Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

There is a war poem that was once known by most interested and informed Americans.  It's called "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner."  It was written by Randall Jarrell and published in 1945.  We don't know it today because, I think, it is too real, too graphic, too ugly.  It makes us too uncomfortable.  It makes us pray that our lost loved ones didn't depart like that.  But many did.  It's what war does.

I'd like to know what you think it means or if you think it has any meaning at all.  I think its point was to tell Americans that our military was not dying dignified, quick, clean, comic-book shot-through-the-brisket deaths.  That's a lie told so that we can sleep.

No, they were (and are and always have been) dying deaths of unspeakable horror and terror and pain.  So if we support a war it asks us to at least consider what it is that we support.  Men and women are dying because we asked them to and we knew they would die.  It doesn't seem too much of a burden to ask us to read about or watch what we asked for.  It's little enough.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
By Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

"Do not go gentle into that good night...
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
     -- Dylan Thomas

The day is coming to a close here.  Did I dare enjoy it?  Yes I did, but I also remembered the ball turret gunner, the tanker, the red leg and the grunt and those whose pieces we couldn't find.

Happy Memorial Day

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

It's time to mourn them again, we who confine our mourning to government-sanctioned holidays.  Today we mourn those who died at the hands of our enemies while defending our freedom, our rights, our traditions, our nation. Your right, in point of fact, to ignore their sacrifices and pursue the pleasures they paid for.  But you won't do that, will you?  Please?

I have written about this day before, in 2009, in 2010 and in 2013.  Their sacrifices haunt me.  All that I am and all that I have was paid for by men and women whom I never knew.  Except for Larry Swarbrick.

Don't be afraid to laugh today, to enjoy, to love, to rest.  The day is meant for that, too.  That's why we fly our flags at half mast only until noon in their honor and at full mast thereafter to honor America.  Oh, you didn't know that?

But remember them today, those who will never again visit us, never go on another picnic with us, never again kiss us.  Once they were like us, and they wanted to.

In the last line of the movie The Bridges at Toko-Ri, RADM Tarrant (Fredric March) says, after a successful bombing raid that suffered heavy losses and while launching the next raid, "Where do we get such men?"  Where, indeed?  

Thank you.  I remember.  Every day.


If our soldiers are not overburdened with 
money, it is not because they have a distaste 
for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is 
not because they are disinclined to longevity.

Sun Tzu

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Obamacare In Oregon


Move along.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

I live in the State of Oregon in the USA.  Oregon has opted for its state-run CoverOregon health care insurance program in lieu of the HealthCare.gov marketplace. 

Healthcare.gov refers you to CoverOregon.com if you want to apply for affordable health care insurance.  And CoverOregon.com doesn't work.  It's been "open" since Oct. 1 but has yet to enroll its first customer.  Not one.

It should work.  The feds have already shoveled bucketsfull (an actual measurement) of money to Oregon.  We're a tech-savvy state.  We want it to work.  Nope, doesn't.

Our state has had to hire or reassign 400 workers "to process insurance applications by hand."  (Thank you, AP and The Eugene Register Guard)  

By HANDIn 2013With 400 untrained employees?  Who does that make sense to?  

Can't take it off-line, though.  That would make the Guv and the Prez look bad.  So temps, pick up your pencils and pull down your green eyeshades and get to work.  You're untrained?  Still, after a week?  Well, so what?  So is everyone else.

AP notes that Oregon "has a large population of young, underemployed progressives who might provide a burgeoning market for affordable coverage."  (Or perhaps make good temps, but I digress)  That is exactly the population whose premiums CoverOregon needs to attract in order to offset the health care costs of needy older Oregonians.  Healthy youngsters = low costs, elders = higher costs.  Simple, right?

Problem is, the elders will pay a little to get a lot and the youngsters, well, they just won't pay at all.  If they have catastrophic health care needs, they can enroll when the catastrophe happens and still be fully covered.  Except, I suppose, for the $95 penalty which they can't be required to pay, either.  

Plus, if the youngsters stay on their parents' policies (should those parents purchase policies before their own catastrophes) they won't be obliged to pay their own premiums (should they actually decide to pay) until they're 26.  So, no premiums from that group.  Oops.

* * *

I've had health insurance, most of it partially subsidized, almost all my life.  It's background noise in my life.  I'm glad I have it but I rarely think about it.

I know there are many good people who are not as fortunate.  They are in desperate need of health care insurance and it's just not there.  That's not the way it's supposed to be in America.  

Enter the Prez's answer, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Affordable health care for all Americans who want it is a good idea.  That's the way it's supposed to be in America.  Neither "all government all the time" nor exclusive of government.  If there was ever a time for the ever-elusive public-private partnership, this is the time.

But now isn't the time, it seems.  It's all-government all the time now and the government, at every level and in every department, is broken.  There is neither the leadership, the will nor the ability to fix it.  This didn't have to happen.

Oregon has a world-class private sector.  Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen lives here.  Nike's Phil Knight lives here and Nike is headquartered here.  We're up to our eyeballs in miscellaneous scholars and experts and over-achievers of every stripe.  Heck, I live here.  OK, forget that part.  

But who among them was asked to lend a meaningful hand to create Cover Oregon and stick around to make sure it rolled out successfully?  No one.  Where did the dollar-a-year experts go?  Cover Oregon and governor Kitzhaber preferred to roll the dice with its own employees and selected contractors.

Their disastrous result was predictable.  And do you really think that 400 temps are going to be the answer?  Seriously?  

Oregon was supposed to be the bell cow for the Obamacare roll-out.  As Oregon goes, so will the nation.  And Oregon has failed, at a cost of billions so far and billions more to fix it and billions more to run it and God knows how much more to spin it as a success.  

And the national roll-out has failed and the costs are skyrocketing.  Is it time to think the unthinkable:  Is America failing.

Poor us.

* * * * *

“My belief is that Oregonians need to hold people accountable for the actions that they make. And for this particular plan, it’s President Obama and essentially every Democrat who voted for it.  And in the state of Oregon it’s Gov. John Kitzhaber who is responsible for its implementation,” Oregon state Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, told Northwest Watchdog.  ”He (Kitzhaber) needs to explain why, as an early adopter with additional funds that other states didn’t get, that we’re dead last in sign ups.”

(Thank you, Shelby Sebens of watchdog.org. and Fox News)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Obamacare Death Spiral Begins

"If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan.  Period."

Who would have thought that simple assertion might be the death knell for the Affordable Care Act?  Well, not by itself, maybe.  It has a lot of help.

America accepted the ACA after it was rammed through a complicit partisan Congress.  But it did pass and it does not serve us to pretend it didn't.  We have what Congress and the Prez wanted us to have.  Most Americans, however grudgingly, knew that their health insurance, and therefore their health care, would change; some for the better, some for the worse. It was beguiling to believe that government health insurance would join "free Mexican food" in a utopian tomorrow.

Let's review what we were told:
  • Health care premiums would go down.  We were were even given a number:  $2,500 per family.
    The reality:  Premiums are going up - WAY up - and you can't choose what you want to insure.  67-year-old male?  "Pre-natal care for you, Buster, and don't ask any questions." -- "Hey, lady!  Turn your head and cough."
  • Coverage would be extended to those who never before could afford health insurance. 
    The reality:  Like whom?  The CBO still predicts 30M uninsured after Obamacare is fully implemented.  And now around 5M policy cancellations and growing? 
  • Healthcare.gov (HC.G for now) was on-track for full implementation on Oct.1.
    The reality:  Kathleen Sebelious knew last March that the ACA roll-out was imperiled, yet testified in April that it "we are on track to meet the October 1 deadline."  And again in July.  And on Oct. 1 said "... it's a great problem to have" and "the volume-related issues are ones that we welcome, frankly."
  • Problems with HC.G were mere "glitches" that were entirely expected and fixable, like when Apple rolls out a new product.
    The reality:  The "fix" turned out to be just a postponement of the individual mandate with the option of renewing your old plan, if... well, a lot of ifs.

You did hear one thing that turned out to be true:
"We have to pass the bill in order so you can find out what's in it."
-- Nancy Pelosi

On the other hand, NancyP also said:
"Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package 500 million Americans lose their jobs."

So she may not be entirely in the game.  You make the call.

The Obamacare death spiral has begun.  We can see a dull red glare just over the horizon.  We don't know the date or details of its doom, but that flushing sound?  Well, you know.

* * * * *

Bill Maher opined that the prez didn't lie about Obamacare, he merely "evolved on honesty."  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

No rants or opinions today.  This day is to be enjoyed in peace and by giving thanks to the numberless anonymous men and women who served so that we can live free.  I have written in this space on other Veterans Days.  I hope you'll take a look.

"Under the most demanding of circumstances and in the most dangerous corners of the earth, America's veterans have served with distinction. With courage, self-sacrifice, and devotion to our Nation and to one another, they represent the American character at its best."
     -- President Barack Obama, Nov. 7, 2013

Thank you, Veterans.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Million Muslims vs. Two Million Bikers

'Two Million Bikers' to D.C.: Chopper Video

Sounds like a post-apocalyptic straight-to-DVD movie, doesn't it?  The Muslims against The Bikers?  ["When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way"... and all that]  But it really happened yesterday.  Sort of.  The “Million Muslim March” (MMM), recently renamed “Million Americans Against Fear”, faced off against the “Two Million Bikers To D.C. Ride” (TMB).  How did the Muslims and Bikers fare?  Let’s look.  

The MMM organizers got a DC march permit for 9-11-2013.  The TMB folks were denied one on very questionable grounds.  Those issues were finally resolved.  Give the Muslims a point for better lobbyists.  How else did they compare?

According to NBCWashington there were about 25 attendees at the Muslim rally.  No, not 25 mil or thou or even 25 hundred, just... 25.  That included Dr. Cornell West, an activist professor who craves the media spotlight, no matter how goofy the cause.  The Cornell West of Democratic Socialists of America, Christian at a Muslim rally (try that in Tahrir Square!), lion of hip hop, song and acting and other things that don't require a sweat investment.  But this isn't about him, so I'll go on.  

So fine, 25 people exercising their rights to peaceable assembly and free speech.  I'm sure I could make common cause with some of them.  Not a bad way at all to spend a nice September day in DC.  Good for them and good for West. 

That's the MMM speakers above.  Seven of them.  That means there were around 18 non-speaker attendees.  A small polite group that meant no harm and did none.  Probably more cops than marchers.

One other thing.  There were a buncha (perhaps unrelated and just cashing in on somebody else's event, to be fair) 9/11 Truthers at the MMM rally, like this one:


Yeah, Cheney.  Way to think it through, darlin'.  Effective sign, too.  Don't have to spend any money on sign stock that way.  "See you guys at the Muslim thing, OK?"

Nice day for a ride, too.  No permit (at first) but the bikers went on anyway, those scoff-laws.  How dare they ride on streets they paid for?  Here are a couple of 'em:

Bikers ride past the US Capitol Building September 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. Motorcyclists rode in and around DC to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Time.com noted "... thousands of bikes overflowing out of rest stops and parking lots on their way to the event."  That's a whole lotta bikers.  The Washington Times noted about "... a third of a mile" of bikes. 

Go ahead, count the bikes if you wish.  You can stop when you get to 26.

An insignificant Muslim rally where nothing much was said by the mostly non-Muslim attendees.  A bunch of bikers huffing about their delusional self-important patriotism.  Why did this puddle of nothing get national attention?  Why did it get my attention?  Was there a statement to be made or a conclusion to be drawn?  I don't think so.  Most commenters and talking heads were jabbering just because that's what they do, make news instead of reporting it. 

My internet friend Dr. Russell Burgos, adjunct professor at a couple of big SoCal schools, and who is welcome to contribute a column here any time, wrote this:
"Two-Thousand Teabagger Ride commemorates 9/11 by pissing off tens of thousands of Washington DC-area residents trying to get to work or the grocery store. "Bikers with the group 'Two Million Bikers to D.C.' are snarling traffic on the Beltway."
I like reading Russell's comments and I miss his blogs.  He often makes me reconsider the things I believe or advocate for.  Derisive commentary is his forte and he's darn good at it.  If you're not paying close attention you're liable to just say "Wow, cool!" and nod your head.  So pay close attention.

"Two-Thousand" to diminish the number of TMB participants while overlooking the 25 MMM attendees.  "Teabagger" to make you think this was somehow a conservative political biker event.  (Is there such a thing?)  "Pissing off tens of thousands of Washington DC residents..."   OK, I'll have to concede that possibility but the same would have been true had anyone bothered to show up at the MMM.  They didn't, of course. 

There's gotta be a point here somewhere, doesn't there?  It's a warm late summer.  Baseball is winding up and fans are dwindling at most parks.  Football is on but it doesn't play well in the heat.  It's not a warm-weather game.  Sorry, that's just a personal peeve.

We're bored and we're scared at the same time.  War is on the horizon despite the prez's Nobel.  Poison gas attacks have been going on for months and we're just now offended by them and combat deaths in general.  

The Cabinet Departments are incestuous cesspools where failure is the norm.  Politicians repeat their crimes and hope we won't notice... again.  Gross incompetence and malfeasance are spun as achievement.

We need something to take our minds off our confused misery.  How about

The Muslims versus The Bikers!

Kinda makes you forget what 9/11 is really about, doesn't it?

* * * * *

BTW, I could get more than 25 people to a lawn event with a few packages of hot dogs, buns and condiments.  "Hey!  Getcher free conservative hot dogs!  Over here!"  Maybe I could be an organizer for next year's MMM rally.

Conservative Hot Dog?  Not a bad name for a blog.  Hmmm.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Syrian Gas Attacks

 Warning:  This post contains graphic images unsuitable for children and other living things. 


Sometimes, words simply cannot suffice.

"There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child.  Things never get back to the way they were."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

* * * * *

The Syrian government has launched new gas attacks on Syrian rebels, killing at least 1,400, including many, many children and women.

It is said that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned."  Our UN ambassador was partying in Ireland - after 19 days on the job! - during an "urgent" Security Council Meeting last Wednesday concerning Syrian gas attacks.  She sent her deputy.  Where are our priorities?

We have no gas warfare red line.

We have abandoned any pretense to a moral high ground.

We are not our brother's keeper.

There is no Golden Rule.

We have no deeper interest than self interest.

Evil exists.

We are lost.  We have no leader or plan.  The wilderness is lonely and we are terrified.

* * * * *

From Time.com:

"Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi dismissed the possibility of an American attack, warning that such a move would risk triggering more violence in the region."

More violence than children dying of poison gas?  How?

Do something now, Mr. President.  I know, it's a war and it's dangerous but we need you.  The world needs you.  Don't lead from behind.  Now's not the time.

* * * * *

"I don't oppose all wars.  What I am opposed to is a dumb war.  What I am opposed to is a rash war." 

"We have real enemies in the world.  These enemies must be found.  They must be pursued and they must be defeated."

"We're not going to baby sit a civil war."

"Why can't I just eat my waffle?"

All, Barack Obama

* * * * *

"We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people.  Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way."

"Better to fight for something than live for nothing."

Both, George S. Patton