Baghdad (such as Chomsky and Fisk).

I urge you to look into the truth for yourself. I urge you to realize that if you are actively opposing one side in an "either/or" conflict, you are simultaneously supporting the other.

You want to protest the "War on Iraq"? Fine. You have that right.

But look at what (and who) you're supporting.

Friday, February 14, 2003

I've been fighting to access the Internet and my e-mail through my ISP. (I won't ruin their reputation by revealing who they are, but their initials are V.E.R.I.Z.O.N.) I called their help line at about 20 minutes until 5pm. The recorded voice said that my "wait time" was expected to be "in excess of 15 minutes".

I finally gave up and hung up a few minutes after 6pm, after hearing 1 hour and 27 minutes of "All of our Customer Service Representatives are still helping other customers. Please continue to hold. Your call is important to us, and will be answered in the order it was received." I'll be hearing that phrase tonight in my nightmares...

Anyway, I tried to check my e-mail because Dave was still sending me HTML stuff and only got through one .zip file and a brief note saying that my e-mail storage was full (despite the web site system telling me that all of my storage was empty). (I'm still trying, Dave, so if you read this, be patient with me.)

I've been trying to run diagnostics, and when I re-booted my system, I was told that my CMOS clock was somehow reset to 00:00:01, Jan 01, 1981. I'm still trying to figure that one out. I just now managed to access the Internet, even though I still can't read any e-mail.

Oh, well. One thing at a time. I just wanted to let you guys know what was going on.

On the good side of life, we managed to get a car! It's a 1997 Chevy Cavalier, with brand-new brakes, brand-new tires, an awesome sound system, and my wife is still giddy. She's been sounding like a school girl with her first crush, and I'm getting jealous (but just a little) ;-) I gotta say, this is the newest car that either of us have ever owned, so that's like a great weight off our backs. We can now dump that other P.O.S. (Never buy an odd-numbered year Ford! We've owned two of them, and they have been nothing but tranny and brake trouble, from start to finish!)

Anyhow, I'm going to continue with some trouble shooting, and updating you on the world. In the meantime check out the funny pages I found here, and another one here. A warning, though. First, set the Mountain Dew (or other adult beverage) well out of reach, and SWALLOW before clicking.
I guess we can cancel any further UNMOVIC and IAEA inspections, call all the troops home, and lift all the sanctions on Iraq and Saddam.

Saddam has banned Weapons of Mass Destruction.

And we all know how effective passing laws can be. Even God passed a few... You know, "Thou shalt not {fill in the blank}".

Well, hell, I'm convinced. Except not.

Oh, by the way, Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2003

I guess I'm a conservative-leaning moderate... Try it for yourself!

Where do you fall on the liberal - conservative political spectrum? (United States)

brought to you by Quizilla
It's still raining, but I have found (thanks to Emperor Misha) an extremely readable essay on exactly why we're fighting this war, and why we're doing it the way we are.

It's incredible, and will definitely make you think.

Go read it.
It's raining here today. I have this love/hate relationship with the rain. I love it because it clears out the pollution from the sky, and makes all the pretty flowers and plants grow big and strong. I like the sound of rain hitting the roof and pavement outside. It's just a real pleasant thing to sit and watch the rain fall.

I hate it, because I've been able to tell that the rain was coming for days now. Until Monday afternoon (about 2 pm), the weather predictions from the nearest NWS station (at the nearby Air Force Base) said that rain wasn't due in until Wednesday evening. The weather guessers on the local news stations were predicting Wednesday afternoon. My bones were telling me that rain was due early on Tuesday, but I was just foolish enough to think that these dingbats with their "Doppler 7000 radar systems", and their "Weatherwatch" graphics could see it better than I could (since I don't have a radar dome in my back yard).

Sure enough, I awakened at about 3 am Tuesday morning, because I was hurting so bad. I got up to take a pill ("Better living through chemistry!"), and heard a soft sound from outside. I looked out the window, and saw the rain just pouring from the sky. The only coherent thought I could form was, "I knew it. Those idiots." I went back to bed.

The weather network now says it's going to be raining intermittently until next Wednesday. I'm going to be aching the whole time, but I still like the sound. It's soothing, but painful, all at the same time. At least I can vent at you folks... :-)

I'm also adding a few new links under my Favorites list. Bill O'Reilly (he of the famous "No-Spin Zone") and a nifty little game that is addictive as hell. Check 'em both out.
I've been thinking about the threatened filibuster by Senate Democrats as the only means left to them to block the appointing of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Court of Appeals (usually considered a stepping-stone to the Supreme Court). Y'see the Republicans can affirm his appointment even if not a single Dimocrat agrees with them, because they have a 51-48 (with 1 Independent) majority. There are a few Democrats who do agree with them, but only a handful.

If the Dimocrats do decide to conduct that filibuster (which requires a 3/5th majority - 60 votes - to stop), the Republicans should just sit back and let them. Encourage them. Let them speak, telling about such things as Separation of Powers, and how the President gets to nominate who he wants for the various Courts, and the Senate gets to confirm (or not) with a vote, which is what they filibustering. Let them explain why they don't want a conservative (even a minority conservative) on any Court, for fear that that Court might actually just interpret the laws as written.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee should buy large blocks of airtime on the Hispanic television stations (such as Univision and Telemundo) and show the Democratic filibuster live and in color, with the occasional commentary as to who is doing the obstructing, and exactly why they are doing so. Explain how the Democrats usually claim to be supporting minorities, and that they also allege that it is the Republican party who is "racist from top to bottom". Explain the ethnicity of the people that President Bush appointed to be Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Secretary of Transportation. Explain how Estrada is the first Hispanic appointed to this Court. Explain again how Democrats claim to be supporting minorities.

Then sit back and plan Bush's re-election parties for 2004.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I've had it.

Everyone (here in America, anyway) write your congress-critter. Tell them you want legislation pushed through to repeal the 16th Amendment.

Hey, they managed to repeal Prohibition, because not a single person went without that nightly sifter of brandy, or gin, or whiskey, or beer, or whatever, Elliot Ness and his "Untouchables" notwithstanding. You could even go to your local pharmacist and talk (or bribe) him into giving you a prescription "for your nerves".

Al Capone and Joe Kennedy (among many others) got MEGA-rich because of it. The cumulative votes in favor of Prohibition in the Senates of the various States was 1,310 votes for, and 237 votes against (84.6% in favor). The lower houses of those States voted 3,782 for and 1,035 against (78.5% in favor).

The "Great Experiment" ended up failing miserably.

Now we have the worst dog's breakfast since the introduction of Marxism basically ruling our nation, instilling fear in every citizen come April 15th. Every year, millions of people will sit down and try to slog through literally thousands of pages of tax code, in order to figure out how much more money the IRS is going to take from their pockets to pay for such national priorities as $100,000 to encourage Iowan kids to hold "invention fairs". $500,000 to study methane emissions of cows (I tried to track that reference down, but the Senate has pulled that page from its web site). Overspending happens so frequently, it has become a bit of an urban legend among government critics.

Let's scrap the whole friggin' system, and resort to a national sales tax. I know I'll catch hell from the liberals who want to scream that a flat tax will "benefit the rich and punish the poor". The simple fact that rich people will still pay more in taxes (because they will buy more than "poor" people) will somehow escape their notice. The estimated $250 billion per year (that's billion, with a 'B') spent on tax preparation will be spent elsewhere. The IRS will be eliminated completely and all those tax accountants will have to find honest jobs. Eliminate all those tax shelters, and it would be so much simpler to figure weekly deductions from paychecks (making business accountants lives much easier.

All benefit (and it could even be a boost to revenue for the government) and almost no downside. But we have to repeal the 16th Amendment first.

So get cracking on those letters, e-mails and telegrams.

Right away.
The war has started.

Reports that Allied (U.S. & U.K.) planes took out Iraqi surface-to-surface missile sites near Basra in a pre-emptive strike to protect our troops in Kuwait. I'm checking for Internet and television news sites to see if I can't get more information for you.

Let's hope this war is like the last one. Quick and overwhelming.

In other news, I've heard that North Korea has an (as yet untested) missile that is reputed to be able to reach the Western United States. I hope that South Korea doesn't mind being an island, because that is exactly what will happen if the "peace loving" sociopaths governmental leaders in Pyongyang decide to fire that missile in any direction at all. To the north and west is Russia and China, who have their own nuclear weapons and a long history of mega-murder. To their south is South Korea (an American ally), and 37,000 of our troops. Further south is the Phillipines, Australia and New Zealand (all of them American allies). East lies Japan and the United States. About the only direction they can point that missile without risking getting themselves killed in retaliation is straight down.
Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and InstaPundit, I have found a new way to look at the left-wing liberals who protest the war, SUVs, global warming, you name it. He offers a link to this site, which offers a take on the self-immolation being performed (to our utter lack of surprise) by those self-same whack jobs. You know which ones I mean, the ones who broke dozens of windows in San Francisco as a means of protesting the war. The ones who turned over cars in Seattle when the G8 meeting was held there a while back. The ones who set fire to SUVs in a parking lot as a way to show their solidarity against progress.

When (not if) we go in and liberate Iraq, and start taking a look at all of the suddenly revealed WMDs, and the documents that show which countries have been selling Saddam all that "dual-use" technology (in violation of UN sanctions), the UN will cease to exist, except on paper (and in history books), and we can get around to creating a Coalition of Democratic Nations (which will exclude such thugs nations as North Korea, China, Libya, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) which may have a chance of actually improving conditions around the world. (Their motto: You want our help? Change your attitude!)

The only way to prevent terrorists from finding safe havens is to bring everybody up to our level of freedom and prosperity. The average "poor" person in the United States is more than 98% likely to have a television set, more than 99% likely to have a telephone, and more than 99.5% likely to have at least one working radio. Compare those figures to the "Worker's Paradise of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea", or Iraq (where satellite TV dishes are illegal).

What a wonderful world this will be when everyone can be as free as we are in the United States.
This is a simple entry, just to give a mega-shoutout and a "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!" to Dave, Pat, and Dustin for all their superlative assistance in trying to understand HTML. They almost got away with no credit at all, but I insisted, and I think they deserve all the credit that I can give them. So, wherever you may be in the world, give them a round of applause, because the three of them have been a HUGE help.

Thanks to them I'm going to try some new tricks with this page. If I screw up, it's their fault! (Just kidding. Everything I do right is because of them, and any mistakes are my own damned fault.)

Thanks again to the three of them! :-) Let me go do some studying now, and I'll see what I can pick up.

UPDATE: Dave has just informed me (via e-mail) that HTML is not a programming language, but is (rather) an "interpretive" language. Since my expertise in using programming languages ended so long ago that we were still using cassette tapes for storage (and it only took about 360 FOR-NEXT loops to equal one second), the error is understandable. To my (archaic) mind, anything that calls itself a "language" and tells the computer (or one of the programs on that computer) what to do and how to do it, is a programming language. Live and learn.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I'm of the distinct mind that this most recent tape of UBL is a fake. A wonderfully delightful fake, but a fake, nevertheless. People have been claiming that Powell didn't make the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, so (natch) UBL decides to make it a little more overt. Really? The only thing that tape did was to set that relationship in concrete (like a little kid with a popsicle stick). He specifically mentioned the three countries that are giving us such conniption fits: Russia, France, and Germany.

Oh, and let's not forget the "advice" that the Iraqi soldiers were given: Stay in your trenches. Ride out the bombing.

I admit that might have been good advice, if he were talking to World War I soldiers, but the tank was developed specifically to break the stalemate caused by such tactics. It also ignores the fact that planes can (and will) come in from all directions. A slit trench is seen by an airplane as nothing more than a nice easy set of targets, conveniently lined up for its weapons systems.

On today's battlefield, the axiom is much different: Speed Is Life. Keep moving. If you have to stop to fire accurately, limit your exposure by moving again the instant you can do so. If you give your opponent as much as ten minutes to zero in on your position, he can muster enough firepower to hit you, too.

You see, the Americans invented the concept of sharp-shooting (the snipe is a small bird found throughout the eastern U.S., and the men who who hunted those small birds most successfully were called "snipers"), and perfected the concept of "One shot, One kill" ("Don't fire until you can see the whites of their eyes!"). It is also a truism in the American military that if you can see it, you can hit it, and if you can hit it, you can kill it. The only way to avoid taking one straight down the (laser-sighted) pipe is to not be there when the bullet/missile/shell hits!!

If the Iraqi soldiers really want to resist, and want to dig their trenches to hide in, may I suggest that they stop at about 6-8 feet? All we would need at that point is a bulldozer. :-)
If anyone out there has any experience in HTML tags that can manipulate text, please send me some pointers. I can do a few things with Blog-spot, but my HTML book is so old, it still refers to 'Mosaic'. If you don't know what I mean, that's proof that the book is just, well, outdated.

I can do italics, bold, underline, strike-through, and even hyperlinks. I can even use the Typewriter font, but I'm looking for assistance in adjusting other portions of the web page, and maybe even adding a comments section. It would be a lot more fun to read your direct responses, and others to respond to you, and on and on.

Give me a helping hand, and I'll give you the credit right here. Use the e-mail address at the top of the column to your left.
I had to miss an appointment at the VA yesterday, because my car has been acting up to the point where it might be a chancy thing to drive the 35 miles to the nearest VA hospital. (If anyone knows of a good inexpensive used car in Southern California that isn't going to require huge amounts of expensive repairs to keep it running (I can live without a radio or A/C until the summer), please let me know.)

I tried calling the VA Hospital last Friday, and I explained my problem to the operator. He connected me with the "Travel" office. I thought maybe they could help me arrange transportation, so I explained my problem to the guy in the Travel office. He asked my name, put me on hold for a few minutes, and came back, and said, "Sir, you're not a member of our program."

"I know. My car has become unreliable and I have an appointment on Monday. How do I get signed up for your program?"

"It doesn't work like that. Your doctor has to arrange it, and you have to be physically unable to transport yourself. Like, in a wheelchair or somethin'..."

"So because I can still drive myself, or could if my car was working reliably, I'm not eligible?"

"That's about it... Have you tried the DAV (Disabled American Veterans)? They have a volunteer program that occasionally does that kind of pick-up and transport..."

I hung up on him at that point, because It was clear that I was wasting both our time. I had dealt with the DAV once before when the wife needed the car and I had a conflicting appointment. I had called them up a few days before my appointment, gave them my situation, and asked for a pickup. They had said, "No problem", and asked for my appointment time, location, landmarks and directions. I gave them all the info they needed (including the simplest routes), and thought, "Wow, that was easy..."

Too easy, as it turned out. I had been told to expect them between two and four hours before my appointment. On the big day, I was ready and waiting, and had situated myself so that I could keep an eye on traffic past my house. The two hour (before the appointment) point had passed, so I called up the DAV office, and asked the lady (who sounded like the lady I had been dealing with) if there had been a problem. She said no, and asked my name and where I was. I told her. She put me on hold, and came back a few seconds later, and said, "Sir, we have no record of any pickup in that area for today, and your name isn't on our list."

Remember that word stunned? "You're kidding. I called you folks three days ago, and I'm pretty sure I spoke to you directly. Are you telling me that I have no ride? Let me speak to your supervisor."

"Sir, I am the supervisor, and all of our drivers are volunteers, so I cannot force them to do anything. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

I told her exactly what she could do, and hung up the phone. I then had to call up the clinic and cancel the appointment. Hopefully it wasn't too life-threatening. Oh, well.

In other news, His Holiness the Pope (no, I'm not Catholic) has sent a letter to Saddam Who's-Sane, urging more complete cooperation with the United Nations. There's a couple of things I see that is wrong with this. First, what makes the Pope think that Saddam is going to honor his request when he has been ignoring his own religion for decades? Second, there are no "shades" of cooperations. One either cooperates, or does not. It may be a mixed bag, with cooperation in some areas, and resistance in others, but that is like a few light bulbs burned out in a large room. Each individual light is either on or off (and don't give me any guff about variable dimmer switches, because whether the light is bright or dim or somewhere in between, it is still defined as either 'on' or 'off'). If a light is off, you cannot know whether it will "cooperate" until you throw the switch.

Third, if the threat of force by the United Nations isn't causing full cooperation, what makes the Pope think that a begging letter is going to change his mind? As far as Saddam Hussein is concerned, I have just as much authority as the Pope. I'd be willing to bet that Saddam never even read the letter, except as I might read the daily comics - something for general amusement, but exerting no real influence over my actions. Tariq Aziz is alleged to be a "Christian" (which is just so much bullshit in a country that is controlled by Saddam and his Ba'ath party), and is supposed to be meeting the Pope on Friday. I'm sure that Saddam would love to have a Pope-shaped human shield, for as long as he can be persuaded to stay.

In still more news, politicos in the "Axis of Weasels" are calling for a "second resolution" authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. But wasn't this last one (Resolution 1441) the 16th resolution in the last 12 years? Wouldn't this "second" resolution actually be the 17th? Maybe the Security Council delegates take amnesia pills or maybe they get replaced often enough that they honestly didn't know about the other 15...

Nah, I think they're just being obstructionist. When it comes to nominating judges for a particular court, being an obstacle is not that much of a problem. But when we're referring to a maniac with WMD, obstructionism comes damned close to collaboration. Maybe France needs to re-examine their own history. When they were liberated from Germany, the first thing they did (after getting drunk) was to round up all the collaborators and shoot them.

Maybe we need to remind them.

Monday, February 10, 2003

I'm still fighting with my computer, but I'm also still surprised at reports that Iraq is trying to "negotiate" its way into compliance with Resolution 1441. He's saying that he'll "allow" U-2 flights, but demanded that U.S. and British planes patrolling the No-Fly zones withdraw while that plane is flying, so as not to accidentally shoot one of the U-2's down.

"Yeah, withdraw all your planes (which will require at least half an hour), so that I'll know not to shoot down that unarmed aircraft."

Another way to phrase that "condition" is "Give me thirty minutes warning that the U-2 is coming, so I can tell any of my people who are out in the open to throw a tarp over their cargo, or pull into underground parking. I'll also know that any action I take against that nice fat target can be easily blamed on "an overeager local commander", and I'll gladly execute some poor unlucky bastard a disobedient lieutenant in exchange for getting my hands on the camera systems aboard that high-tech aircraft."

Yeah, right. Those Predator UAVs are fairly small, with built-in Stealth features, and a color scheme to make it nearly invisible to your standard Mark 1 Mod 1 eyeball. We're probably using them quite a bit without notifying any of our alleged "allies".

Bear with me for a moment while I give you an apparent non sequitor. There are three different "communities" in the U.S. Navy: Submarine (underwater), Surface, and Air. They each have their own way of looking at the world.

Submariners say, "We can't do that, unless the Book says we can."

Surface warriors say, "We can do that, unless the Book says we can't."

Naval Aviators say, "It is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission."

This may be a simplistic way to sort people, but it also true. Clinton would have been a submariner (no offense to those true submariners out there!), but Bush is acting like an Aviator. He's forcing the Dims to realize that their "goal-line stand" was actually on the 35-yard line, and a simple screen pass (to continue the analogy) makes them scurry around like cockroaches suddenly caught by the light (no offense to any cockroaches out there). He has done it to the "Axis of Weasels", too, because they are now having to explain away large gaps in whatever funhouse mirror they're using for a worldview. France may have managed to marginalize the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union in one shot. They have refused to acknowledge that a hazard exists, just like they did 65 years ago. France could have taken on Germany when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, and beaten them back, which might have prevented the German war machine taking over half of Europe, which cost millions of lives, and the resultant Cold War, which ate up trillions of dollars for military expenses that might have gone towards nobler pursuits.

That's a simplistic statement, but it was intended to be so. Forest fires are easiest to put out when they're still small. I remember one small fire that I put out all by myself, using a five-gallon rubber bag of water and an axe. (It had been ignited by a poorly aimed 500-lb. bomb.) (Don't ask.)

Everyone agrees that Saddam is a dangerous megalomaniac, who sees others as "extras" in his personal movie, capable of being discarded on a whim. Everyone agrees that nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous things, capable of killing millions of people in less than a second. Why do some people believe that Saddam with nuclear weapons is not going to be a dangerous combination?

In others news, there have been recent reports that Algore's election team caused traffic jams to keep independent voters from going to the polls during the 2000 Primary. This is the same team who demanded that "every vote count". (Unless, of course, the voter is a military member serving overseas or planning on voting for someone other than Algore.)

Funny, huh? I guess he may have realized that not everybody believed his sudden "memory gaps" regarding illegal campaign fundraising at that Buddhist temple. Oh, well, it's a good thing he lost the election, then, I guess.
I've just added a new favorite site, based on the strength of this picture. It's called "Flashbunny", and can be found here.

I saw this link over at Lee's place, and just had to share it with you. I took a little bit more time to check out the site, and was impressed enough, that I've stopped my tour for a few minutes just to tell you guys about it. Go take a look.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Well, I'm back. The maintenance is only about half done, but I've been neglecting you guys for a while now. I'm somewhat concerned with this new level of "awareness of mortality" by Saddam Hussein and Iraq. They have been revealing new documents that show that Iraq has, in fact, had anthrax, VX nerve gas, and extended range ballistic missiles. Hans Blix wants more time for inspections to work.

But I feel this is a last desparate push by Iraq to delay things once more. It will not work, because key advisers to Bush have already commented that this is not about negotiations, it's about disarming, and whether Iraq is doing it or not. There is no wiggle room in Resolution 1441, and the Iraqi assertions that they weren't aware that the documents about the anthrax and VX "weren't covered" by their interpretation of 1441. Since when are anthrax (biological weapon), nerve gas (chemical weapon), and ballistic missile programs (that exceed UN mandates) not covered by "...a complete and accurate declaration of all aspects of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and ballistic missiles systems,..."? (emphasis mine)

The French and German supported plan to triple inspectors and enough UN troops to protect them is doomed to failure, as I explained above. Glenn Reynolds has even suggested that Bush expose it for the sham that it is by calling Chirac and saying "We've mobilized the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, and we'll transport 50,000 of your troops to Iraq starting on Thursday. But if you're not ready to send them, we'll dismiss you as a bunch of unserious kibitzers and go on as planned." I doubt that will actually happen, but I'm allowed to dream...

In other news, it appears that Columbia may actually have been damaged on the second day of its mission. Another theory being investigated is the waste water discharge freezing into ice chunks and breaking off, causing damage to the shuttle and it's tiles. You see, the Shuttles use fuel cells for their electrical power, and the main waste product for these fuel cells is water. That water must be disposed of, and using it as drinking water doesn't use it up fast enough. It's just easier to spray it "over the side", so to speak. Most of the time, it disperses as a spray of ice crystals, but once in a while, it all clumps up into a big ball. One about the size of a basketball was disciovered and dislodged by the robotic arm on a previous Shuttle flight. But the robot arm was not taken for this mission, and the crew would have had no way to see if any ice was collecting at the spray vent without it.

In still more news, accused child-molester Scott Ritter has switched from claiming that Iraq has no WMDs to claiming that North Korea has too many, and that Kim Jong-Il won't be happy until "...Tokyo is reduced to a slab of radioactive waste". If they so much as lob a single missile, even just a standard HE (high-explosive) round, there are enough Tomahawk-equipped ships in the region, not to mention the B-52's in Guam (which is alleged to also be a nuclear weapons storage facility), to sever South Korea from the Asia mainland. Even Pyongyang is not that stupid. They are believed to have only one or two nuclear weapons, opposed to the active arsenal of approximately 9,600 weapons (of 10 different varieties) held by the U.S. at the present time (down from a high of about 23,000 as recently as 1989).

I think North Korea is being as difficult solely to impress a sense of urgency onto the world stage. And given their druthers, I don't think they would want Scott "I'll show you mine if you watch me while I'm doing it" Ritter arguing their case for them. It would be like Charles Manson coming out to argue in favor of Saddam Hussein. (I think even Saddam would take a step back. Heh.)

Anyhow, it's going to be an interesting week on the diplomatic front. Will the U.N. support the plan put forth by the French and German delegates? Or will they back the Resolution they passed with a unanimous vote just a few weeks back? My guess is that Bush (who has shown himself to be a master of political judo) will come up with some way to force the French to fish or cut bait.

Bush has quite a bit of political acumen. He has managed to force the Democrats into supporting tax cuts (even though at lower levels). It isn't a case of tax cuts vs. no tax cuts any more, it's a case of really big cuts, right now, dammit! vs. smaller cuts over the next few years. The UN is no longer a case of pushing inspections vs. pushing sanctions. It has gone to the level of forcing disarmament at the barrel of a gun vs. coming up with any way to leave Saddam still in power. Peace at any price vs. short-term hyperwar (and if the world thought they saw some cool shit during the Gulf War, wait until they see what the HRMs and J-DAMs can do!) with mega-returns on the human rights and political fronts.

The only reasons I can think of for the French and Germans to bend over so far to avoid this action is that they may have been secretly assisting Iraq in exchange for other things, such as preferential oil contracts or political gain over the West. Steven den Beste puts this quite well, first here, then again with a slightly different take here.

It's enough to drive one to drink. I really believe that the French are becoming the new Soviet Union, bound and determined to defeat us on the political battlefield. There are now as many as 18 different European nations who support the US, with the specific exceptions of France, Germany and Belgium. Those three nations have also threatened a veto of any NATO action to assist in the defense of Turkey (a NATO member).

One last question, and I'll leave you to ponder their treachery...

Article Three of the NATO treaty says that "the Parties [to the NATO Treaty], separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."

Article Five says that "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all..."

What parts of those two Articles do those three nations feel no longer apply to them? There are nineteen Member Nations of NATO, and their policies are that any actions taken by NATO must be unanimous. This gives France a HUGE baton to wave, because by withholding consent for NATO members to offer defensive support to each other, and exercising its veto in the Security Council to prevent the U.N. from enforcing its own resolutions, they can politically block the United States, as long as the United States let them do so.

There are five U.S. aircraft carriers in the region, plus the British Ark Royal. There are over 110,000 American troops in the region. There are F-117s in Qatar. The dark of the moon comes on the 3rd of March. Look for bombs to start falling then.
I awoke this morning to news that is still breaking. Apparently Iraq has decided to admit to at least some of its WMD programs. They have turned over papers regarding Anthrax and VX nerve gas production, not to mention ballistic missiles production, and Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei are declaring that they are "pleased to see" the progress made by Iraq.

My only comment for now is that you do not "progress" when it comes to the kind of cooperation required by Resolution 1441. This seems to me to be Saddam and his advisers seeing themselves backed into a corner, and deciding to toss the paperwork (with no real guarantee that the documents relate to reality in any significant way) at Blix and ElBaradei in an attempt to further divide the Security Council.

This way the Saddam apologists peaceniks can claim that the inspections are working, despite the fact that not one of the thousands of liters of anthrax or VX which we knew Iraq had four years ago has actually been proven to be destroyed. I've heard statements that imply that these items were just dumped and the shells turned into scrap. I'm concerned that these actions might provide the anti-U.S. forces in the Security Council (I'm looking at you, France and Germany!) more ammunition to support their U.N. controlled invasion.

That plan will not work, because it requires that we keep large quantities of troops in the region for the next several years as an ongoing threat of force, while leaving Saddam "nominally" in power. The problem is that U.N. troops have done absolutely nothing against local troops when those troops have committed genocidal atrocities in both Bosnia and Rwanda. They would not even be able to respond to tactical threats from Iraqi troops (who threatened the U.N. Inspector's security troops at gunpoint back before they were all thrown out of Iraq back in '98).

I'll probably be behind the curve a great deal today, as I have a lot of maintenance to perform on my computer today, and it may take most of the day. I suggest you keep checking some of my links, such as Steven den Beste or InstaPundit. I'll be back in a few hours, after the TV talking heads have deciphered this situation and argued its details, and I've fixed my computer.