Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don’t give a rat’s ass

It seems every bleeding-heart is up in arms today over reports CIA interrogators were mean to terrorists. If, that is, bleeding-hearts aren’t opposed to being up in arms, so to speak. Anyway, this article from MSNBC details some of the shocking claims against these evil, bad men.

The CIA that is, not, of course, the terrorists who we all know are freedom-loving patriots.

Now I’m not saying I’d want to share a meal with someone who threatened to kill my children or have my mother raped in front of me, but it would certainly get me thinking. Thinking about what information I could give up to avoid such things.

I hesitate to use the word “war,” as in “Global War on Terror” because it tends to diminish the term. Kinda like the “war on drugs” or the “war on poverty.” Yeah, both of those have been going swimmingly.

The truth is though, we are engaged in an armed conflict. An armed conflict with groups who think
kidnapping people, cutting their heads off with knives and videotaping the proceedings is a legitimate act. An armed conflict with people who would be quite happy to kill you, your family, friends and everyone else you know and don’t know without blinking an eye.

Did you ever see The Untouchables? Remember the scene where Sean Connery got fed up with the mob guy not talking, so he went outside and grabbed the dead body of another mob guy? “What’s amatter? Can’t ya talk with a gun in your mouth?” he asks the corpse before shooting him to scare the live one into talking.

“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way!”

I have no problem using the *Chicago* way. Although I’m sure people I like and respect will disagree with me. But that’s the beauty of this, as civilized people, we can agree to disagree and then go out for a Jameson’s and talk about it some more.

There is one funny thing about this suit from the American Civil Liberties Union. In its efforts to protect terrorists already in custody the ACLU is endangering the lives of terrorists’ pals who have yet to be captured.

How the hell can that be you ask?

Well, it’s very simple and it goes like this: Since dealing with captured terrorists is getting to be such a gigantic pain in the ass with you standing a really good chance of ending up in federal prison, there just won’t be prisoners. In the future the good guys – that’s us for those of you not following, our Marines, soldiers, SEALs, CIA guys and whatnot – will just shoot the bad guys in the head, launch a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone or put a laser dot on the target to make sure the
GBU-12 hits the spot. You see, it’s a whole lot easier and safer for our troops to kill the bad guys than to try to take them alive. All things being equal, which choice do you think they’ll make?

Call it an effect of the
Law of Unintended Consequences.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to ACLU (who’s work, I should add, I generally support) for doing its part to keep our troops safe. Although the loss of actionable intelligence from live prisoners might tend to make the rest of us less safe.

Oh well, everything in life is a trade off.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Magic Birthday!!

I remember when I was a kid my sister telling me about magic birthdays. You know, the kind where you turn 13 on the 13th, or 16 on the 16th or, the absolute best, 21 on the 21st? You know what I mean, right?

Well, today, the United States is celebrating a magic birthday of a sort. Fifty years ago today, Aug. 21, 1959, Hawaii became the fiftieth state in the union, meaning for the past 50 years there have been 50 stars on our flag. (You can read the NYT story from that day here.) I would hazard a guess, since I don’t feel like actually checking the fact, most Americans alive today have never lived under any flag other than the one currently flying.

This is, I should point out, the longest period of time (and counting) where Old Glory hasn’t had a facelift. The next longest gap, if you’re interested, was the 48-to-49 gap from Feb. 14, 1912, when Arizona became the 48th state, and Jan. 3, 1959, when Alaska signed up.

The shortest? Well, good of you to ask. Not counting the 17-or-so seconds on Nov. 2, 1889, between the time when President Benjamin Harrison signed the proclamations naming North Dakota and South Dakota the 39th and 40th states (he shuffled the documents and never told anyone which one he signed first), you’d think it was the next six days before Montana became the 41st state on Nov. 8. But you’d be wrong. Three days after Montana’s star was added, Washington became the 42nd state on Nov. 11, 1889.

Perhaps it’s because I’m used to it, but the 50-stared flag just seems…right. Everything just lines up perfectly. Nine rows, five of six and four of five. All nice and diagonal. See:

The 49-star flag, though, for some reason, just seems off. Don’t you think? Something about those gaps at the ends of the rows of stars. It zigs and zags back and forth.

But what about the future? What about this flag? A flag with 51 stars?

Is there a 51st state somewhere down the line? Who knows, but I’m willing to bet I won’t live my whole life under a flag with 50 stars. In case you're one of those folks who likes to plan waaay ahead and worries if you're not prepared, according to Wikipedia, the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry has designs for flags up to 56 stars. (I'm guessing, in no particular order: D.C., Puerto Rico...uh, Alberta, British Columbia, Saska...Saskache... Saskatchewan, and some other place that's easier to spell.*)

Happy Birthday Hawaii!!
*To all my Canadian friends, I'm kidding. I very much respect the Great Bear of the North and am mocking you in a "Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more, eh?" kind of way.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A nice piece of writing

This is a pretty funny and interesting article on MSNBC about yet another lawsuit against Facebook. Now you all know my feelings about Facebook, so I won’t go into them again. But this article illustrates pretty well why I’ve never updated my status, and never will.

Here’s the best quote from Helen A.S. Popkin’s article:

“Frankly kids, suing Facebook for violating your privacy is like going to a kegger at the Devil’s house, then waking up on the front lawn the next day hung over, naked, missing your soul ...and surprised.”

I miss being able to turn a phrase like that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Just Play Ball fer Chrissakes!!

Skip: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!
Larry: Lollygaggers!
Skip: Lollygaggers.
– Bull Durham

I went to a Nationals’ game a couple of weeks ago with my cousins (one who lives here and the other who was in town on business) and my cousin’s wife. And even though they’re both (the cousins) Mets fans (the Nats’ opponent for the evening), it was a pleasure to see them and spend time catching up.

You know what wasn’t a pleasure? Nationals’ Park. Not the park itself, the park is a great place to go and watch baseball: great sightlines, not a bad view and, hell, it’s a baseball game. Who doesn’t like going out to the ballpark and watching a game? Commies, that’s who. OK, maybe not commies, but you get my point.

My question is this: Why do the people who own the Nats and the people who run Nats’ Park hate baseball so much? What has it ever done to them except make them a bunch of money with an inferior product?

Maybe I’m just old school, but a baseball game is supposed to be relaxing. The game is already entertaining; it doesn’t need anything else. It’s the friggin’ American pastime. You know: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” (OK, maybe that was an ad from the 80s, but the point still stands.) You don’t need to blast (mostly bad) music through the PA system for each batter. And you especially don’t need to blast three bars of the same music between each and every fucking pitch.

Baseball, even when played badly, which is something the Nats have perfected over the past few years, can still be beautiful to watch. Somewhere in amongst all the pitches and balls and strikes, there’s a Crack! of a bat, the cheers of the crowd, a diving catch up the middle by the shortstop, and turning two with a 6-4-3 double play. Or, if you’re lucky, the CRACK! of a bat and a moonshot of a home run.

Then the idiots in the PA booth at Nats’ Park (and most other parks around the country for that matter) go and ruin a good thing with some stupid music.

As much as I like the movie, I blame “Major League” for this situation. Blasting “Wild Thing” as Charlie Sheen walks from the bullpen to the mound was cute. But, unfortunately, it has inspired legions of wannabes.

I’m thinking the constant blasting of music and the many, many other annoyances that now call Nats’ park and other professional stadiums home are like the headsets smart people are forced to wear in "
Harrison Bergeron." For those who haven’t read their Vonnegut, in the story everyone is equal under the law and made equal by the government. This is done either by the addition of weights to lessen physical advantages like strength, or headphones blasting noise to break their concentration so the intelligent can’t hold a thought for any length of time, or some combination of methods.

The blasting music and other annoyances, I believe, are there to distract us from the crappy product the Nats put on the field day after day after day after day. If you can’t pay attention to the game, you don’t notice how much they stink up the joint.

Baseball didn’t need anything more than an occasional “Da, da, dant! Da, da, dant!” from an organ for a century and it doesn’t need it now. Turn off the music and let fans learn to enjoy the rhythm of the game again.

Oh, and play more day games. D.C. needs to loosen up and learn to play hooky like the North Side of Chicago. Nothing quite like a “long lunch” on a Thursday.
Photo credit: My friend MB, who lives in Dallas, sent me the second picture above from the first baseline of Saturday's Boston Red Sox at Texas Ranger game. The Rangers won 7-2.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

TMI Thursday: Save water, shower with a friend

It's TMI Thursday my friends. For more stories that will entertain and disgust you at the same time go to LiLu’s place for this week's full list. And now, on to the fun!

This one falls into the TMI war stories category.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…” – Teddy Roosevelt.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without a shower? For most people, the answer to that question is probably in the five to seven day range – the length of a good old fashion camping trip. But, even during a trip like this, there’s usually a lake or stream where you can wash you ass somewhere around Day 3 or 4.

For me, the answer to the question is somewhere up beyond the 30 day mark. Imagine 30 whole days, a month, without a shower?

This shower-free time was not part of a sojourn to a hippie commune, rather quite the opposite, in fact. Back in the early days of 1991, the government asked my friends and me to head over to Saudi Arabia to assist the Kuwaitis in a little land dispute with their neighbors to the north. Seeing as how Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm took place mainly in the desert (believe it or not, there was a naval element), water and showers were in short supply.

Now, I’m not saying we didn’t keep ourselves clean, we did. Or, at least, as clean as we could manage. ut the little whore baths we took mainly involved stripping down nekid while standing in the open, about a quart or so of water in a bowel – half cold, half hot from our 40-cup coffee urn – a washcloth, a plywood board to stand on and continuous prayer you didn’t drop the soap. (No, not for the reasons yer thinking. Have you ever dropped a wet bar of soap in the sand? If you have you know you might as well just throw it away ‘cause using it after that is like trying to wash with a brick.)

We called them CPAs for the most important parts you cleaned: Crotch, Pits and Ass. Yeah you got clean, but it was even less satisfying than a
Navy shower.

Then came the day after 30 or so days in the desert when we got to head over to the big supply area to pick up some spare parts and – Glory Hallelujah Sweet Jesus! – get our utilities cleaned and take a hot shower.

We actually waited in line for our turn.

I’m going to skip the description except to say that while the water had a bit of a chemical smell (chlorine), it was hot, with pressure and absolutely, positively glorious. Basically the best 10-or-so-minute shower I’ve ever had in my life.

After we all got dressed in clean skivvies, socks and utilities (an older version of the ones on the left) one of my buddies, Reggie, commented, “I ain't nothing but clean from head to toe!”

He was right and we were. And the feeling lasted pretty much through the next day.

But hey, wait a minute! Where did all that water for the showers and laundry come from? The water in the showers never turned off and it’s not like there was a giant water tank sitting there.

After a bit of investigation we learned what a
ROWPU is. A ROWPU is a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit. Basically, a ROWPU can pretty much take the dirtiest, nastiest water you can imagine and turn it into clean, delicious drinking water. The city of Tampa Bay uses a giant one to turn salt water into drinking water.

So, basically, what was happening was the water was coming out of the shower head, over our bodies – and those of every other dirty, filthy Marine for a 50-mile radius – down the drain and into and out of the ROWPU.

And then back out the shower head.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cool yer jets, dude

I got yelled at by a friend Saturday night.

Now this normally wouldn’t bother me, and it didn’t really since I understand his passion for the issue that was at hand. But, and here’s the but, I see this one-way conversation – him yelling at me – as yet another example of how the growing rancor in our American discourse is leading us down a rocky and dangerous path.

After 10 or so minutes of agreeing again and again with him and still getting yelled at, I left. Friend or no, I refuse to be treated this way.

The topics, if you’re interested, were gay rights and gay marriage or, rather, my friend’s inability to get married due to anti-gay marriage laws where he’s living. As anyone who’s read the Foggy Dew for any length of time knows, in the mixed up guly├ís of my personal beliefs, the right to marry anyone you damn well please is thrown in there with the right to keep and bear arms and the notion the other 535 elected members of our government should have term limits.

I believe the words, “South Africa allows gay marriage. In my opinion America’s a third world country when it comes to civil rights,” were yelled at me with spit flying. While I’m not going to go quite that far, I do feel people should be less concerned with what happens in their neighbors’ bedrooms and more worried about what happens in the schools and streets of their towns.

Yelling at me, no matter how shrilly, is not going to change my beliefs. Others, though, might tend to go in the opposite direction. And this is the problem we face.

Where political opponents once could sit down and civilly discuss the issues at odds between them, it seems that now in America, volume is king. If someone disagrees with you (or, it seems, even if they agree), just start shouting louder and louder until everyone’s message is drowned out.

Maybe you’ve heard about the crap going on around the country lately with screaming and chanting hoards assaulting their representatives and neighbors with their unintelligible din. And, for the record, this shit is coming from both sides of the health care debate.

Do these idiots really believe there are Nazis in our government? Seriously? Also, according to
Godwin’s Law, by invoking Nazis, they’ve already lost the argument. Anything they now say is worthless.

Health care is just one of the elephants in America’s living room (the others to be discussed at a later time). But the only thing all this wailing and gnashing of teeth is going to do is cause the elephants to stamped. And, when that happens, the problems are bound to crush us to a bloody pulp.

Isn’t it interesting how conservatives in the health care debate invoke the National Socialist German Workers Party against the liberals and, in the gay marriage debate, the liberals do the same to the conservatives? Strange, are we all Nazis? (Talk amongst yer’selves on this one.) Instead of yelling and calling each other Nazis, wouldn’t it be better if we all took a moment to listen?

If we don’t, the only thing that’s going to happen is we’re all going to go deaf.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seek and ye shall find

I went out last Sunday with a friend looking at open houses. We concentrated our efforts in a few areas - which ones I’m not going to tell as you for reasons you'll see - and saw some good, crappy and insanely amazing places. OK, maybe only just-off-its-meds amazing, but still impressive and oh-so-way-out-of-my-price-range.

Here's my problem: While I’ve lived in the D.C. area for four years now I freely admit I don’t know as much about the city as I’d like, especially now that I’m looking to buy a house. Right now I feel like I’m more in the “neighborhood hunting” stage than in the actual “house hunting” stage.

So, what I was wondering, is if you kind folks could help me out? Tell me about your neighborhoods or streets or areas in D.C. (actually in the city) and why I should look for a home there. What makes it good? What are the potential drawbacks?

Enlighten me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Left...right...left (but not in so many words)

Some friends and I journeyed over to Rosslyn Tuesday evening for the Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial, known to some as the Iwo Jima Memorial. Or, as my brother's Scottish rugby coach called it, "That statue of six guys stealing a pipe." Funny people those Scots.

I've been to the parade before, twice in fact, but it's still a pleasant way to spend a summer evening. Here's a couple of pictures of the Silent Drill Platoon.

As we walked in, we noticed a bit of a commotion over this fellow here:

He was introduced as retired Col. George "Bud" Day, a former Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a prisoner of war in Vietnam (he was in the Air Force by then). Here's a picture of the flag they unfurled as he arrived in the reviewing area:

A blue field with 13 white stars, just like the ribbon around his neck. It's the first one I've ever seen. Just after Day was escorted to the reviewing stand, his former Hanoi Hilton cellmate Sen. John McCain arrived to a round of cheers and applause. (I don't know they were actually at the Hilton, but I'm using that as an example. Day and McCain did share a cell.)

First to take the field was the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps.

And after the musical portion of our program, the boys who work without words were up. Like the announcer, I'll point out those M-1 rifles weigh 10 or so pounds and that is a bayonet attached to the muzzle. Just sayin'.

And the big finale: A bugler playing Taps and a 21-gun rifle salute before they marched off into the sunset.

If you're looking for something to do next Tuesday, head on over to Rosslyn for the last Sunset Parade of the summer of 2009.