Saturday, January 29, 2005

Florida-bound, weather permitting

The flu hung on a day longer than I expected, but I'm back to about 95% and will head for a week-long photo expedition to Florida tomorrow.
I'll spend tomorrow night at the home of a seldom-seen cousin south of Nashville, Tenn., then on to the home of friends in Palm Coast, Fla., Monday night.
Watching the snow falling outside my office window makes it an easy decision to throw my gear into the trunk of my del Sol, crank up the XM satellite radio and head for the tropics.
Unfortunately, my wife can't come with me. She's saving her vacation time for later in the year and also wants to stay close to home because her Amish sister-in-law is expecting a sixth (!?!?!) child any day now.
So I'll just have to e-mail her photos of palm trees and me driving around with the top off of my car in the balmy Florida breezes.
If I have anything interesting to report, I'll blog it from Florida.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Goddamned flu

I have the flu.
I woke up yesterday morning feeling ever so slightly queasy and the condition intensified through the day. Lunch was a toasted cheese sandwich and cup of soup. By mid-afternoon, I'd run out of stuff to write and edit at my wife's newspaper where I was filling in. I felt sufficiently crappy that I came home and went to bed with body aches, chills and fever.
My wife and stepdaughter had bouts with this or a similar bug in late December and I had been congratulating myself on avoiding it. Obviously, my luck had run out.
My wife was laid low for nearly a week and her daughter was flattened for about three days.
Despite a fever of 100.4 last night and an inability to venture far from a toilet today, I feel pretty good and should be back to normal tomorrow.
It's been a couple of years since I've had so much as a cold, so I guess I shouldn't complain about a 24-48-hour knock-down.
I called my daughter-in-law the doctor when my wife was sick and got very useful advice - drink at least 8 ounces of fluid per hour. I kept the wife and stepdaughter loaded up with Gatorade and have been slugging down lots of the stuff myself. I have no science to back it up, but I think it does a better job of flushing out the debris and keeping me hydrated than does plain water.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Time Marches On

I'm reading proof and writing editorials today at my wife's newspaper.
The editorial page is where they run the "Today in History" and celebrity birthdays and I was startled to discover that Eddie Van Halen tunred 50 today. Now he can join AARP and get senior citizen discounts at Motel 6.
Welcome to the downhill slide, Eddie.

Friday, January 21, 2005

No good deed goes unpunished

This post by a U.S. Navy officer aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln was copied from the Soldiers for The Truth blog:

Guest Column: No Relief in Sight for the Lincoln

By Ed Stanton

It has been three weeks since my ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln, arrived off the Sumatran coast to aid the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami that ravaged their coastline. I’d like to say that this has been a rewarding experience for us, but it has not: Instead, it has been a frustrating and needlessly dangerous exercise made even more difficult by the Indonesian government and a traveling circus of so-called aid workers who have invaded our spaces.

What really irritated me was a scene I witnessed in the Lincoln’s wardroom a few days ago. I went in for breakfast as I usually do, expecting to see the usual crowd of ship’s company officers in khakis and air wing aviators in flight suits, drinking coffee and exchanging rumors about when our ongoing humanitarian mission in Sumatra is going to end.

What I saw instead was a mob of civilians sitting around like they owned the place. They wore various colored vests with logos on the back including Save The Children, World Health Organization and the dreaded baby blue vest of the United Nations. Mixed in with this crowd were a bunch of reporters, cameramen and Indonesian military officers in uniform. They all carried cameras, sunglasses and fanny packs like tourists on their way to Disneyland.

My warship had been transformed into a floating hotel for a bunch of trifling do-gooders overnight.

As I went through the breakfast line, I overheard one of the U.N. strap-hangers, a longhaired guy with a beard, make a sarcastic comment to one of our food servers. He said something along the lines of “Nice china, really makes me feel special,” in reference to the fact that we were eating off of paper plates that day. It was all I could do to keep from jerking him off his feet and choking him, because I knew that the reason we were eating off paper plates was to save dishwashing water so that we would have more water to send ashore and save lives. That plus the fact that he had no business being there in the first place.

My attitude towards these unwanted no-loads grew steadily worse that day as I learned more from one of our junior officers who was assigned to escort a group of them. It turns out that they had come to Indonesia to “assess the damage” from the Dec. 26 tsunami.

Well, they could have turned on any TV in the world and seen that the damage was total devastation. When they got to Sumatra with no plan, no logistics support and no five-star hotels to stay in, they threw themselves on the mercy of the U.S. Navy, which, unfortunately, took them in. I guess our senior brass was hoping for some good PR since this was about the time that the U.N. was calling the United States “stingy” with our relief donations.

As a result of having to host these people, our severely over-tasked SH-60 Seahawk helos, which were carrying tons of food and water every day to the most inaccessible places in and around Banda Aceh, are now used in great part to ferry these “relief workers” from place to place every day and bring them back to their guest bedrooms on the Lincoln at night. Despite their avowed dedication to helping the victims, these relief workers will not spend the night in-country, and have made us their guardians by default.

When our wardroom treasurer approached the leader of the relief group and asked him who was paying the mess bill for all the meals they ate, the fellow replied, “We aren’t paying, you can try to bill the U.N. if you want to.”

In addition to the relief workers, we routinely get tasked with hauling around reporters and various low-level “VIPs,” which further wastes valuable helo lift that could be used to carry supplies. We had to dedicate two helos and a C-2 cargo plane for America-hater Dan Rather and his entourage of door holders and briefcase carriers from CBS News. Another camera crew was from MTV. I doubt if we’ll get any good PR from them, since the cable channel is banned in Muslim countries. We also had to dedicate a helo and crew to fly around the vice mayor of Phoenix, Ariz., one day. Everyone wants in on the action.

As for the Indonesian officers, while their job is apparently to encourage our leaving as soon as possible, all they seem to do in the meantime is smoke cigarettes. They want our money and our help but they don’t want their population to see that Americans are doing far more for them in two weeks than their own government has ever done or will ever do for them.

To add a kick in the face to the USA and the Lincoln, the Indonesian government announced it would not allow us to use their airspace for routine training and flight proficiency operations while we are saving the lives of their people, some of whom are wearing Osama bin Ladin T-shirts as they grab at our food and water. The ship has to steam out into international waters to launch and recover jets, which makes our helos have to fly longer distances and burn more fuel.

What is even worse than trying to help people who totally reject everything we stand for is that our combat readiness has suffered for it.

An aircraft carrier is an instrument of national policy and the big stick she carries is her air wing. An air wing has a set of very demanding skills and they are highly perishable. We train hard every day at sea to conduct actual air strikes, air defense, maritime surveillance, close air support and many other missions – not to mention taking off and landing on a ship at sea.

Our safety regulations state that if a pilot does not get a night carrier landing every seven days, he has to be re-qualified to land on the ship. Today we have pilots who have now been over 25 days without a trap due to being unable to use Indonesian airspace to train. Normally it is when we are at sea that our readiness is at its very peak. Thanks to the Indonesian government, we have to waive our own safety rules just to get our pilots off the deck.

In other words, the longer we stay here helping these people, the more dangerous it gets for us to operate. We have already lost one helicopter, which crashed in Banda Aceh while taking sailors ashore to unload supplies from the C-130s. There were no relief workers on that one.

I’m all for helping the less fortunate, but it is time to give this mission to somebody other than the U.S. Navy. Our ship was supposed to be home on Feb. 3 and now we have no idea how long we will be here. American taxpayers are spending millions per day to keep this ship at sea and getting no training value out of it. As a result, we will come home in a lower state of readiness than when we left due to the lack of flying while supporting the tsunami relief effort.

I hope we get some good PR in the Muslim world out of it. After all, this is Americans saving the lives of Muslims. I have my doubts.

Ed Stanton is the pen name of a career U.S. Navy officer currently serving with the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group. Send Feedback responses to

Thursday, January 20, 2005

What worries me tonight...

I don’t think of myself as a worrier, although my wife and my sons might have a different view.
But I’m starting to get seriously worried about the epidemic of methamphetamine use and meth-related crime I’m seeing.
It seems that almost every crime and aberration that crops up in this semi-rural part of the state is linked, somehow, with meth.
We live in a town of about 1,500 surrounded by farmland. An abandoned railroad right-of-way runs behind our house and on the other side of it is the local Farm Bureau Co-Op with three or four huge storage tanks full of anhydrous ammonia.
At various times during the year, area farmers apply ammonia to their fields using “nurse tanks,” big white torpedo-shaped tanks on wheels that they pull behind a tractor or a truck.
For the uninitiated, ammonia is a component used to manufacture methamphetamine. Of all the ingredients, ammonia is the only one that meth makers can’t walk into Wal-Mart and buy. So they have to steal it.
The tricky part is that guys who make meth are more often than not meth users, which means they spend a lot of time under the influence of this insanely addictive drug. That means we have inherently stupid people who have further impaired themselves with dangerous chemicals trying to break open valves on big tanks full of a highly toxic substance.
One night during the summer of 2003, one of these morons got in over his head trying to steal ammonia from the Co-Op and left a valve on a nurse tank open. My wife arrived home from work about 7 p.m. and noticed a strong smell of ammonia. It got progressively stronger to the point where we had to go inside and shut our doors and windows to keep it out. A Little League baseball game was in progress a block down the street on the opposite side of our house from the Co-Op. The town marshal called off the game and evacuated the ballpark.
The ammonia finally dissipated, but the episode left us with the disturbing realization that we could all be gassed in our sleep by some imbecile trying to filch ammonia to make meth.
A little reconnaissance revealed there is virtually no security at the Co-Op. No night watchman, no security light, no high fence. The nurse tanks are lined up in an area that opens onto a soybean field. Some bold meth head could easily drive through the bean field some moonless night, hook a nurse tank to his vehicle and make off with several thousand pounds of deadly anhydrous.
Now, I could go off on a homeland security tangent here and suggest that our nation’s unsecured agricultural ammonia supplies are an easy target for terrorists, but let’s stay with the meth angle for now.
I wrote earlier about a cop friend who was involved in a police action shooting that killed a young man who was spun on meth and made the fatal error of pointing a pellet gun at an officer in pre-dawn darkness.
Hardly a week goes by in the nearby county where my wife’s newspaper is based that a highly volatile meth lab doesn’t blow up and damage a house or some other structure. During the winter, meth makers look for abandoned structures or the homes of people vacationing in Florida to break into and set up their labs. I read a police report this week about a guy and his son who were making meth in the crawlspace under a stranger’s house. I saw another report about a 19-year-old and a 22-year-old – both meth heads – who decided to support their habit by passing bad checks. Now they face a combined 19 felony counts of forgery.
My pharmacist has a sister-in-law who is hopelessly addicted to meth – been in and out of rehab countless times but just can’t stay away from it.
Cops will tell you that almost all identity theft is meth-related.
My stepson’s cousin lives by himself in his great-grandmother’s house and my stepson says he’s starting to hang out with the meth crowd.
This week, my wife’s publisher had to fire the best photographer who has ever worked at that paper because of meth.
The guy and his wife moved here from the south a few months ago, pretty much dead broke because – the story goes – they spent the last year or so caring for the wife’s dying mother.
The guy went to work, shooting excellent news photos. It was immediately clear that he had the makings of a top flight photojournalist.
His wife was a dirtbag slut. Soon after they arrived, she started hanging out in the sleazier bars and less than a month later, she disappeared with hubby’s car, having run off to Nebraska with a construction worker.
The photog moped around for a few days, then got back to work and was turning out some brilliant photography – spot news, features, illustrations, you name it – until the wife called and tearfully told him the boyfriend had beaten and abandoned her.
However talented the photog was, he had absolutely no judgment when it came to relationships. He drove to Nebraska and brought her home.
It was all downhill from that point on. Coworkers said they saw the couple out partying all night every night. He was later and later getting to work every day.
A couple of weeks ago, at a time when a nasty flu bug was running rampant in the newsroom, he called in sick on a Monday. His editor checked on him daily until Wednesday when his wife said she’s keep the office apprised of his condition. But there was no call on Thursday and by Friday morning the sports department was getting nervous about whether he would be available to shoot weekend sports or whether they needed to hunt up photo stringers.
My wife, having a good rapport with the police department, called the cops and asked them to drop by his apartment and do a welfare check just to make sure he was still alive.
A short time later, the photog called the newsroom – barely coherent but with his wife screeching in the background. It took the editor a good 15 minutes to explain to him that nobody was angry with him, they just got worried and also wondered what plans to make for the weekend. He didn’t have a phone and had turned off his company cell phone.
So fast forward to Wednesday morning when the folks in the newsroom hear police radio traffic mentioning the photographer’s name and something about a portable police scanner radio belonging to the newspaper.
The editor was off with the flu, so my wife and the publisher went to the police station where they identified the scanner radio as the one they had issued to the photographer.
Seems it turned up in the apartment of a meth dealer. Further investigation revealed that the photographer had earlier sold the meth dealer his Ford Explorer for two grams of meth. The closest we could get to an explanation of how the scanner radio got into the meth dealer’s apartment was that the photog said he’d given it to his wife while he was off shooting a high school basketball game because it’s impossible to hear the scanner in a noisy gym. So we’re left to suppose the wife went visiting and accidentally left behind a device that would be extremely useful to a criminal who wanted to know what the local police were up to.
My wife finally reached the photographer at his apartment – after he had been questioned by police – and told him the publisher wanted him in the office immediately. He tried to beg off, saying he was “too freaked out” at the moment. An hour or so later, the publisher ordered him to report to the office with all of his company-owned equipment within 25 minutes. Otherwise, the publisher would call the police and report the equipment stolen.
A staff member saw the photog park his car in front of the office with the left rear tire up on the sidewalk. His wife was in the car, applying makeup.
He turned in his stuff and was terminated.
His Nikon D70 had a 1 gig Compact Flash card that held 86 photos taken between 7:04 and 7:38 a.m. that same day. Most were of his wife posing seductively by candlelight. Since sunrise wasn’t until a little after 8 a.m., it was obvious that they had been up all night. It was equally clear that they were oblivious to the shit storm gathering around them.
It’s impossible for me to see this stuff happening around me and not be concerned.
What happens when the stepson’s cousin gets seriously spun on meth and tells his buddies about the burglary opportunities at my house? What happens the next time some idiot decides to crack a valve on a nurse tank behind my house?
Like I said, I don’t think of myself as a worrier, but I do have a heightened sense of danger.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Far-fetched, but an amusing thought...

Has U.S. threatened
to vaporize Mecca?
Intelligence expert says nuke option is reason bin Laden has been quiet

Posted: January 7, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2005

Why hasn't Osama bin Laden's terror network executed an attack on U.S. soil since 9-11?

Simple, says Dr. Jack Wheeler, creator of an acclaimed intelligence website dubbed "the oasis for rational conservatives": The U.S. has threatened to nuke the Muslim holy city of Mecca should the terror leader strike America again.

On his website, To the Point, Wheeler explains how the Bush administration has identified the potential of wiping Mecca off the map as bin Laden's ultimate point of vulnerability – the Damoclean Sword hanging over his head.

..snip...Writes Wheeler in his members-only column: "There has been a rumor floating in the Washington ether for some time now that George Bush has figured out what Sword of Damocles is suspended over Osama bin Laden's head.

...snip...Completely obliterating the terrorists' holiest of holies, rendering what is for them the world's most sacred spot a radioactive hole in the ground is retribution of biblical proportions – and those are the only proportions that will do the job.

"Osama would have laughed off such a threat, given his view that Americans are wussies who cut and run after a few losses, such as Lebanon in 1983 and Somalia in 1993. Part of Bush's rationale for invading Afghanistan and Iraq – obviously never expressed publicly – was to convince Osama that his threat to nuke Mecca was real. Osama hates America just as much as ever, but he is laughing no more."

Wheeler says bin Laden is "playing poker with a Texas cowboy holding the nuclear aces," so there's nothing al-Qaida could do that could come remotely close to risking obliterating Mecca.

Monday, January 17, 2005

How bizarre

Ever stop to wonder how an aggregation of chemicals and subtle electrical impulses (you) have the capacity to wonder about anything? Or to know anything, much less have memories, emotions and values.
Pretty damned uppity for a wheezing bag of protoplasm, don't you think?


Oh, and by the way, the dirtbags kidnapped the Catholic Archibishop of Mosul today.
The sight of The Most Reverend Basil George Casmoussa, 66, in an orange jumpsuit getting his head hacked off is an image that would have cataclysmic consequences for Islamic fundamentalists everywhere.
It's hard to imagine a better way to set off a genuine take-no-prisoners 21st century Crusade.

Who needs an exit strategy, Part 2

Back on Oct. 20, I made this observation:
Has it occurred to anyone else that an unstated objective of the Iraq campaign was the acquisition of bases from which we could better deal with the rogue states of the region?
Naturally, it would have been foolish to state this up front as a reason to remove Saddam and conquer Iraq, but it’s looking more like a brilliant move with every passing day.
Yes, the insurgency in Iraq has made things a little messy and a short-sighted media has fixated on it at the expense of seeing the big picture.
Kudos to the Bush administration for thinking more than one move ahead in this chess game we dare not lose.
Another astute blogger pointed out this week that we have a 25-year-old score to settle with the mullahs of Iran - a little matter of Americans held hostage because a Democrat president couldn't command their respect. Or fear.
As I've said earlier, those who seek to destroy us should understand that - with our use of precision munitions and our concern for civilian casualties - what the world has seen so far is "us being nice." They don't ever want to see "us not being nice."

This story ran in today's editions of The New York Daily News:

Yank commandos already in place, mag says

WASHINGTON - U.S. commandos are hunting for secret nuclear and chemical weapons sites and other targets in Iran, and have a plan to turn the hard-line Islamic country into the next front in the war on terrorism.
"It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're doing it," an ex-intelligence official tells this week's issue of The New Yorker.

Since at least last summer, the U.S. teams have penetrated eastern Iran, reportedly with Pakistan's help, the magazine said.

"Iraq is just one campaign," the official told investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. "The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

The aim is to rid America and its allies of a major state sponsor of terrorism, Hersh writes.

"We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy," the official tells Hersh. "This is the last hurrah - we've got four years and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whom President Bush has asked to stay on in his second term, has been jockeying for more power to conduct covert ops without nagging congressional oversight.

"It's a global free-fire zone," said one Pentagon adviser.

Iran has fought tooth and nail demands that it open its nuclear energy program for inspection, fueling suspicion that the charter member of President Bush's "axis of evil" is up to no good.

That same secrecy also has heightened tensions with another axis member with nuclear ambitions, North Korea.

Pentagon neoconservatives - hard-liners who include Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz - believe that surgical strikes on a small list of military targets will minimize civilian casualties and may spark an uprising by reformers against the ruling fundamentalist mullahs, current and ex-officials said.

Hersh told CNN that if targets are lined up by this summer, U.S. attacks could soon follow.

They "want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible," a Pentagon consultant told Hersh.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz believe that, just as with some Soviet-bloc countries, "the minute the aura of invincibility the mullahs enjoy is shattered ... the Iranian regime will collapse," the consultant said.

Yet Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) of the House International Relations Committee said, "I wouldn't assume the Iranian regime will just collapse."

With combat operations still raging in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the hunt for weapons of mass destruction came up empty, Bush would have to explain fully a new call for military action against Iran, King said.

"He'd have to get the people behind it," King told the Daily News. "But you'd have to factor in that the American public would be somewhat suspicious."

But Bush aides are "compulsively optimistic" that the mullahs have a fragile hold on power, and they are sure to strike soon, predicted defense analyst John Pike of

"I think they're going to do it," he told The News. "I'm skeptical that diplomacy will succeed."

While presidential counselor Dan Bartlett complained that Hersh's story was "riddled with inaccuracies," he notably did not outright deny any of it.

"No President at any juncture in history has ever taken military options off the table," Bartlett told CNN's "Late Edition." "What President Bush has shown [is] that he believes we can emphasize the diplomatic initiatives that are under way right now."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This Made My Day

Dirty Harry’ star Clint Eastwood told an awards ceremony in New York that he would “kill” Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore if he ever showed up at his front door with a camera, according to a report on

With Moore sitting in the audience, Eastwood said, “Michael Moore and I actually have a lot in common - we both appreciate living in a country where there’s free expression.

“But, Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera — I’ll kill you. I mean it.”

Eastwood, a Republican, made the comments at the National Board of Review awards held in New York where he picked up a Special Filmmaking Achievement prize for Million Dollar Baby.

A report in the New York Daily News, said Moore, who received a special “Freedom of Expression” award for his anti-Bush documentary, appeared to laugh off Eastwood’s comments.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Reason #726 why it's safer to live in the Midwestern United States. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 03, 2005

Favorite Bumper Sticker

Give France back to Germany

A brief lament

The last quarter of 2004 saw my two favorite businesses go under.
The local BMW motorcycle dealer closed his doors, largely because of idiotic policies of BMW Motorrad USA forcing him to take new bikes faster than he could sell them.
And Galyan's - a broad-spectrum sporting goods and adventure outfitter that started several years ago in Plainfield, Ind., and eventually expanded into several states nationwide - fell on hard times and was gobbled up by aptly-named Dick's.
My New Year's wishes are for a new BMW dealer and new stores by REI and/or Cabela's.

Makes you proud

The U.S. and the Australians are doing all of the heavy lifting and providing the quickest and best response to the needs of the tsunami victims according to reports on The Diplomad, a blog by career U.S. Foreign Service officers.
This, according to Diplomad, is occurring against a background of United National floundering and attempts to take credit for the hard work of the Yanks and Aussies.
Read all about it here: