Monday, February 28, 2005

The tide is turning

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote about conditions in Lebanon last Wednesday and included comments from the leader of the Lebanese intifada, Walid Jumblatt.

Jumblatt, he said, "is the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus..."

This paragraph virtually leaps off the page:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bad acid flashback

There are few things more odious than having to endure a performance review by someone who is your professional and intellectual inferior.
Most journalists who have worked for Gannett know what I mean.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

What he meant

Washington Times
February 7, 2005
Pg. 19
'Intimate Killing'
Close combat and the art of war

By Robert H. Scales

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on the future of warfare. Marine Lt. Gen. Jim Mattis was one of the panelists. During his remarks he made a statement about the pleasure that young soldiers and marines feel when killing in close combat, a statement that seems to have gotten him in trouble with the fourth estate — prompting an apology and some counseling by the Marine Corps Commandant.

First, a confession: I know Gen. Mattis. He is a central figure in the book I coauthored with Williamson Murray, "The Iraq War: A Military History." For those of you who might have the image of a knuckle-dragging troglodyte, let me assure you that he is one of the most urbane and polished men I have known. He can quote Homer as well as Sun Tzu and has over 7,000 books in his personal library.

Jim is the product of three decades of schooling and practice in the art of war. No one on active duty knows more about the subject. He is an infantryman, a close-combat Marine. He is one of those very few who willingly practices the art of what social scientists term "intimate killing." Those of us who have engaged in the act understand what he was trying to explain to an audience of defense technologists and contractors.

Intimate killing is a primal aspect of warfare unchanged since the beginning of civilization. It involves a clash of two warriors, one on one, armed with virtually identical weapons. The decision goes to the soldier with the right stuff, the one with the greater cunning, strength, guile, ruthlessness and will to win.

For a moment put yourself in the place of a young soldier or Marine fighting house to house in the mean streets of Fallujah. Burdened with over 60 pounds of gear, sweat dripping constantly into your face, you can't stop shaking from the fear of what the enemy has in store for you around the next corner. Just ahead is a darkened house with doors and windows closed and shuttered. The only sound is the crunching of your boots on the trash and broken glass as you move in slow motion to surround the dwelling. You watch as the sergeant signals you to cover a side entrance. Through the faint haze you can see your buddy kick in the door and immediately come face to face with an insurgent who greets him with a burst of AK-47 fire that tears a hole in his chest. Your buddy doesn't die. The terrorist wants him to live just long enough for his buddies to rush in for a rescue and become additional trophies to be laid at the altar of heaven.

Now, it's your turn. You use your superior discipline and skill to approach the insurgent such that you're detected just at the last second. Both of you raise your weapons simultaneously and open fire in a crushing tear of bullets that scatter and ricochet wildly across the room. One bullet finds the bad guy and he falls in a bloody lump just inches from your boots.What exactly do you "feel" at this moment? Relief, to be sure, but also something else that cannot be explained to anyone who hasn't committed an act of intimate killing. It's not joy, exactly, more like exhilaration and an enormous sense of self-satisfaction that in one of the most primal challenges — where all the satellites, planes, ships and smart weapons are of no use whatever — you prevailed, one on one, over a diabolically evil enemy.

Who should be offended by the emotions of "joy" or whatever one feels at the moment of a successful kill? It's a fair fight, you win and the bad guy loses. It's that simple. One more terrorist will not threaten your unit or your buddies. Remember, this isn't a reality show. There are no retakes. Donald Trump doesn't fire you and the price for second place is death.

My point simply is this: We must celebrate the fact that we have men like Jim Mattis willing to devote (and give) their lives when necessary to commit an act that most of those in our society would be horrified to even contemplate. If you are offended by these emotions, then seriously consider joining an Army or Marine infantry unit so that you can demonstrate how to kill an enemy in a more humane and politically correct manner.

Until such an unlikely day occurs, we must all remember that leaders like Gen. Mattis and the men he commands are the rarest commodities that a protected society like ours can produce. All they want is the opportunity to serve a country that truly appreciates the difficulty and dangers inherent in the duties they perform, duties that very few are willing even to contemplate.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales is a former commander of the Army War College

Tower Talk

Delta 351: "Give us another hint! We have digital watches!"

"TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees."

"Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?"

"Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?"

From an unknown aircraft waiting in a very long takeoff queue: "I'm bored!"

Ground Traffic Control: "Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself immediately!"

Unknown aircraft: "I said I was bored, not stupid!"

O'Hare Approach Control to a 747: "United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o'clock, three miles, Eastbound."

United 239: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this...I've got the little Fokker in sight."

A DC-10 had come in a little fast and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after touching down.

San Jose Tower Noted: "American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able. If you are not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport."

There's a story about the military pilot calling for a priority landing because his single-engine jet fighter was running "a bit peaked." Air Traffic Control told the fighter jock that he was number two, behind an eight-engined B-52 that had one engine shut down.

"Ah," the fighter pilot remarked, "the dreaded seven-engine approach."

A Pan Am 727 flight waiting for start clearance in Munich overheard the following:

Lufthansa (in German): "Ground, what is our start clearance time?"

Ground (in English): "If you want an answer you must speak in English."

Lufthansa (in English): "I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?"

Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent) "Because you lost the bloody war."

Tower: "Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on frequency 124.7"

Eastern 702: "Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway."

Tower: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff behind Eastern 702, contact Departure on frequency 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?"

Continental 635: "Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger...and yes, we copied Eastern. We've already notified our caterers."

One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee. Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, "What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?"

The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: "I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I'll have enough parts for another one."

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a
short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.

Speedbird 206: "Frankfurt, Speedbird 206 clear of active runway."

Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven."

The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.

Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"

Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."

Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?"

Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, and I didn't land."

While taxiing at London's Gatwick Airport, the crew of a US Air flight departing for Ft. Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727.

An irate female ATC ground controller lashed out at the US Air
crew, screaming:

"US Air 2771, where the hell are you going?! I told you to
turn right onto Charlie taxiway! You turned right on Delta! Stop right there. I know it's difficult for you to tell the difference between C and D, but get it right!"

Continuing her rage to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting

"God! Now you've screwed everything up! It'll take forever to
sort this out! You stay right there and don't move till I tell you to! You can expect progressive taxi instructions in about half an hour and I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you, and how I tell you! You got that, US Air 2771?"

"Yes, ma'am," the humbled crew responded.

Naturally, the ground control communications frequency fell terribly silent after the verbal bashing of US Air 2771. Nobody wanted to chance engaging the irate ground controller in her current state of mind. Tension in every cockpit out around Gatwick was definitely running high.

Just then an unknown pilot broke the silence and keyed his microphone, asking:

"Wasn't I married to you once?"

Murphy's Laws of Combat

1. If the enemy is in range, so are you.
2. Incoming fire has the right of way.
3. Don't look conspicuous, it draws fire.
4. There is always a way, and it usually doesn't work.
5. The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined.
6. Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.
7. Professionals are predictable, it's the amateurs that are dangerous.
8. The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:
when you're ready for them.
when you're not ready for them.
9.Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.
10. If you can't remember, then the claymore IS pointed at you.
11. The enemy diversion you have been ignoring will be the main attack.
12. A "sucking chest wound" is nature's way of telling you to slow down.
13. If your attack is going well, then it's an ambush.
14. Never draw fire, it irritates everyone around you.
15. Anything you do can get you shot, including nothing.
16. If you build yourself a bunker that's tough for the enemy to get into quickly, then you won't be able to get out of it quickly either.
17. Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself.
18. If you're short of everything but the enemy, you're in a combat zone.
19. When you've secured the area, don't forget to tell the enemy.
20. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
21. Friendly fire isn't.
22. If the sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
23. Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.
24. The most dangerous thing in the world is a second lieutenant with a map and a compass.
25. There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.
26. A grenade with a seven second fuse will always burn down in four seconds.
27. Remember, a retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.
28. If at first you don't succeed call in an air-strike.
29. Exceptions prove the rule, and destroy the battle plan.
30. Everything always works in your HQ, everything always fails in the colonel's HQ.
31. The enemy never watches until you make a mistake.
32. One enemy soldier is never enough, but two is entirely too many.
33. A clean (and dry) set of BDU's is a magnet for mud and rain.
34. Whenever you have plenty of ammo, you never miss. Whenever you are low on ammo, you can't hit the broad side of a barn.
35. The more a weapon costs, the farther you will have to send it away to be repaired.
36. Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
37. Interchangeable parts aren't.
38. No matter which way you have to march, its always uphill.
39. If enough data is collected, a board of inquiry can prove ANYTHING.
40. For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism. (in boot camp)
41. The one item you need is always in short supply.
42. The worse the weather, the more you are required to be out in it.
43. The complexity of a weapon is inversely proportional to the IQ of the weapon's operator.
44. Airstrikes always overshoot the target, artillery always falls short.
45. When reviewing the radio frequencies that you just wrote down, the most important ones are always illegible.
46. Those who hesitate under fire usually do not end up KIA or WIA.
47. The tough part about being an officer is that the troops don't know what they want, but they know for certain what they DON'T want.
48. To steal information from a person is called plagiarism. To steal information from the enemy is called gathering intelligence.
49. The weapon that usually jams when you need it the most is the M60.
50. The perfect officer for the job will transfer in the day after that billet is filled by someone else.
51. When you have sufficient supplies & ammo, the enemy takes 2 weeks to attack. 52. When you are low on supplies & ammo the enemy decides to attack that night.
52. The newest and least experienced soldier will usually win the Congressional Medal Of Honor.
53. A Purple Heart just goes to prove that were you smart enough to think of a plan, stupid enough to try it, and lucky enough to survive.
54. Murphy was a grunt.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

My Florida friend Susan. For 8 years she was the chief financial officer of the fastest-growing, most affluent community in Indiana. She was also the most honest, straightforward, no-bullshit elected official I covered in my 34 years in newspapers. Posted by Hello

This one always creeps my wife out. An audiologist is injecting a silicone compound into my ear canal to make custom molded in-ear stereo speakers for use when riding my motorcycle. My wife can't stand anything in her ears. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I covered a rural house fire last evening. Here's the photo that ran big on the front page this morning. Posted by Hello

Here's another. Posted by Hello

Monday, February 14, 2005

After being inundated by Valentine's Day crap - weddings, proposals, fawning couples - on the morning TV talk shows, this is how I feel about V-Day. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shot from the pier at Flagler Beach, Fla., last Thursday. It was a chilly, gray, windy day but perfect for surfers. I didn't expect to see wave action like this on the Atlantic coast. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Wrong number

I just got a wrong-number call on my cell phone from a woman at 317-357-1121.
Feel free to call her and say, "Oooops. Sorry, wrong number."

This is Florida?

It's 57 degrees, but the wind chill makes if feel like 52, with a heavy overcast and spitting rain here in beautiful Palm Coast, Fla.
Sunshine State, my ass.
It was like this yesterday and will be this way tomorrow.
If I wanted sunshine, I shoulda gone to Colorado.
The Honda del Sol performed splendidly on the drive down, delivering 34.6 miles per gallon. The addition of XM satellite radio to the entertainment options made the trip an easy one, even with a 45-minute crawl through a construction zone on I-75 north of Valdosta, Ga.
I'd envisioned driving around down here with the roof panel stowed in the trunk, but that's not gonna happen until Friday at the earliest and maybe not at all.
Took my friends to see Sideways last night. I enjoyed it and would give it at least an 8 on a scale of 10. It goes deeper into the dynamics of relationships than most movies do and is considerably more thoughtful than 99% of the films out there today. At the same time, there are outrageously funny moments. Whether it's Oscar material is another matter entirely, especially if The Passion of The Christ doesn't even make the nomination cut.
Whatever. It was worth the price of admission.
When we stepped up to the ticket booth, the cashier - a woman I'd judge to be in her 60s - asked if we wanted the senior citizen discount. I glanced up at the ticket price list and noticed the cutoff was 60. Only one of us - Susan's boyfriend - is over 60 and Susan just had a facelift that makes her look early 40-something, but I thought, "What the hell? Why not?"
Judging from the other theater patrons around us, I figured most of them got in at the geezer rate.
So our three tickets came to a modest $18.
I spent much of yesterday helping Ed, Susan's boyfriend, research ways to get his neighbor to stop parking his electrical contracting business vehicles in front of his (the neighbor's) house.
It's obvious the neighbor is running his business out of his home and, under local regulations, that means he cannot park vehicles with painted business signage, in front of his home.
We've determined that he has his business registered at an address in St. Augustine. Turns out he owns several residential rental properties in a white trash neighborhood up there, but our reconnaisance determined there is no electrical contracting business being done at any of them, including the one listed on his St. John County (St. Augustine) business permit.
This scheme to get around Palm Coast ordinances is made all the more interesting by the fact that the guy serves on a town council-appointed technical board for construction review.
So what he have is a government official flaunting the laws of his own community.
My suggestion is to pull together all this information, along with photos of the offending vehicles parked illegally in front of the house, and turn it over to some eager young newspaper reporter.
In the meantime, I need to get out and do some photography for our stock photo business.
I just answered the doorbell - Ed is out rescuing a buddy whose car broke down on I-95 a few miles from here - and found myself being schmoozed by a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses women. I closed the door in their faces as pleasantly as possible, explaining that I'm Catholic and am quite satisfied with my religion.
Crappy weather, evangelists, strategizing against a sleazy neighbor and now I have a sinus headache. What next?