Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kevin Bacon, HBO, Taking Chance All Hit The Mark

For the past several weeks I have been receiving notices from my Marine brothers, alerting me to the airing of an HBO production entitled Taking Chance. It's first scheduled showing was Saturday evening, Feb. 21, 2009.

The film documents the true story of the journey of Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl who volunteered to escort the body of 19-year-old Marine Pfc. Chance Phelps who was killed in Iraq on April 9, 2004, home to Wyoming for burial.

The word was that Hollywood was finally about to get it right on a modern day war film.

Among my Marine brothers there has been little if any enthusiasm for the bulk of work that has come from Hollywood since the Vietnam War. There were some notable exceptions such as the television series Tour of Duty, and Mel Gibson's movie We Were Soldiers, about the 7th Cavalry's fierce yet successful battle in the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, in 1965.

But there have been so many movies about the military in the last 30 years, with so many of them pure rubbish, that most of my veteran friends from that era have long since despaired of ever seeing a true representation of who we are, what we do, and why. I realize that there were actors and directors who tried to get it right - Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, and Robert Stack - all of whom were in the POW movie Uncommon Valor come easily to mind.

But the bulk of Hollywood's efforts have been little more than a steady flow of sewage - anti-military, anti-American propaganda.

So you'll have to excuse me if I was just a tad skeptical, and took a hold-my-breath attitude. Nonetheless, the film was about Marines, and the previews looked good, so I sat down with my daughter and watched it.

My friends were right. Kevin Bacon, whose work has been eminently enjoyable going all the way back to Animal House, and including such "fun" films as Tremors, delivered one of the best performances of his career in portraying Lt. Col. Strobl. It was far easier to watch him, and his role was far more believable with this portrayal, than with the heavily political A Few Good Men back in 1992.

In essence, the film relates how Strobl, a decorated veteran of Operation Desert Storm, The Gulf War, is dealing with a form of guilt brought on by his near-permanent desk job as a Pentagon analyst, while so many other one-tour as well as career Marines are serving multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Strobl ultimately volunteers to escort Phelps' body back home for burial, initially because he believes that he and Phelps came from the same hometown in Colorado. It turns out that Phelps actually was born in Wyoming, but enlisted in Colorado, so Strobl's journey goes much further, with stops as far north as Montana before the final leg of the journey.

I was more than a little bit pleased to see that other than a few passing notices such as a newspaper headline, and a conversation with a young hearse driver who wanted to contribute but didn't understand why we were in Iraq, the political ramifications of the past 8 years did not sully this film.

Actually, Taking Chance was as much about the people of middle America, as it was about the fallen Marine or his escort. And it definitely showcases the care, concern for detail, and even tenderness, with which America's fallen military personal are treated all the way from the battlefield to the giant morgue in Dover, Delaware where their bodies and personal effects are prepared for burial.

Strobl kept a journal of his travel, from which the screenplay is derived, and it is full of notations of the small, but ever so meaningful gestures from everyday Americans. An airlines ticket agent upgrading Strobl to first class, a flight attendant giving him a crucifix, baggage handlers and deplaning passengers stopping in reverence as the casket is moved from plane to plane, with Strobl rendering honors at each stop.

My favorite scene was on the way from Montana to Wyoming, as a convoy of vehicles, carrying everyday Americans who just happened to be going the same way, lined up with the hearse carrying Phelps' body, all with their lights on. Strobl, driving directly behind the hearse suddenly finds himself with a large and caring entourage.

I told my daughter that I had witnessed such a phenomenon a few times previously, and even was part of one such procession when I went to Memphis two decades ago to attend the funeral of a friend and mentor from my days in Vietnam.

But while such respect for fallen members of our nation's military is common in the south and west, it is nearly unheard of here in the Northeast. In this part of the country the elitist and entitlement mindsets are so ingrained in the culture that a simple gesture of public respect isn't even considered, much less rendered.

I have read that the attendance at Phelps' funeral was greater than the population of Dubois - that's Due Boy - Wyoming, which had slightly fewer than 1,000 residents as of the 2000 census. That in itself tells us about the priorities of many Americans who don't spend their lives making asses of themselves to garner a few headlines.

I was happy to see that Taking Chance gave considerable positive credit to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Marine Corps League organizations, both of which were showcased in the latter portion of the film. It even gave us a positive portrayal of a Vietnam veteran, Chance Phelps' father, who places his Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign medals on his son's coffin.

All in all, HBO, Kevin Bacon, a large and competent supporting cast, and Michael Strobl himself, did in this one film what should have and could have been done for two generations of American veterans - but more often was not.

I suppose it is too much to hope for that maybe, just maybe, someone in Hollywoodland will see this film and realize that it represents what exists in a place called America, where there are real heroes, living and dead, doing the right thing for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Russian Military Satellite Crunches US Communications Link! Accident? I Think Not!

The news sloooowly seeped out Thursday that sometime on Tuesday a "defunct" Russian military satellite had crashed into a US communications satellite over Siberia smashing both to smithereens.

Accidental. Right. Sheer chance.

In the vastness of space, with all the billions of potential orbits, ranging from 50 or 60 miles above earth's surface to hundreds of miles above earth's surface, these two just happened to bump into each other.

Over the arctic. Over the Russian arctic to be more specific. Over Siberia to be be exact. At 18,000 miles per hour. Kaaaablooooey!

The US satellite was owned, according to news reports, by Iridium Satellite LLC. The news says Iridium provides voice and data communications services to a smallish network of some 300,000 customers in far flung places of the world.

But a picture of one of those customers on the Products page of Iridium's website shows a military man, purportedly a US military man, in a very dusty environment, in full combat gear, making use of Iridium's data and voice communications facilities.


So, what was Russia hiding out there in the Siberian wilderness that they didn't want us to know about? Siberia - that frozen wasteland that is only a few miles from Alaska depending on where you are standing. How many customers does Iridium have in Siberia, and what exactly are they doing?

Hey, don't bust my chops about these questions. Don't think for a minute that the Russians aren't already asking the same questions. They aren't stupid you know. And Siberia is still Russia the last time I looked.

So who do we have there? Or near there? And what are they doing?

Has anyone seen Vladimir Rasputin lately? Last I knew he was shooting tigers, invading countries that were formerly coerced to be part of the defunct USSR, and harassing Europe by turning the natural gas spigot off and on during the coldest part of the winter.

But what has he really been up to?

Did you happen to note that little comment I made the other day in the article I wrote about this bogus "economic stimulus" bill that The Prez Obama is trying to push off on the American public? I called it a diversion, a distraction.

Looks like I was right doesn't it? Because the news about bumper satellites has really, really been downplayed while the papers, Internet and airwaves are chock full of political news.

A spokesman said this is all very innocent. We have to forget the Big Sky concept, the official said, meaning everyone no longer thinks space is a final frontier. There just isn't enough room out there for everything that has been launched into space since Sputnik went up on October 4, 1957, according to this line of reasoning.

Well, excuse me for a minute won't you while we look just a bit closer. There are approximately 18,000 man-made objects orbiting around us at any one time. But if all those objects were in orbit over the Earth's equator, at exactly the same altitude, right down to the inch, there would still be approximately 1.4 miles between each of them.

Lots of room to avoid collisions. Lots. But remember, they all aren't over the equator, there are billions of other places they could be, at widely differing altitudes, and there is virtually no reason for any of them to "accidentally" bump into each other.

Oh, the military also is claiming there are too many satellites and other objects in orbit over the earth - remember 18,000 of them - to keep track of them all! So, no one saw this collision coming!

Really? Well, Mr. Misinformation Master, how many damn airplanes are over the US at peak moments on any given day?

How about Europe? South America? I see. Quite a few more than 18,000, with much less room to maneuver in, and yet, we rarely have mid-air collisions. So we can do flight tracking for dozens of private Piper Aircraft flying over the Everglades, the heart land, the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Pacific Coast, Mexico, Canada, and God knows where else, while thousands of commercial flights are buzzing between major cities here and around the world, but not for satellites in known orbits?

Iridium's website has another tab that says you can send a satellite message. I have one they should sent to all the rest of their satellites.

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Look out! Duck! Run! Hide!

And I'm not kidding about that.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is the Rush on the "Stimulus" Bill? Slow Down and Look This Over!

The screaming headlines and urgent sound bites declaring that Congress has to pass an "economic stimulus" bill right this second or the world will collapse into an eon of darkness and chaos reminds me way too much of slick sales tactics used to put something over on unwary buyers.

For example: A couple of decades ago a close associate was being pressured into buying a car. He said the salesman was a really good guy who was always really nice to him and wouldn't screw him over. He was sure of it.

I didn't like the rush job the salesman was putting on my associate, and said so. I was accused of being over-protective. So I said, "Tell him no. Then see what kind of reaction you get."

My associate reluctantly did as I suggested. The salesman turned into an ogre. My associate looked elsewhere and ultimately got a better car at a better price and drove it for quite a few years before moving on.

I now would like to suggest that since Congress is very nearly listening to the American public - a composite aggregation of the entire 300 million of us which every single politician in Washington claims to have a direct line to - the three turncoat Republicans who are helping foist this fiasco on us should stop for just a moment and say "No."

The Obama Administration is acting like an unscrupulous car salesman, trying to hustle the public into accepting this package without even looking under the hood. Obama and his minions are praising them, but let's see what happens if they say no, just to see the reaction.

Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter are selling out the Republican Party, hoping that in their apparently too-Democratic leaning states they will have more goodwill than animosity from voters who in a few years might forget how they voted.

These three turncoats claim that the "stimulus" bill is necessary and they are on their guard to catch any programs that won't really help the economy.

Well, based on the news coming out so far, this package is loaded with junk that won't help the economy. There is so much social engineering money in this bill - intended to change the political and financial landscape of the entire country - that it could run many third world countries for decades.

We have heard that there is money to redirect medical funding for the elderly - permitting the government to decide who will get what kind of treatment, and ultimately, who will live and who will die.

But I was told just recently that there also is money in this bill to implant sensors in school children, or at least their backpacks, so Big Brother Obama can know in an instant where they are. This will be especially helpful if the "stimulus" bill contains enough money to "stimulate" his plans to create a national police force, equal in size, equipment and funding to the American military.

This will be especially helpful if his national police want to track down recalcitrant high schoolers who haven't done their required period of community service.

If we can find out these things in just a few days, imagine what we will discover if there is time for a legion of taxpayers and voters to really peruse this illusion.

We are just three votes shy of putting a halt to this travesty, and we need some time to determine whether we really are looking at a possible economic stimulus or, as many others are claiming, a pork ridden spending spree that will once again benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Let this bill be handled the way bills should be handled. With plenty of time for close inspection, plenty of time for "spirited debate" as they like to say in DC, and plenty of time for the real "American public" to scrutinize every facet of it before contacting their Senators and Representatives to voice their opinions.

There is an adage among sales people that once you have sold a customer, "get the money off the table." The reasoning behind this is that if you have a down payment or even a full payment in your hands, leaving it in plain sight could result in the buyer having second thoughts.

Poker players know this rule as "never count your money, while you're sitting at the table" as Kenny Rogers noted in his song The Gambler.

It is clear that the Obama Administration, aided and abetted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Harry Reid and their minions, is working feverishly to get the money off the table. Pass the bill, sign it into law quickly, and then commandeer the airwaves and American Terrorist Media to crow about its benefits even if the country is being flushed down the sewer - that is the plan.

Lest we forget, the economy first went into a tailspin because the housing market collapsed. But the housing market collapsed because ages-old safeguards that were put into place during the Roosevelt Administration to prevent just this situation were removed by Presidents carter and Clinton, and Congress speeded the deterioration by forcing banks to make loans to people who had no means to repay them.

I am not for a moment going to claim that this was entirely a Democratic engineered situation because there were far too many Republicans involved. But it was wrong, it is wrong, and dumping a larger pile of money on top of a burning pile of money in hopes that it will smother the fire just doesn't seem viable.

The stock market tanked yesterday after Obama's plan passed the Senate and went back to the House for rework. That should tell us something about how the business world views this proposal.

It is time for Senators and Congressmen of all political persuasions who really care about America to put the brakes on before this out-of-control train becomes a train wreck. Hold up this package for full scrutiny, let's see it in the harsh light of dawn and decide whether it is a be-all, end-all economic miracle, or just another piece of DC legislation that further erodes the rights of the America populace and sells our children into economic slavery.

It's easy. Two letters, one word. Just say no!
Saturday, February 07, 2009

"The Prez" Obama's First Three Weeks A Fiasco; What's Next?

In keeping with an arbitrary First 100 Days set by Franklin Roosevelt as a milestone for determining the direction and potential success of a new presidential administration, the media is giving The Prez Obama a pass on a plethora of missteps, miscues, misinformation and flat out horror stories.

I, on the other hand, am not bound by such inanities and have decided that the first three weeks is plenty of time to see where the new administration is headed.

After careful examination and analysis I have determined that if we aren't on the road to perdition we certainly are going to hell in a handbasket.

What a colossal rip off! This is the new Messiah? This is the Chosen One? This is the guy who is going to bring us all together, touching toes in New Age encounter groups while he herds our children into mandatory government work parties and police state platoons?

He can't even get his cabinet together without appointing crook after crook! People are withdrawing their names from nomination faster than the Internal Revenue Service computers can spit out their back tax records.

And each time another scofflaw is named to head a major government department, and they are then discovered to owe tens if not hundreds of thousands in back taxes, we are told that it is all just an honest mistake. Sorry 'bout that. Bookkeeping error, doncha' know?

Yeah, tell that to Willie Nelson and Wesley Snipes.

I bet they wish they had thought up that "honest mistake" line when they IRS was telling them "pay up or federal prison, it's your choice."

So how does this amount to the change we were hearing about last year during the campaign season? What exactly has changed?

Obama has put more former Clinton staffers back into power in Washington, or at least tried to, than anyone except Bill and Hillary themselves. Was this all just a big charade?

Obama is going to close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison! Um, someday.

Obama is going to bring the troops home from Iraq! Um, in a while. Maybe a bit longer than originally envisioned, but, you know, someday.

The far left has got to be quivering with suppressed rage.

Obama is going to bring change! So far the only change I see is that some of the crooks have been getting caught before they actually take office. Or in the case of the infamous Illinois replacement Senator issue, the crooks are getting tipped off before they actually commit a crime, even a process crime rather than a real crime.

And what on earth is going on with this "stimulus" package. First it was 700 billion, then 800 billion, then nearly 900 billion and OH GOODY! A DEAL HAS BEEN STRUCK! WE'RE DOWN TO SOMETHING UNDER 800 BILLION AGAIN!



Has it occurred to anyone that if this money wasn't taken OUT of the economy through taxation that it already would be IN the economy? And if our children's children are to be taxed to pay for this travesty then we are KEEPING it out of the economy, plus interest, for generations! ARRRRRGGGHHH.

Arlen Specter and Susan Collins, turn in your GOP badges. You're history.

Do you know what Susan Collins sees looking a back at her when she looks into a mirror.

This is Susan Collins when she is running for office.

This is Susan Collins when she looks in the mirror!

Why look, she doesn't look anything like a Republican at all. She looks just like a Rhino! Or RINO, take your pick.

Meanwhile, the media continues to gush about the Obama excesses and missteps as nothing more than necessary flourishes to usher in a new era of hope and prosperity, even though Obama outdid his predecessor by about 400 percent on Inaugural expenses.

And these clowns can't figure out why no one is buying newspapers any longer? Oh, sure, changing demographics and the advent of electronic news dissemination. My foot! People don't buy papers any longer, or watch television news, because we are sick to death of being lied to by media hacks who have an agenda.

And now, silently, like a killer cancer, behind the scenes of the Big Bailout distraction, the Obama administration is setting the stage for the resurgence of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. Under this reconstructed program government propaganda stooges will use taxpayer dollars to shut down conservative talk radio and force us to listen to mindless twits who can't get a paying audience on the open market.

What a great three weeks! I can't wait to go to work Monday and tell everyone at the water cooler how excited I am over the CHANGE that has been wrought in Washington, D.C., now that a new administration is is power.

Oh, sorry. This is a one-man office, there is no water cooler and no one to talk to, at least in person. Well, that's OK, no one wants to hear that nonsense anyway.

Do you know what else Franklin Roosevelt did during his first term? He signed off on an end to Prohibition! Made booze legal again he did. Got everyone so liquored up they neither knew, nor cared, that he was eroding huge chunks of our basic liberties under the guise of economic reform.

Do you know why the government takes a big bite of your paycheck before you get your hard-earned money? Because in 1943, during the third Roosevelt Administration, Congress passed, and he signed, the Current Tax Payment Act.

Prior to that little slight of hand people just figured out how much they owed the government, wrote a check and mailed it in. Of course this was during WWII, The Big One, and everyone was feeling very patriotic, just like VP Joe Biden, and they bought the government's line that a constant flow of cash was necessary to keep the war funded.

After the war ended there was not much support for ending payroll withholding, since after all, politicians always need money, the size of government had ballooned during Roosevelt's years, and if taxpayers ever got fed up and revolted they had given up a major weapon - that being control of their own purse strings.

So, what is The Prez going to do for us? End the war on drugs by making everything from pot to heroin legal? Get everyone so toked up they won't know or care that the grandiose promises of the Obama campaign have gone up in smoke, so to speak?

Did you hear that Obama is going to blast the presidents' faces off of Mount Rushmore and have a new massive sculpture of himself replace them? You didn't? Did you hear that he refused to attend the Medal of Honor recipients ball on Inauguration Day?

Do you know which of the preceding statements is true? Look it up. I'll wait. We have another 80-some days before the First 100 is up. Plenty to do, and plenty of time to do it.
Monday, February 02, 2009

Michael Steele to RINOs - "Get Ready to Get Knocked Over!" My Kind of GOP Chairman. Steelers Deserved to Win Super Bowl

OK, first I should point out that I am the one who used the phrase RINO - Republicans in Name Only - in the headline.

When former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele was making his acceptance speech after his election as the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee he actually said "obstructionists" are the ones who should get ready to get knocked over.

I heard some media people who don't want to ruffle feathers saying that obstructionist means Democrat. I, on the other hand, want to ruffle some feathers and I am taking his comments to mean RINOs.

RINOs are people who either infiltrated the Republican Party with the intent to divert it from its core conservative principles, thus weakening it, in other words saboteurs; or blithering incompetents who are so afraid of their own shadows that they can't steer a consistent positive course because someone did a fictitious poll - as most polls are - saying they should do something else.

Michael Steele, GOP National Chairman

I watched Steele's interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday yesterday and I was really impressed with the man. He was well at ease, knowledgeable on the issues and more important, his personal positions on the issues, and wasn't telling fairy tales about what he must do to bring the GOP back into prominence.

I also liked his forthrightness when discussing his plans to reach out to various minority groups who may not always agree with every facet of the conservative philosophy. Steele said that rather than focus on the 20 percent of issues we disagree on, he wants to focus on the 80 percent of the issues we agree on. Good point.

Frankly, outside of a small percentage of people who wear the conservative mantle for their public personas - income producing of course - I don't think the vast majority of conservatives put the same emphasis on every facet of what is described as the conservative philosophy as every other conservative.

By that I mean, we all have our priorities. For me, the top priorities are national defense and economic stability. I see the world as an inherently dangerous place with lots of bad guys lurking in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity to hurt or bring down our country. I also don't like seeing the government play fast and loose with tax dollars and applying billions to handouts when I may well not agree with the programs that receive the money.

In line with my defense and economic priorities are Second Amendment and Free Speech rights. I believe I should have a right to voice my opinion, as in this blog column, and I DO have the right to protect myself, my family, my home, my property and even my country, with whatever weapon is necessary to whatever degree is necessary to get the job done.

Other people put abortion, gay rights or gay marriage, and similar social issues at the top of their priority lists. My reasoning is that if our country isn't safe, and our homes aren't safe, then pretty much everything else is a moot point.

So when our new GOP chairman says he wants to focus on the things we agree on, I am with him.

I would point out to our new chairman that there is one minority group that has been consistently overlooked by our party in the past two decades or so, as it was careening headlong into the abyss of irrelevance. That group is conservative white males who don't belong to country clubs and basically are seen as something loathsome by the elitists who have been running the GOP heretofore.

Get the white guys back and you'll get their wives back too. Ignore us, or trample on us as the previous leadership has been doing and you, Mr. Steele, will go the same way as your predecessors. But if our new national chairman understands that if the GOP has been a party of "old white men" he should also understand that the old white men who ran the party looked down their noses at the blue collar and non-Ivy League white men, just as they did to everyone else.

I have been reading all the news articles about how the GOP elected Mr. Steele to lead us in response to the Democrats getting Barack Obama elected president. Maybe there were some who feel that way, but I believe that for most of us, Michael Steele was elected chairman of the GOP because he is the right man for the job, at the right time.

Personally I am quite happy to see people like Steele, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and of course Alaska Governor Sarah Palin emerging as the "new faces" of the GOP. But for me, and for most people I know, race and gender have never been the issues.

We are looking for strong, principled leaders who know what they want to do, where they want to go, and have the leadership skills to implement their plans. Stay out of trouble, don't go feeding at the public or quasi-public trough when you are in office, do the job you promised to do, and don't waver from your beliefs. Stay true to the core of the party, and I guarantee you, the party will stay true to you.

Michael Steele is promising to bring the party to every corner and every group in the nation and warned obstructionists to "get ready to get knocked over." Steele also said "we will cede no ground to anyone on principles."

I am with him, and I believe many, many others will be too, if he delivers as promised. We may even bring a significant percentage of independents back, or attract some first-time converts.

Steelers Deserved to Win The Super Bowl!

My son pointed this out to me and I agree with him completely.

When the opening ceremonies were just about concluded at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for the Super Bowl last night, a collection of players from both teams, in addition to referees, Hall of Famers, and other dignitaries gathered at midfield for the customary coin toss.

Each person was introduced and applauded, but one of the most generous responses came when the man who would be tossing the coin was introduced. He was considerably smaller than the players standing near him, but he wore four silver stars on each shoulder of his US Army uniform, and rows upon rows of combat awards on his chest.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now heads the US Southern Command, but last year was the genius behind the offensive in Iraq dubbed The Surge, that decisively won the war there for us and the Iraqis, was the honored guest.

The coin was tossed, the call was made, and thus was decided which team would kick off and which would receive. Then everyone, well, the players primarily, took turns shaking each others' hands.

But only one player, Big Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, took the time, and had the courtesy to walk to Gen. Petraeus, thank him and shake his hand. The others left the field without so much as a nod.

The Steelers were first on the class and dignity scoreboard, and the rest is now sports history. It was a good Super Bowl. In fact it was a great Super Bowl. It could have gone to overtime. The lead see-sawed back and forth. There were some great plays including the Steelers interception and 100-yard runback for a score just before the first half ran out.

But I agree with my son. The game was decided at the coin toss, and all it took was the decency to say thank you and shake the hand of the man who more than any other American is responsible for us having the freedom to enjoy our national pastime without fear of attack.

Note to next year's underdog quarterback: If you see a military uniform nearby just before the game starts, take a minute to say thank you to the person wearing it, and shake a couple of hands. You never know. The game may be decided in that one gesture before you ever take the field.


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