August 12, 2004

Blogrolls

One of the things I like about the blogosphere is that everyone has a different collection of regular visits and visitors. I don't have to scour the internet looking for something interesting to read. Any one of my regular visits might have some completely different perspective highlighted at a site I never visit on my own, and I get a chance to read it.

Each of us is unique. We have our own likes and dislikes. Yes, there is something of a herd mentality in the blogosphere, where people read only those sites they agree with. But, even then each blogger is eclectic if only in a small way.

I read La Shawn Barber each day. There's a young lady who has some perspective. Yet she is taken to task for being a black conservative. Obviously, not all her readers are conservative. Sarah tells us she voted for Gore in 2000, but will vote for Bush this year. She also gets readers from an opposition point of view, some quite vicious. Roger Simon will be at the RNC Convention by invitation, which surprised him a bit. Rob takes me many places, some I have no real interest in being! Each of these writers takes me to different sites, and different opinions, some of which vary from their own.

I felt the need to say all that because I'm about to adjust my links once again. the list is getting unwieldy. But we have set up our Homespun Bloggers blogroll so that it now updates as new posts are added. You'll find the most prolific posters at the top of the list. Several are in my regular list already. It is a good group. There are a couple with graphics-intensive sites which take a while to load, but the group, as a whole, is pretty diverse, and pretty good. I'm using the word "diverse" as defined in the dictionary. I don't know the skin color of all the bloggers, as diversity has come to mean. More on that to come. This group isn't the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and don't get their daily talking points from White House memos. I do, but the rest of them are just pikers!

Posted by Bunker at 06:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 10, 2004

Aussie News

If you don't read Slattsnews each day, you should.

they think DIY stands for drive-in yoga

I view Aussies as kindred Texans who just happen to live farther south. Each morning I begin my reading with folks like Slatts, Kev, Tim, and others in time zones earlier than mine.

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August 04, 2004

Peer Spears

When I went to Officer Training School, I was 30 years old and an E6. That made me one of the oldest Officer Trainees (OT) and one of the most experienced. During the second half of the school, my roomate was another old guy, and we had a young running buddy who became our OT Squadron Commander. My roomie was in charge of our flight, and I was in charge of the "kids" in the class behind ours.

One of the wonderful aspects of OTS is the experience of Peer Evaluations, or "Peer Spears." These are anonymous, and intended to give the evaluee some idea of his strengths and weaknesses as perceived by others in the flight. I wrote mine by hand, but some wanted desperately to keep their identity hidden and spent nights typing (remember typewriters?) every one.

We were each called to the office individually to be given our review by the officer in charge, our Flight Commander. I sat down and read through all of mine and he asked, "Any surprises in there?" I knew what he meant. "I guess I could be a little less demanding."

He grinned. "Good point. But I'd rather have someone overbearing than some limp-wristed leader."

I went back to our classroom to send the next person down, and tried to figure out how to react when I walked in. I opened the door, sent the next victim to visit the captain, then slammed my fist on the table in the center of the room. "I want to know who said I was overbearing!" And I stared at every person, one by one. A few of the younger guys were a bit shaken by my approach. My roommate slowly raised his hand. Our young buddy followed suit. When they did that, I had to smile, and soon everyone in the room had their hand in the air. I apologized, and promised to try and do better in the future.

My boys all felt I was pretty authoritarian when they were young. And a lot of people see me as a right wing nut job. So, I took the Political Compass survey. You will all be pleased to learn I am almost dead center on the Authoritarian/Libertarian (Social) and Left/Right (Economic) axes. On a scale of 1-10, I am at +2.32 (authoritarian) and +1.2 (right).

So there!

Posted by Bunker at 06:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2004

Computers

I've had some problems with my desktop for the last few weeks. After a lot of troubleshooting, talking with others, and some searching on the internet, I came to the conclusion I had a power problem. I ordered a new power supply, turned it on, and...nothing. So I went to Altex yesterday.

Altex used to be an electronics warehouse. They always had rows and rows of transitors, resistor, diodes, switches, and other things I don't comprehend. They are now pretty much a computer component shop.

I wanted a new motherboard. They have one that will fit in my case. For about $260 I can have a virtually new computer. Unfortunately, they didn't have a processor to fit that board yesterday. So, I got a new battery, they cleaned up my processor and put some new heat sink paste on it, and I'm back in business temporarily. Next weekend, I'll have a new board, with LAN and sound embedded, four USB2.0 ports (instead of the 2 USB1.0 I've got), and a 1.8GHz processor instead of the 433MHz I've got now.

Of course, in the troubleshooting mode I reformatted my hard drive and have spent the day reinstalling everything, hoping it doesn't crash again in the interim.

Something interesting has happened in the computer world. All the new motherboards are colorful. Memory sticks can be cooled individually with various colors of sheaths, there are all kinds of lights to put inside the unit. And these new cases have clear sides. I would guess, although I didn't ask, that the lights can all be synchronized to music or game sounds. Much more interesting than the campaign.

And a 3-1/2 inch floppy drive now costs fifteen bucks.

Another interesting thing happened on my site Friday. I checked the sitemeter and found 182 visitors in one hour. All from Technorati. All from a listing for Neal Boortz' site. In other words, these 250+ people went to Technorati, looked to see who linked to Boortz, Bunker Mulligan was at the top of the list, so they checked the site. Why that chain of events? Rammer, you know all things geeky. I'm just a quasi-geek, and this makes no sense to me.

Posted by Bunker at 01:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

July 27, 2004

I AM Hub McCann

I just watched Secondhand Lions again.

The first time we watched it, I told my wife that when I got old, I wanted to be just like that. She told me, "You already are."

I take that as a compliment.

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July 26, 2004

Porphyrogenitus

James has finished Basic Training and is now at AIT. He will be posting again, infrequently at first, but it is good to see him back on line.

Posted by Bunker at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Homespun

I absolutely must direct your attention to the logo on our left: Homespun Bloggers.

It is a small group of about 25 blogs, and Tom at MuD & PHuD collects a post from each site to highlight every Sunday evening. I would recommend taking a look at the site each Monday morning just to see the variety. And today there are some very interesting posts.

Posted by Bunker at 05:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 22, 2004

Blogosphere

Daniel Drezner maintains one of the busiest blogs around, and also happens to be a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He and a colleague have put together their first draft of a scholarly paper, "The Power and Politics of Blogs", to be presented this year at the American Political Science Association.

I downloaded and read it today. I think it tells some interesting tales about the relationship between traditional journalism and media and the blogosphere. One journalist commented to them in their survey:

"The editorial process of the blogs takes place between and among bloggers, in public, in real time, with fully annotated cross-links."

I think that, along with rapidity of response, is the most significant aspect of blogs which separates them from traditional news coverage. In editorial offices, decisions are made about what to cover (and how intensely) based on many factors, only one of which is ideology. Bloggers post what they want to post. Editors can't fact-check quickly, and must make quick decisions based on what a reporter already has. In the blogosphere, everyone is an editor. If you misstate fact, you are told, and quickly. An outright lie may have a million lives if it sounds credible enough and a blog's readers are all of like mind, but there is usually someone around to throw cold hard fact into the mix.

And there are plenty of editors willing to take on the task.

The blogosphere has grown at an astronomical rate. In 1999 the number of blogs was estimated at under fifty; at the end of 2000, estimates ranged into the thousands. Less than three years later, such estimates range from 2.4 million to 4.1 million. One study estimates that by 2005, over ten million blogs will have been created.

I did a check at Technorati just to see what's going on out there. They list slightly more than 3 million that they track. A search for this site showed 56 inbound links, which puts me somewhere below midpoint. I like being average.

Even though there are over a million bloggers, posting approximately 275,000 new items daily, the median blogger has almost no political influence as measured by traffic or hyperlinks. This is because the distribution of weblinks and traffic is heavily skewed, with a few bloggers commanding most of the attention.

The main thing blogs do for political discourse is bring a variety of minds together. I've always felt that nobody has all the answers in anything, but if we put our minds together, we probably have all the important answers. That is the strength of the blogosphere. Those dozen or so major bloggers help pull all the answers together, and that is where influence happens.

Posted by Bunker at 04:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Fans?

Reuters carries this story about the time trial yesterday in the Tour de France:

"There were lots of aggressive fans surrounding the riders and I even saw two idiots spit at Lance Armstrong."

Where is the "Can't we all just get along?" mentality we've grown so accustomed to from our European friends? And what has Lance Armstrong ever done to them to deserve this kind of thing? Oh, I know. He's a Texan and has beat them at their own game for the last five years.

Posted by Bunker at 05:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 16, 2004

Stereogram

Cool.

Got the lead from the folks in Montana


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Homespun

I don't join groups. I'm too independent for most organizations. I just did:

homespun2 (2K)

I like the attitude in the group. Tom has set this all up as:

Homespun Bloggers is a loose association of bloggers for whom blogging is a labor of love, and no more.

What I like is that it is for folks like me who have a small, loyal audience. Tom will post weekly "favorites" from each member blog for others to sample. I recommend the site to you as a place to find those who write--just because. No Hewitts or Malkins there, although I like them both. And one requirement is being family-friendly. I like that, too.

Meanwhile, I did a check on people who link to me over at Truth Laid Bear just to see if I've been missing someone of interest. What I found is a couple of good ones, some I read daily, and some where my site is one of ten thousand in the list. I'm sure that's true for every blogger.

When I put a link on my site, it is there for my convenience. If you like my stuff, they might interest you, too. But I also have some standard bookmarks in my browser toolbar for sites like Lileks, Vinny, Instapundit, Drudge, Sullivan, and Glenn. I don't think they really care if I link to them or not, and my readers already know them well.

What I'm getting around to is that if you link to me, I'll check you out. But you won't appear on my sidebar unless I read you every day. I also may skip adding you if one of my regular readers has you linked, and I hit you from their site. I read far too much each day!

So, if your goal is to be a Higher Being in the blogosphere, I won't be of much help. But if you want to be read by my readers, you have a shot at it. And my favorites don't always talk about politics, except Liberal Larry, of course.

Posted by Bunker at 05:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 06, 2004

Life, As We Know It....

Two Arabs boarded a flight out of London. One took a window seat and the other sat next to him in the middle seat. Just before takeoff, an American sat down in the aisle seat.

After takeoff, the American kicked his shoes off, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, "I need to get up and get a Coke."

"Don't get up," said the American, "I'm in the aisle seat; I'll get it for you."

As soon as he left, one of the Arabs picked up the American's shoe and spat in it. When he returned with the Coke, the other Arab said, "That looks good, I'd really like one, too."

Again, the American obligingly went to fetch it. While he was gone the other Arab picked up his other shoe and spat in it.

When the American returned, they all sat back and enjoyed the flight. As the plane was landing, the American slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.

"Why does it have to be this way?" he asked. "How long must this go on? This fighting between our nations? This hatred? This animosity? This spitting in shoes and pissing in Cokes?"

Posted by Bunker at 07:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 26, 2004

Busy

The rain yesterday flooded the course, so no Club Championship this weekend. But Bogey and his lovely bride arrived this morning and we spent the day setting up a wireless network in the house today, along with a lot of yard work.

Birdie and his fiancťe come to town tomorrow night. They've been in Aggieland for the last few days, and I'll get to keep them here for a week or two before they return to Fayetteville.

Posted by Bunker at 07:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

June 24, 2004

Careful...

Don't try drinking anything when you take a look at this over at Slatt's place. One commenter ended up with coffee all over the desk.

Posted by Bunker at 08:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 21, 2004

Liberals' Creed

The Liberals' Creed by Robert Alt

I hate to say it, but think Alt has it right.

Thanks, Drill Sergeant.

Posted by Bunker at 04:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

June 19, 2004

Economics 101

The Democratic operatives and some Democrats in office continue to claim that the economy today is the worst since Herbert Hoover was president. Today I heard it again, but the way it was worded caught my ear. The pundit said something to the effect that non-governmental jobs in domestic US companies etc., etc., etc. was worse than Hoover. So many caveats. Must be defining things in a very precise way for a reason.

Why they settled on poor old Herbert, I donít know. I remember an economy in the 1970s that was so bad a new word was created to describe it: stagflation, a combination of stagnation in industry growth and high inflation. I had just returned from overseas and hoped to buy my first house. Unfortunately, mortgage interest rates at the time were in double digits. Car loans could be had, but the interest rate from most banks on consumer loans was around 20%.

Iíve never believed the President had much impact on the economy. Much has to do with the availability of money, and he has some control there. The more money available, the higher inflation goes. But money is needed for growth. Most Presidents stay away from that tangled web.

Where a President can have some impact is in tax policy and regulation. In these areas, he must have a Congress that enacts laws doing what he wants done.

Now, Iím jus a simple helicopter mechanic with an engineering degree. I never took a single economics class in my life. I did take bypass exams which gave me credit for knowing as much as needed to pass the class without actually taking it. I took the CLEP subject exams in both micro- and macro-economics. So, Iím a self-educated idiot.

For argument sake, Iíll assume all the political experts are correct when they blame a President for the economy, good or bad. I went to the web site for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No, I didnít give you a link. You can find it for yourself if it is the kind of thing that rolls your socks up and down. I also got data from Dow Jones.

The numbers Iíve used are not statistical gymnastics, but raw numbers from the government and DJ. I went looking because I didnít know, and wanted to know not because I wanted to prove anything one way or another. So donít tell me Iím full of it if you donít like the numbers. They arenít mine, and Iím not going to draw any conclusions for you. I will simply point out what I see. You may see something else.

Because reporters often imply the Dow Jones Industrials index is a measure of economic performance, I built a chart from their data covering the terms of each President from Jimmy Carter to Dubya. I did this because finding employment data on the web site prior to 1972 was difficult, and inconsistent. No other reason, and I made no effort to graph any of it to see what it looked like before making the cut.

dji (3K)

Remember when the DOW was below 2000? It wasnít that long ago. Iíve outlined the terms of each President for your perusal. Notice how the line dips in 2000, and has now begun to climb again. Maybe the Consumer Price Index tells the story better. I think it is a more accurate indicator for the economy. The numbers up the y-axis are raw percentages of the change December to December.

cpi (3K)

There are negatives in the past, back during the Great DepressionóHerbert Hooverís time. What this shows is that consumer prices continue to climb, although the rate of increase has been declining since 1980óJimmy Carterís term.

How about employment/unemployment? Unemployment is currently around 5.6% which is being called high right now. The next chart shows raw employment numbers for non-government jobs. This is about 67% of the workforce. It was about 68%, but the hiring of all those TSA employees (remember, government workers can do airport security better than civilians) bumped up the government employment numbers.

empnum (4K)

The number are in thousands, going from zero to 160 million. It is hard to compare how the rates change on this chart, so I shifted and magnified the employment numbers to closely match the values of the unemployment numbers. Remember, these are raw numbers, not percentages. What I get is this next chart.

emp (4K)

I simply divided the employment number by 20. This shifted it down, but also magnified the variation so that it is easier to see. As with all the charts, Iíve put overlay boxes to define Presidential terms. Perhaps this is where the mysterious ď3 million lost jobsĒ comes from. Note that the losses began before Bush took office. Note also, though, that employment continued to rise at the same time, although at a flatter rate.

To get a better idea of what was actually happening, I superimposed the employment numbers adjusting so they began at the same point as unemployment numbers.

empadj (3K)

So I donít confuse you (I want you to understand, Iím not trying to blow smoke), I simply moved the actual employment numbers down the axis so that the starting point is the same as the starting point for unemployment (about 4 million). To explain what it shows, the number of people in the US employed in jobs not in government was rising when Carter took office, leveled out, the rose again during Reaganís terms, leveled out during Bush 41, and began rising prior to Clinton, where it continued to climb. It leveled off again during Clintonís last year, and has recently begun to climb once again. Unemployment has actually been quite stable over the last 30 years, rising slightly. As these are total numbers and not percentages, It looks to me as though that should be expected. I would be curious to see how the numbers looked before Johnson. I may check that later.

Okay. This is probably my longest post ever. Some of you smarter than me may be able to take this data and make something of it. I canít see anything here that convicts Bush of presiding over the worst economy since Herbert Hoover. Hell, he doesn't even fail as bad as Jimmy Carter!

Posted by Bunker at 09:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Snakes Plus

Well, the cottonmouth I saw a couple of weeks ago apparently ran into someone meaner than himself. I found his carcass laying close to the 11th hole today, and flies were having a feast.

I played alone this morning, and rode in a cart. Almost no wind, and shot an 84. Wasn't really pleased until I remembered David Duval shot 83 on Thursday. Gotta put things in perspective. Bought some goodies for Slice and his boys in Afghanistan. I don't know if Marines eat caviar, but I included a jar for their consumption...or trade. Let 'em live the good life for a day or two.

Also got an email from Larry telling me about his new golf blog. There are not many out here in the blogosphere, and it's a tough topic. I'm lazy, so I write about other things as well.

Which brings me to a new topic. Today I heard some Democratic operative repeat the claim that this is, economically, "the worst administration since Herbert Hoover." I decided to find out for myself. So I spent about three hours FOR YOU my loyal readers, digging through the unmanageable Bureau of Labor Statistics web site. Do you realize the federal, state, and local governments employ almost one-third of all workers in this country?

Anyway, I am working on a post which will present some data that may surprise you.

Maybe tonight.

Posted by Bunker at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 14, 2004

Pay First, Comment Later

Well, Ol' Noam now has comments open once again. All you have to do is contribute to his site to be able to comment.

I never thought much of his mental capabilities, but now see I've been mistaken. He is a smart capitalist who can get disciples to fund his activities. And a bonus is that people like me who might take issue with what he writes won't.

Posted by Bunker at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 08, 2004

San Antone

I am worn out today. I spent the last five days with #2 son and his lovely wife, and they have far more energy than I do.

My favorite cities in this country are Washington, Lexington, KY, Monterey, CA, Key West, and San Antonio. The kids wanted to go to SA this weekend, and I'm always ready to visit. But my knees can't deal with the whirlwind tour we took: Alamo, Mercado, River Walk, all at a quick pace in one day. They enjoyed themselves, though, and we had a wonderful meal by the river before returning to Corpus Christi.

San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas (Houston is tops), yet I never feel like I'm in a big city when I'm there. It has lots of green space, and the town isn't compacted. I always enjoy exploring the downtown areas of cities, and San Antonio has one of the best. You can walk anywhere, and the variety is such that you can buy anything from top quality art work to tourist junk. And the variety of restaurants is great. We had Italian the other day, but one of the best steak houses in the world is on the River Walk, as well as Mexican, German, seafood, and Starbucks.

I've stayed at the Menger Hotel, and had a few Shiners at the bar where Teddy Roosevelt signed up men for his excursion to Cuba. I've taken the carriage ride around town on a cool night in November when all the lights were glowing in anticipation of Christmas. And I've played golf.

For a military retiree, San Antonio offers quality golf courses at Fort Sam Houston (two), Lackland, Randolph, and Kelly Air Force Bases, and a nine-hole course at Brooks. And the city courses are well-maintained. Then there are dozens of resort and daily fee courses.

I always have a good time there. Wallace spent his hormonal college years in San Antonio, so he probably has a completely different view of the city!

Posted by Bunker at 06:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2004

Publish

Do you yearn to see your words in print, complete with attractive binding and a cover you designed yourself? Here is an entrepreneur who can fix you up!

Ain't capitalism great?

Posted by Bunker at 08:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 19, 2004

I

I ran across What Not to Do When You Blog while searching for information on WordPress:

Pick a real subject or series of subjects and stick to it--if you have to use the word "I" more than once a week, you are doing something very, very wrong.

I just can't help it. When I write, I tend to write about things in the first person. I also try to be clear that something I write about is my opinion rather than simple fact. I tend to say that I believe something when I cannot, absolutely, be sure that what I've said is an indisputable fact.

I will work on not using I too often.

Posted by Bunker at 06:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 17, 2004

Fred on Everything

What a great point of view this is.

For practical purposes it is not possible to express opinions, or to cover stories, that offend a sizable group on the floor of the newsroom. If your editor is female, or the guy at the next desk black, or gay, you find it very hard to write anything that these groups wonít like. After all, you have to come to work every day. More diversity in the newsroom means less diversity in the news.

Thus, in his view, the newspapers are losing readership.

Fred on Everything has an interesting tone, and the items in his store are...different. A reviewer of one of his books calls him a modern Mark Twain. I may have to pick up Nekkid in Austin.

Posted by Bunker at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Godwin's Law

Godwin's Law evolved from discussions on usenet sites:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

For all you blog readers out there, sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? In a long list of comments, someone eventually will compare their antagonist to Hitler or the Nazis. In particular, if you read comments on many left-of-center sites, you'll see this law at work.

Mike Godwin explains how this Law came to be discerned, and how it is invoked. For all of you who like to use the analogy, you basically end the discussion as the loser. If you insist on using it, I would recommend you at least first read William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. No, your history books don't explain Nazism well enough.

Mike also offers an antidote:

The best way to fight such memes is to craft counter-memes designed to put them in perspective. The time may have come for us to commit ourselves to memetic engineering - crafting good memes to drive out the bad ones.

If only I were smart enough to do that.

Posted by Bunker at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2004

Debate

In the last few days I've been involved or an interested spectator in several contentious discussions on line and in person. I use the word "discussion" because I believe it is the only way any of us learn from someone else.

One I will use as an example is a comment someone made on my site, and I followed their link to see what they had to say. It turns out the site is dedicated to slamming America in general, and Bush in particular. I left an additional comment there, and offered to discuss differing points of view.

Debate is a word often used as a synonym for discussion. The two are very different. Debate is a formal competition where two parties are absolutely convinced of their stance on a particular issue, and view it as their mission to enlighten the non-believers. I am guilty of this, myself. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't bother to maintain this blog.

Discussion is a meeting of minds to share information, often contradictory, in hopes that both parties will walk away with more knowledge than they arrived with. "Conversion" isn't a necessity, but understanding is. And I don't mean that with a condescending smirk. Both parties must enter a discussion with the intent to learn, and not merely offer competing ideas.

Anyway, my attempt at the other site garnered only questions posed as fact, bald statistics, and changes of subject. No answers of value, nor answerable questions were offered. I gave up. It was obvious the other party was not interested in hearing anything which might contradict opinions already formed. I have my opinions as well, and believe them just as strongly, but also realize I'm not omniprecient. Often, I'm quite stupid.

Perhaps that's why I don't like debate--it might highlight to the world just how stupid I am!

But the issue highlights how we often read and write things. A thought in my mind might take a completely different form in print. And what I read is filtered through what I know and believe. When questioned, I often go back and re-read what someone else wrote, or what I wrote that someone questioned. Believe it or not, in almost every instance I was correct in my initial assessment. Maybe I'm not all that stupid after all. But because I write and don't edit (except to try and not embarrass myself with bad spelling) I am constantly on watch regarding other people's reading of what I write. If they think I said something other than what I intended, I give them the benefit of the doubt initially. If it continues, as in my example, I simply stop. It's going nowhere.

So, If I write "Thank you for playing" after one of your comments, you know that I've given up trying to learn anything from the discussion.

So far, I've only done that twice.

UPDATE: Thrice.

Posted by Bunker at 01:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

May 13, 2004

South Texas Car Lock

carlock (20K)
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May 09, 2004

Stupid

Yes, I'm talking about myself.

Today I needed to do some laundry. I thought it would be nice to drive over to Lackland and take care of it. I planned stop in and visit the BX, and drive by to see if my Basic Training barracks was still standing. It was one of the few in a small block of wooden barracks still there in 1983 when I went through OTS.

Before I left for Louisiana, I tried to register my truck on line, renewing my tags. Unfortunately, the bugs are not completely eliminated from the system, so I ended up mailing in the registration. It hadn't returned before I departed.

I pulled up to the main gate at Lackland, showed my ID, and the Army (Guard or Reserve) MP asked if I knew my registration had expired. I explained my story and he asked for my insurance card. I couldn't find it right away, and he had me pull off to the side. I went through all my insurance cards (dating back to 1998) and the most current wasn't there. I walked over to the shack and gave him my previous one, and pointed out the phone number to USAA right here in San Antonio. No dice. "We're not allowed to call and confirm. Return to your vehicle."

I did, and heard all the radio calls. It sounded as though they had a real desperado in custody. After about five minutes of waiting, this desperado went back to the shack. "Return to your vehicle, sir!"

"If you're going to write me a ticket, let's get it done and I'll be on my way."

The Air Force security policeman working with him said, "Get back in your vehicle. And that's a direct order!" I started to remind him that he could not make a direct order, only a lawful order. But if he wanted to do that, I would ask for some clarification and an explanation. I decided to comply, and wait for his Duty Sergeant to arrive.

When the NCO showed up, he completely avoided me, which really set my teeth on edge as he is the one with some judgement authority. And the entire process took over 45 minutes. Of course, the young Airman wished me a good day and a sharp salute when I finally left.

I thought a lot about this whole thing as I drove back toward downtown. These young men are absolutely indoctrinated to follow process to the letter. One was Air Force, and the other Army, so I know that issue crosses service lines. The NCO, on the other hand, is empowered with the ability to use his judgement, and could easily have made a quick phone call, or simply looked at six years worth of insurance cards and given a nod to scratch that citation. He never came close. Neither did any of them want to make eye contact.

Over the last week we have been continually reminded of MPs who not only failed to follow procedure, but failed to listen to their own good sense. Today's paper has a headline that says, "Iraq Abuse linked to MP Dissatisfaction." It was above the fold and I didn't see the full text, but it appears there was certainly a command breakdown. From various reports I've seen, what appear to be simple things to civilians are passed by with little notice--like improper wear of the uniform. It looks like nobody was in control, and that falls to BG Karpinski and every "leader" below her. Those above? That depends on how much they learned from Karpinski, although I would expect a commander to be in command. Her superiors could be expected to trust her to handle her job.

Why are the MPs dissatisfied? There could be many reasons: They feel they don't get enough recognition, and the shooters are getting all the medals. Maybe some were disgusted with the lack of leadership. Perhaps the job they have is boring, and their off-duty time is no better.

But none of these are reasons for abandoning honor and common decency.

So, I'm mad at myself for being stupid, and have to cut some slack to young men doing a thankless and boring task every day. They followed procedure when some of their counterparts found it just a little too difficult to do.

Good job, guys.

Posted by Bunker at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

May 04, 2004

Cop Son

I don't get much opportunity to talk about #2 Son. He is a cop, and works shifts that don't often allow for phone conversations, and he doesn't do email very often. Today, though, I got some sitdown time with him between my golf and his extracurriculars. He's a top judo competitor, and has won several national tournaments.

As a cop, he's apparently very good. I rode with him one night, and his sergeant was very complimentary. I would expect that, but the man went out of his way to say something which made me feel it was something more than "make Dad feel good."

I worry more about him than I do his brothers. They are prepped to expect the worst in combat. He can never tell when a simple traffic stop might turn into something else. And he can't enter a situation in the aggressive, primed mode. That can cause situations to grow.

Today he had court for a DWI he pulled over, and the man pleaded guilty. So time in court was minimal and he stopped by on his way to work out. We talked a lot about how his job is going, and the issue of Tazers came up. The entire police force is now armed with them, and every officer must experience the device before he can carry one. Matt says they're plenty painful, but nobody has ever died because they were subjected to the shock (contrary to reports from those who want to see them outlawed). His Judo insructor is a very large man, and challenged Matt that he could use mind power to overcome the shock. He didn't.

Matt had to use his the other night and got in a bit of trouble for not using his pistol instead. They hit a drug house, and the occupants had (as many do) a pit bull trained to hate uniforms. The dog attacked and tried to hit Matt's leg. Matt fired the electrodes and the dog went down for the full five second pulse. When it was out, the dog got up and ran into the house. We both laughed, and assume the dog won't be attacking any policemen in the near future.

The Chief is wary of his officers using this tool too frequently, and thought a gun would have been the better choice. Once he heard the full circumstances, though, he dropped his objection.

The Tazer shock is not the same as a typical electrical shock. This is programmed at a frequency that interferes nerve signals from the brain that control muscle function. Cops still call it "riding the lightning," but it isn't quite the same as simply applying voltage to the body. It has been tested on pacemakers the be sure it doesn't affect their operation, and the current flow isn't strong enough to do more than put small marks on the skin. Maybe a few of these would be of value in Iraq.

One of Matt's students is a Marine reservist who is going to deploy to Iraq in the fall. We had a bit of fun with him at his expense tonight. But he's an eager young man, and is ready to go. It was nice to spend the day with some of my generation and older miltary guys, then meet with this young Marine tonight and know that the values I remember still hold, in spite of what the media would like Americans to believe. The prisoner abusers not withstanding.

Posted by Bunker at 07:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2004

Readings

Like Wallace, I've resisted doing this. But here's my Page 23 Sentence 5 quote:

"Palace and temple, 'church and state,' were thus combined, and the result was a government with virtually unlimited, and usually unquestioned, authority."

From the Tigris to the Tiber which is an introductory Ancient History text by Tom B. Jones.

Sounds a little like what bin Laden and al-Sadr want.

Posted by Bunker at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

April 30, 2004

Suspicion

Last night I heard a reporter in LA talk about the terrorist threat. He said, "If it looks suspicious, it probably is."

Posted by Bunker at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2004

Why blog?

There are almost as many reasons as there are blogs. I do it because it allows me to vent when I need to, it allows me to talk about my kids and golf. If nobody pays any attention, that's okay, too. I've been getting over 100 visitors each day, and the number grows each month. I checked Andrew Sullivan's site, and he gets about 50,000 visits a day. No thanks. Of those 100 visits, about 2/3 are people who arrive here from a search for such things as mulligan, don bendell, and child molestors. Someone's apparently been making up stories about me!

That means there are 30 of you out there who actually take time to read what I write. Thanks. I hope it is of value.

This is no ego trip for me. I write what I want to write. Sometimes my vision is consumed, as it has been recently, by things like Kerry, UNSCAM, and Fajullah. I've been reading brother Darwin's book of golf stories, and want to add my own stories to the collection. So, I do that here, too.

But I typically write as my mind works here in front of a keyboard. Which means it can be disjointed, with spelling and grammar errors. In the past, I've always written with a pen and pad, then digitized after the fact. Typing rather than writing is a bit different, and what you see is the unvarnished creation of electrical and chemical processes in my brain.

I began reading blogs only about a year ago. It seems many are having their first anniversary this month, so I may have jumped into this at the right time. I look at quite a few, and have a difficult time deciding whether to add one to my list or not. You see, I don't want to clutter my list with a lot of links. Right now, I feel like there are way too many. The list needs to be pared. My list of links is my connection to those I read regularly, not a "thank you" to someone who has added me to theirs. And as I cruise through links, I more and more that interest me. But I can't connect to them all, nor do I have time to actually think about what they have to say.

You see, I get most of my news from the internet now. I still watch Brit Hume, but little else on television. If there is something interesting happening, I will surf channels to get the best vantage point I can. I don't care which network has it. Most of the time they are all covering exactly the same stories with exactly the same angle. They also like to cover celebrities. Tedious.

This is not the same as journalism. The old newspapers just can't keep up. But what many of them have done is shift their focus to stories television won't touch. Like the story of soldiers in Kurdish Iraq I posted last. That came from a local Maine newspaper online. I almost always follow a link that references a URL that sings out, and seldom follow links that go to another blog beyond the one I'm reading. Of course, there are some folks who point things out that I will follow regardles. That is a function of my opinion of the blog, and that comes from time spent reading what they, personally, have to say. For example, if Sarah links to something, I will generally follow it because I've learned to trust her judgement. But her broader interests are different than mine, so even that isn't exact.

I like to keep up with print journalists I respect. Some can be found at the Townhall site, some at WorldNetDaily. I found Joe Galloway's columns through Wallace. I used to read Salon regularly until they began having money problems and went subscription. Besides, Camille quit writing for them. PressThink is a new one I think I'll continue to follow because it is written by a journalism professor who takes many of his counterparts to task. I don't connect to the right or left exclusively, although I lean more right than left. I try to link to those who have a libertarian bent, such as Neal Boortz, and others who offer reasoned opinion. Noam Chomsky is there for the same reason as Dave Barry--simply to get a laugh or two. Barry has more reasoned thought on his site.

My blog is my writing pad. It just happens to be open to anyone with an internet connection. It is also my link cache, where I go to connect to other sites I read. Maybe there are one or two that would interest you over there on that list. Like Arts & Letters Daily or Coober Pedy News. Amazing.

Posted by Bunker at 12:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2004

Arrogance

On days like today I wonder if I'm just being an arrogant ass. Why do I link to other sites' posts? Is it because I honestly believe the folks who visit my site won't see an item unless I point it out to them? If I have a comment on the post I'm linking to, why not simply leave a comment there? Bloggers like Sarah, Michael, and John have far more readers than I do, so do I serve reader interest at all in linking to something they've already covered?

I don't have an answer. I generally write to let off steam, or to let the world know what I think. Does that matter to anyone else? Why should my perspective mean anything to someone else? We all build opinions on experience, and I think my experience is of value. But on reflection, my experience, unique though it is, means nothing more than anyone else's.

I've tried to avoid discussing Kerry and politics, but continue to find myself drawn back. I am more interested in International Relations, the Military, and golf. And not in that order. I am concerned people with no sense of reality will take over our government, so I get mad. I would much rather write about the joy of hitting a pure 7-iron that bounces twice and rolls into the hole for an eagle. I just get upset when people demean my sons and all other folks doing the country's dirty work. And it is.

I'll try to stay a little more sane, so bear with me. Next week should help. I'll play in a Military Retiree Golf Tournament along with my father (if his back holds up), and share a beer or ten with some other old fart GIs from all America's wars and peacetimes since WWII. It's a great, diverse crew, and is beginning to attract some of the ladies who've served.

So, if there's not much posted here during the next two weeks, it's only because I'm very busy enjoying golf and comeraderie, or trying not to vent!

UPDATE: Thanks, Shannon.

Posted by Bunker at 06:30 PM | TrackBack (1)

April 15, 2004

Home Again

Birdie called, finally, last night. After three weeks of no contact. He arrived in Fayettenam and found a land line. When I say "no contact," I don't mean to say he hasn't called others. Just not his Pop. Wrong gender.

I think I'll smack the snot out of the little twerp next time I see him for not calling his old man any sooner!

Nah. He might slap back.

Posted by Bunker at 05:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2004

This is me!

Joseph Epstein's article, Writing on the Brain, has me pegged!

I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: first, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacyóonce you have these in place, you are set to go.

The article is a review of a book on brain function, The Midnight Disease, by Alice W. Flaherty. Epstein spends a lot of time discussing the science of brain function, which is what interested me, while discussing writing and its relationship to thought processes. He congratulates Flaherty for the unassuming nature of her conclusions, but disagrees with many of them:

I should like Dr. Flaherty to know that my two motives in writing this essay have been, first, to collect a decent fee, and, second, to try to knock down her book as an assemblage of profoundly muddled notions that I, given my calling, find mildly but genuinely offensive.

Posted by Bunker at 08:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 05, 2004

Changes

We visited Austin this weekend to help Son #4 move into a new apartment. Bogey and I got a round of golf in at Jimmy Clay. Nice course, with far better greens than we've got here. Three bad holes cost me a decent score.

Well, the site is changing. Bogey convinced me my color scheme sucked. What you see is the result of changing a couple of simple things in the CSS file. Bogey, the web site expert, loves CSS because you can change the appearance of all pages with a change in a single file. Unfortunately, changing a CSS file changes the appearance of all associated files! So, I got home and attempted some damage control because the Comments and Trackback displays were...let's just say there were problems! I reverted to the original CSS for Comments, so they are, at least, readable. Maybe today I'll get at the rest.

Posted by Bunker at 06:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 31, 2004

Retrosexuals

Real men need to take back their manhood!

* A Retrosexual opens doors for a lady.
* A Retrosexual DEALS with shit. Be it a flat tire, break-in into your home, or a natural disaster, you DEAL WITH IT.
* A Retrosexual not only eats red meat, he often kills it himself.
* A Retrosexual doesn't worry about living to be 90. It's not how long you live, but how well. If you're 90 years old and still smoking cigars and drinking, I salute you.

I concur.

Posted by Bunker at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

March 29, 2004

Confused

I went out to the shipping area this morning. Each can with an engine or gearbox inside has stencils identifying it, and some have shipment destinations painted on them. One of them had "Austrialla" on the side.

I wonder if the Muslims have taken over Austria, or that was "Australia" misspelled.

Posted by Bunker at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2004

Dogs are cool

That's right. I said Dogs are cool! Really COOL! We have two. A Jack Russell (Jack. I'm so creative) and a homeless chihuahua we picked up one stormy winter night (Chester. As in Chester Copperpot).

Jack is boss, but Chester wants to be. He just can't run as fast, and gets tangled up when he tries. Both feel they need to be on my lap when I sit at the computer. So, I'll simply blame them for bad grammar and misspellings.

Jack has issues with cats, too. He doesn't hate them. In fact, he doesn't hate anything. But he wants to play with them. They look like his Mr Hedgehog toy, and he simply wants to see if they squeak. They do, but they do it as they leave the immediate vicinity.

He also likes to swim. Pool, lake, creek, surf. Any water will do. Oh, yes, you must throw something for him to retrieve. Again, and again, and again.

Chester doesn't swim. Tiny feet don't propel very well. But he's a pretty good ballerina. When he stretches, he looks like squirrels I've skinned in the past.

Good dogs. Both cool in their individual ways.

dogs (81K)

Posted by Bunker at 11:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2004

Why bother?

Sarah pointed out a simple, succinct explanation. Personally, I think blogging is a simpler way to put down daily thoughts than keeping a journal. When I find something on the web I feel compelled to write about, I can easily link to that item rather than having to explain it all in my own post.

Is that just being lazy? I don't view it that way. I see it as giving credit where credit is due. When I write something inspired by others, I can't simply take credit for the idea. Of course, there's really not too many things that haven't been said in some way or another. Right now, I'm trying to locate Ralph Peters to ask his permission to post a chapter from one of his books on my reference page. I could plagarize, or post it with attribution, but it still just isn't right.

So, I blog as a means to get my writing skills in order. I also do it to vent. I've had a commenter tell me I'm a moron. That's okay, too. I told him, "Thanks for playing!"

Boy did this become blather!

Posted by Bunker at 10:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2004

New Pictures

Posted some photos from Birdie on his page last night.

Posted by Bunker at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2004

Cuba Gooding

We're watching Radio with Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the title role.

Gooding, as always, is very good. What struck me tonight, though, was his ability to embody the characters he plays. He is a black Dustin Hoffman. I know, that sounds racist. Hoffman varied in appearance and mannerisms in every role he played, especially early in his career. Gooding has the same qualities.

It is a rare talent. Most actors, even those I consider very good, tend to play the same person, regardless of role. All that changes is the dialog and costuming. Even that sometimes stays the same (John Wayne, for example). Tom Hanks and Denzell Washington are two terrific actors who come to mind that carry any role they have, but always bring much of the same to each role.

Hoffman, and now Gooding, bring life to the character beyond their own personalities.

The movie is based on a true story, and is pretty predictable, but well worth watching just for Gooding's performance.

Posted by Bunker at 08:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 03, 2004

Writing with a purpose

Yesterday I began thinking about why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to give my writing mind some exercise.

My intent was to spend some time each day sharing my brilliant thoughts with the world, not caring whether the world gave a damn about my brilliant thoughts or not. I did not want to become the kind of blogger who copied a link, said a word or two, and left it at that. The purpose was to write.

I see now how easy it is for someone to become a linker. As my day goes by, I check different news sites and blogs. Eventually, something will make me laugh, make me think, or piss me off. I must comment. Rather than simply taking the time to comment on that blog, I go off and try to express myself on my own. It usually turns out poorly because I'm in a rush. If it's a news item, I'll link and make a post, but that's typically just an echo--Glenn, or Trunk, or Eugene has already told the world about it.

Perhaps it's because the internet is a place for sharing. We all spread emails around like confetti--jokes and parables alike. Blogs drift that direction naturally. Some of the better ones can keep a focus, Steven at USS Clueless, Wretchard at Belmont, and James at Porphyrogenitus are three I read regularly. But, it can take a toll. SDB took a week off, and does so ocassionally to keep his mind fresh. James is headed to Basic Training, and will be full of new ideas when he gets out.

Personally, it cuts down on my reading. No, I still read plenty each day, but most of it is on screen. My books keep piling up. I've always tried to keep three or four books "in the game", rotating through as I finish one. Generally I'll be reading a novel, a biography, and some non-fiction essay collection or history. All at the same time. But if you look at my Current Reading list right now, there are a few more. And there are even more sitting on the night stand I haven't had a chance to look at except for a quick glance as I decided to buy them.

Writing is the issue. I need to write. But I need to do it in a more coherent way. If I can keep from getting pissed at some "drive-by" opinion monger.

I hope to write things that make people think. I don't really care whether people agree with what I have to say or not. That's what I enjoy about Harry's Place--lots of well-reasoned opinion. And a faithful clientele who discuss differences. And if nobody ever reads my writing, I'm okay with that. Staff Sergeant Billy Webb destroyed any ego I showed up with on the first day of Basic Training (I still remember his name after 30+ years).

If what I write is worth reading, people will remind me to get my mind right when I stray. If not, nobody will and it won't matter.

Posted by Bunker at 09:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 02, 2004

Independence Day

I forgot all about Texas Independence Day. What other state has one of its own?

Posted by Bunker at 08:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

February 28, 2004

Two to make you think

Go to Blog o'RAM and check out Any Questions? and Touch of Power. The guys have some things that will make you think, if you brain is capable.

Posted by Bunker at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 25, 2004

Afghan Hockey

If you are a hockey fan, you will enjoy this from the Onion!

Even if you hate hockey, take a look!

Posted by Bunker at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 23, 2004

New site to visit

I came across this one, and had to add it to my list to check from time to time.

Why?

"The blog for those conservatives who share some libertarian leanings, but cannot muster the undying faith in mankind that a proper libertarian must have."

Kinda like me.

Posted by Bunker at 05:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 19, 2004

Reporting

I've often written about how lazy I believe the media to be. This extends to all areas of coverage, whether it be politics or golf. They attach themselves to one thing, and proceed to beat it to death.

What's ironic is that they are all looking for a new twist to whatever it is they're covering. I wonder why they continue reporting on it. In engineering, people like this quickly wear out their welcome. And we have them. They have a pet solution, something that (they think) fits all. And they want to use it over and over and over, regardless of efficiency. Because they're familiar with all its traits. Commonality definitely has its place, but there is a time to move on.

Political reporters do the same. "The Dean Scream" was played ad nauseum, and I never thought it was anything more than someone preaching to the choir. Our entertainment reporters lock onto Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart, and we are constantly fed the same story over and over and over. Sometimes, in a three minute segment, there may be a single new piece of information. The remaining time is eaten up telling us what we've been told dozens of times...just in case we missed it before.

Gee, these are the same people who have always complained that there wasn't enough time to do a full story. I think if they gave us just 10 seconds on each continuing story, they'd have plenty of time for more exhaustive coverage of at least one major topic each day. Of course, that would limit face time for the talent, and minimal opportunity to flash factoids at the bottom of the screen. And that talent might actually have to get new information where there is none.

Golf does the same thing. I was eager to see coverage today of the Nissan Open at Riviera. Tiger is in the field. How would USA Network cover him? As expected:

"Here is Tiger on the first hole." on tape. Then, continuing on tape, "Here he is at the second," and, "Here's Tiger at the third." Had it been live, I wouldn't have minded nearly as much.

But David Toms is back in the field after surgery. John Daly is hoping to continue his rebound. And dozens of other fine golfers are trying to get their first win of the year. Mike Wier, Masters winner and Nissan defending champion, is back in the hunt and playing well.

Tiger did not have his typical stellar year in 2003. Yes, he received the Player of the Year Award., but I think his limited playing schedule actually helped him. It won't happen that way two years in a row. Fewer and fewer people are watching golf just because of him. But sponsors like to see him in the field, and television sponsors want to see him shown.

Sports announcers are more knowlegeable about what they cover than most, but even here the familiar is important.

C'mon, guys. Show the field. Take some risk and show someone who isn't expected to win. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the story of your life. Or, you can remain in the comfort zone and follow Tiger, regardless of his play. After all, that's where the money is.

Posted by Bunker at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 06, 2004

Child Molestors

"He's such a good boy."
"He's always been so good with children."
"I cannot imagine him ever doing something like that."
"He even put up a sign in the neighborhood that says 'Watch out for children playing'."

An 11-year-old girl has been found dead. She was abducted and murdered. Now, the man in custody is remembered by family and neighbors with the same lines we've all heard many times before. Every defendant in a case such as this has similar things said about him/her.

Are people in total denial, or is someone like this simply smart enough to play the game before hand so people will say such things about him? We like to think the best of people, but there comes a time when it just isn't right. Nobody wants to believe their neighbor is capable of such actions, but sometimes they are. Was he really turning his life around as some have said, or just waiting for an opportunity?

In cases like this, I believe there needs to be immediate justice. If found guilty, he needs to be executed soon after. Let the appeals process last no more than a month or two, then be done with it.

Posted by Bunker at 08:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

February 04, 2004

Air Travel and the TSA

My experience this weekend with the TSA airport screeners wasn't nearly as bad as I've had in the past. There is little consistency in their operation. I have to admit, as a security measure, inconsistency can be a good thing.

The problem I have with them, as I guess just about everyone has, is that they are like our public school administrators--zero tolerance. The book says this, and they will do nothing that deviates from it, regardless of logic. Deviation would require judgement and decision-making.

My sister-in-law wanted to sit with us and have breakfast before departing from San Jose. We flew American and she was on Alaskan Air, which departed from a different terminal. She was a ticketed passenger, but couldn't go through the checkpoint at our terminal. And, there was nowhere to eat at the airport outside the security area. So, she was turned away. The rules allow only ticketed passengers, but the TSA employees had difficulty with the concept that she had a boarding pass for a different terminal, so they made the safe choice--safe in terms of decision-making, not security. No amount of logical discussion would change their minds.

When I fly, I wear nothing with any metal at all. I don't wear a belt, and wear slip-on shoes. This time I had on a windshirt which has tiny metal snaps on the sleeves. These have set off metal detectors before. Going through one detector, I crossed my arms to keep the ends as far from the detector as possible. The screener laughed when I showed him why. Going through another, I had my hands in my pockets. The screener chided me to take them out. So, I did and put them up to my face as in prayer. "Arms down to your sides!" I did, and explained about the snaps. "Then you'd have to take it off and go back through again!" Excellent people skills, and certainly security conscious.

I've gone through metal detectors set so sensitively that I set it off even though I had absolutely no metal on my person at all! At Hartford, I went through the shakedown after that, and the screener kept rubbing me with the wand and checking it against his watch because nothing was setting it off. All the time, my wallet and computer were sitting at the conveyor 20 feet away, and they wouldn't allow me to retrieve them. I was getting belligerant, and a cop nearby snickered knowingly. When they finally asked me to roll the front of my pants over to check inside the waistband, I simply undid the plastic button, pulled down the nylon zipper, and opened wide. I was then released, but not allowed to get my personal items until I got my shoes back on. Fortunately, nobody else was getting through cleanly, so there was a pile of things untouched.

I find it true that the amount of authority a person will exercise is inversely proprtional to the amount he has. That is, people with little authority most relish its use. People with great authority seldom feel the need. This is certainly true of TSA employees. And that is the real danger. Using skill and experience to improve security is not part of their mindset. Judgement and personal evaluation of each situation is beyond the capability of many. But they know you are hostage, and enjoy the power.

Update: James Bovard has even more to say about this in Reason.

Posted by Bunker at 08:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 25, 2004

Body Count

News outlets in this country have become enamored of body counts. In no war prior to Vietnam was this a daily issue in the news. The Johnson Administration is responsible. Because there was no way to measure success in the "normal" fashion, Robert MacNamara and his Defense Department leaned on the count of enemy killed as a measure of progress. I remember watching the news each night, and the lead or final graphic on newscasts was "XX American soldiers died today in Southeast Asia."

I was struck by this today as I read an article on MSNBC's web site. It carried a boilerplate paragraph:

The deaths raised to 513 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the United States and its allies launched the Iraq war March 20. Most of the deaths have occurred since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.
I have seen this paragraph in every single article on that site that reports American deaths. It is a running tally of, in their view, a lack of progress in Iraq. And it modifies their previous boilerplate which mentioned only the deaths "since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1."

Body count is no measure of success or failure. In all the history of warfare, it has been simply a number, if tallied at all. This has often been used to illuminate the human cost of battles in history, placing the number in context for comparison. But no effort is exerted in trying to do that here.

My youngest son, Birdie, is an 82nd Airborne trooper. He spent nine months in Afghanistan killing Al Queda and Taliban fighters. He spent those nine months keeping his soldiers from being killed by same. He is now in Baghdad, involved in a different scenario. He is involved in efforts more akin to police work. His soldier skills are not as important as his people skills. He must walk that fine line in order to stay alive, yet not harm innocents.

I don't think he and his fellow soldiers concern themselves with body counts. They pay attention to each job at hand, and measure their success by how well they accomplished it. They have no mandate, as did soldiers in Southeast Asia, to build an enemy body count as a way for the folks in Washington to measure progress.

On the other side, however, body count is the only weapon they have which can be effective. There is no possiblity of them defeating our forces. All they can do is erode support here at home. That is a given, and everyone from every philosophy in this country knows this.

There are people in this country who want to show dead American soldiers on television. Failing at that, they want to show caskets being off-loaded from aircraft. Lacking that, they want to show families grieving. Right now, what they have to settle for is a chorus counting deaths daily, and keeping a spreadsheet tally for convenience. Citing this body count is an insult to the memory of those men.

As a father of two in that part of the world, doing a job they feel is important to do, I'm sick of the crybabies in our media standing on the roof of a 4-star hotel every evening to tell us how many of our sons have died "since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1."

Had these folks ever done anything of real value in their lives, I would cut them some slack. Bob Arnot gets a tip of my cap, and there are one or two others. But most never leave the hotel lobby. I've been deployed with some of these losers nipping at my heels, and they live a vicarious existence. What they need is real lives. In Ethiopia, I had dozens of them to take care of. What I mean by that is that they had absolutely no experience on a flight line, and my troops and I had a constant battle keeping them safe around aircraft. When they weren't outside, they were in the terminal, or back at the hotel.

When they are with the troops, they can easily get in the way without trying. Others try to get in the way so they can get their "story." In Afghanistan, Birdie's team had the pleasure of Geraldo's company on a raid. Birdie isn't small, and when he entered the structure, his left shoulder took out the door while his right elbow took out Geraldo.

Realistically, neither scenario is satisfactory; Being with the troops, or staying in the hotel waiting for reports to file or broadcast. But there are plenty of other things they can do, if only they were willing to put a little effort forth, and maybe put themseves in some jeopardy. Some did during the days before "President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1." They filed extraordinary reports with the soldiers and Marines. But their compatriots and anti-war agitators accused them of "becoming too close the the men they were with." Some good ones have gone home to safer digs. Professionally, the risk was too great.

Those remaining could take a cue from one of the several Iraqi bloggers. Alaa is one they might read. I would guess they could find some simply amazing stories to write. If they followed any one of these leads, much better stories than the ones they currently put out might lead to the Pulitzer they want. And it would be of far more value to this country, the world, and Iraq than "since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1."

UPDATE: I just ran across this while checking out Glenn Reynolds. Kevin Sites is, obviously, a true journalist.

Posted by Bunker at 04:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)

January 21, 2004

Den Beste "Must-Read"

Over on USS Clueless, Steven releases "the fire in his heart", or belly, or whatever. You'll get a few chuckles, along with an education.

Posted by Bunker at 07:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 05, 2004

Pete Rose

What a surprise...Pete Rose bet on baseball.

Rose was my favorite ball player, with Johnny Bench being a close second. It should come as no surprise that I was a Reds fan. I always thought he played the game the way it should be played.

Big Pete's ego was (and is) enormous. In a TV interview, he's wearing a suit and tie, but something else caught my eye--the number 14 embroidered on his shirt collar. It's really sad. The only thing this man has is his memories because he pissed away everything else.

Rose is not someone I would ever have wanted to know. He lived large, but always in a way that put Pete Rose front and center to the exclusion of all else. He was the prototype for most professional athletes of today. He got the nickname "Charlie Hustle" because he ran out every base on balls. Not just ran, but sprinted. In his way, it was how he said to everyone "Look at me!" The nickname was not a term of endearment, it was an insult from players who had been around.

Rose's goal was to pass Ty Cobb's hit record. He did. Along the way he showed how much his own ego meant relative to team. When Bench and Joe Morgan negotiated contracts which paid them more than he was making, he insisted on renegotiation. When the Reds balked, he went to Philadelphia at his first opportunity--still in the National League so he could break the NL hit record if he didn't get the overall.

When it looked like he was going to break it, he managed to go back to Cincinnati. Once his playing days were over, he stayed on as a "playing manager" to try and increase his numbers.

He was my favorite player of the time, but nowhere near being one of my favorite people. Being banned from baseball was what he deserved. The rules on gambling were very well known, as was the penalty. He chose to ignore them all. It's time to ignore him, also.

He earned a place in the Hall of Fame, but that honor wasn't important enough to him to keep him away from betting on games he played and managed. Staying out of Cooperstown was his choice.

Posted by Bunker at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2003

The DaVinci Code

I picked up a copy of Da Vinci Code yesterday and began reading it last night. The book's concept interests me. I've read several articles condemning the thesis that Jesus was married, all of which dispute the claim as blasphemy. I take issue with that. Christianity differs from other religions in that dissent and opposing viewpoints are inherent. When The Church became so rigid as to crush dissent, dissenters splintered off as Protestants. Each of the Protestant churches has differing views. In fact, virtually every congregation is different in some way.

There have been several scholarly studies on the issue of Jesus' marital status, and many more non-scholarly treatises. Da Vinci Code is one of the latter, but the thesis can't simply be dismissed as bunk. If Jesus followed, as he apparently did, all the teachings of Judaism throughout his life, it would not be a surprise to find out he married.

Those who, like David Limbaugh and Hal Lindsey, cannot reconcile their own beliefs with the possibility of Jesus' marriage do a disservice to the tenets of religion. I wrote to Lindsey to express my view that whether Jesus was married or not did nothing to change my religious beliefs, and I asked why it would upset his. I got no reply. One line in his linked article gives an indication of his reason: 'The natural man can only look at a man-woman relationship from a sexually based orientation.‚ÄĚ I'd say that's not only narrow-minded, but completely contrary to the concept of love that Jesus espoused. I guess that makes Lindsey the prototypical 'natural man.‚ÄĚ

The love between a man and woman goes beyond the sexually based orientation he mentions, just as religion as based in a greater love and pure faith. Christians who take umbrage at concepts which differ from their own beliefs, and ridicule theses with the convenient 'blasphemy‚ÄĚ tag drive me to distraction. With Christianity under continual assault in this country, it serves believers no profit to have fundamentalists spouting illogical bilge. Does the word 'Taliban‚ÄĚ mean anything to you?

I don't know if I'll make it all the way through the book. It has a Mickey Spillane feeling to it, where descriptions become wordy, and metaphors run rampant. I've only made it through six chapters, so I'll wait to see. I may condemn it on literary terms, or put it down when it tries to pass of fantasy as fact. But, as Mark Twain said, opinions are what make horse races.

Posted by Bunker at 08:44 AM | Comments (1)

December 15, 2003

Journalists

I have little regard for most. Perhaps it's because I'm an engineer and my education, experience, and interests have given me a broader perspective on the world. I can't believe some of the weak logic in their analyses, or the narrow point of view they often bring with their questions. So, I decided to take a look at journalism programs in colleges around the country to see if there might be a reason for this.

I did a simple Google search for 'journalism degree requirements‚ÄĚ just to get a sampling of curricula. I looked at a variety of schools; Arkansas, Penn State, Columbia, USC, among them.

All were pretty similar, as I would expect. Accreditation Boards frown on improvisation. Virtually every mechanical engineering program is identical in the basics, too. What sets many apart is faculty. Although I'd have to say any good journalist is probably working for a living, some good journalists do teach in seminars or as visiting professors. What they have in common, though, is probably more important than where they differ.

What interested me is that few required a minor. Of those that did, Penn State had this statement:

The minimum requirement for a minor is 18 credits. By careful planning, a student may use General Education and Bachelor of Arts courses to help fulfill this requirement.
I think this is the key. Journalism majors can get a degree without more than simple 'survey‚ÄĚ knowledge of any specific field. I would think that if someone wanted to be a journalist, they would have an area of scholarship or industry that interested them. If they wanted to write about Wall Street, I would thing they would need more than passing knowledge of macroeconomics and finance. Writing about world events really requires more knowledge than the typical Western Civilization courses offer. You can't do justice to a discourse on political systems with a single Political Science course and a Sociology seminar under your belt.

I guess I gravitate to those journalists who have a greater sense of the world, people like Neil Cavuto, Bob Arnot, Brit Hume, and Juan Williams in radio and TV, and Mark Steyn, Walter Williams, and George Will in print. On the web, non-journalists who offer quality insight thrive. People like Steven den Beste, Glenn Reynolds, and Eugene Volokh share the world with Andrew Sullivan and Charles Krauthammer.

Maybe some of those I disdain today will gain the insight that comes from broad experience and become, what I consider, good journalists. Perhaps those I just listed started out with the same narrow focus and have simply 'grown up.‚ÄĚ Who can say? Volokh and Reynolds are law professors, den Beste is an engineer, Arnot and Krauthammer are doctors, and Williams is an economist. I wonder if a minor in journalism wouldn't be a better route to quality than a major.

Posted by Bunker at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003

Musings Unrelated to Golf

I was thinking about Zeyad and his compatriots in Iraq, and my mind wandered, as it's prone to do. I heard a quick sound bite of President Bush telling reporters that countries which risked troops to help free Iraq deserved first shot at reconstruction contracts. I also considered America's place in the world at this point in history.

When any country in the world needs assistance of any kind--financial, military, medical, natural disaster relief, rescue services, technical, or just moral--they turn to the US. And not just because we have the best of all of those things. The entire civilized world, regardless of your definition of civilization, understands that Americans have big hearts. We actually care. Not 'care' as in being willing to march in protest or support of the current cause, but care as in wanting others around the world to share in the bounty that comes with freedom. We care that people suffer and we want to help them not suffer. We care that children in other countries die of starvation and we want to feed them. When a disaster strikes somewhere in the world, Americans are quick to donate money and volunteer to provide assistance personally.

When the World Trade Center towers came down, Americans ran to help where they could. Americans donated millions of dollars to help those directly affected. We poured our souls into the cause. We didn't take to the streets in protest. And it was gratifying to hear support from around the world. To me, it seemed as though people in other countries actually cared about us as much as we care about them. That soon faded. Where were the legions of aid workers from around the world? Where were the millions of dollars in relief funds from other countries to help us in our time of need?

We got half-hearted support to invade Afghanistan. We got little support when we went into Iraq. In fact, France, Russia, and Germany were duplicitous in trying to prevent the invasion. They've been no help in the six-plus months since. Now that there are billions of dollars in contracts to be signed, paid for by US taxpayers, they want in. Bush won't let them 'help,' and they're pissed. The media focus has been on the $18 billion of US-funded contracts, but there are millions of dollars of 'international' funds which are available for bid by anyone. This is the money donated by the few countries willing to help bring Iraq out of despotism. France and Russia did not contribute, nor did they offer any debt relief. But they want to share in the wealth.

Zeyad and his friends in Iraq are aware of such things. I wonder if others there are as informed. I was thinking about him during a newscast; Typically, a 'talking torso' reporting from the roof of a hotel in Baghdad. We don't see things except through that prism, so I looked back on my trip to Kuwait last spring as a starting point for trying to perceive things more clearly, and what a normal day for a normal person is like there.

With US and British forces in the vicinity, I would assume most people there understand what has happened in the last year. I can't be sure, because my son related to me that he met people in rural Afghanistan who were surprised to see American soldiers. In spite of propaganda from many directions, I truly believe people understand we are in Iraq to help. I doubt they hear of attacks against coalition troops and support personnel, except those close to home. Why would it be otherwise? I don't hear about daily murders in Houston or Los Angeles or Washington. Iraqis go about their daily business with little more than passing thoughts of the world's politics. They will take help from whoever is willing to provide it. But I think, if they knew the diplomatic environment, and could choose who provided support, the US and Britain would be the overwhelming favorites. I know that Kuwaitis, twelve years after the fact, were very gracious toward me as an American: 'You saved us from Saddam! You are welcome here!'

The US is not just the only military superpower remaining. We are more than that. We are a superpower in far too many ways to even detail. We are the superpower in the entertainment industry (why else would people who can afford to live anywhere stay in Hollywood?), we are the superpower in culture (the elite of every country bemoan the fact that their people want American records, food, and clothing). We are the superpower in medicine and technological advancement, food production (what other country pays farmers not to grow things?), and art. If people can get here, they come. We have what almost everyone else wants. And those that don't want it, or don't want us to have it, want to destroy it.

And that is the simple truth.

Posted by Bunker at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2003

Optical Illusion

This one is a must-see!

Posted by Bunker at 07:14 AM | Comments (0)

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