A Day of Oddities

Road kill is an ordinary occurrence in these parts. Witnessing the transformation of critter carcasses into pavement pizza is as common as are crooked politicians in Washington. So, while driving through the park the other morning I was not a bit surprised to see a small critter corpse lying in the middle of the road. Except that it was a duck. In all of my years of seeing the results of varmints meeting car grills, I have never seen a duck. While I was having that thought, I looked up to see another duck making a kamikaze flight down the middle of the road at about windshield level. This one was either more fortunate than his wingman or I was not the intended target as he veered off of his strafing run at the last possible moment. I looked into his eyes, or maybe it was her eyes, and I swear the duck was screaming as it bailed out. Maybe the duck was a chicken.

It was the second odd occurrence of the day. The first came when I flipped open the laptop during morning coffee to read a headline on Drudge that said; Osama is dead shot in the head. Sure enough, I flipped on the television to news that a team of Navy SEALS had surgically removed bin Laden’s face with a high velocity 5.56 MM scalpel. Then I watched the replay of the President’s announcement from the night before. Listening to his speech (text here from Whitehouse.gov), it was painfully obvious to me, that it was not an announcement prepared in the immediate moments after the mission was completed and our Special Operators were clear and safe. It was like the obituaries of the rich and famous, written well in advance of the predictable event. It was odd to me. Like a duck cruising down the middle of the road.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction

Why not a concise announcement? Bright September day, cloudless September sky, black smoke billowing up, and heartbreak and destruction are not phrases I would choose to announce a successful military operation resulting in the justified killing of a mass murderer. I would also can the speech writer that prepared those remarks to announce a serious and significant event in our nation’s modern history. I do not understand why the President could not just announce that members of the United States Armed Forces conducted a raid inside of Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. There were no US casualties. And then, before all of the differing Whitehouse versions of the mission developed just say that as a matter of national security, the particulars of the operation and the personnel involved are and will remain classified.

Another oddity is the debate about whether pictures of the dead and faceless Osama should be released. What do you think is behind that debate? I believe it is trust. One of my favorite quotes, which I will paraphrase, is that trust is like the soul, once it is lost it never returns. Too many Americans have lost trust in our leaders. It is at the stage in our country where you cannot just proclaim it; you must now provide evidence to prove it. As integrity crumbles so does America.

Odder still was that we apparently honored the man the media charmingly refers to as UBL with a proper Muslim burial at sea. I do not hold for intentional desecration of any body, even road kill. But, I do believe that every person, dead or alive, should be treated with the respect they have earned. I would have left his faceless carcass lying in his mud mansion and let the Pakistanis, who had no idea he was living a few hundred feet from their military academy, attend to his state funeral.

I do not want to conjure up anything, but there is just too much about this story spin that does not add up, but I am a terminal cynic.

It was a bright and sunny spring afternoon. Wild flowers were just beginning to point their faces toward the sun. The trees were filling out turning the hills varying shades of green. Moonlight Sonata wafted from the premium sound system. The traffic was rather light as I exited the Interstate high way. Someone was standing at the foot of the exit ramp. As I approached, I noticed an old beater parked on the road side. The young man standing there looked somewhat distressed, but in no apparent pain. In one hand he held a red sign. It said to the point, “Need Gas.” In his other hand was a red gas can. Probably a hundred yards away and in plain view of the exit was a gas station. The posted price in letters visible from the highway said $4.29. I did not see any ducks.



Did you hear? Faster than a speeding bullet, our most renowned superhero intends to renounce his American citizenship. I do not know which is the funniest. That he is going to do it or that it got coverage from practically every major news outlet.

Hyphenated superheroes? Why not? It is the American thing to do is it not? We continue to play opposites with our national motto. It is now from one many.

This illegal alien from Krypton, as far as I am able to tell, did not enter the United States on an approved visa through a controlled entry point. Nope, like a drug smuggler, he landed his covert aircraft in a Kansas farm field. From there he was aided and abetted by a Kansas couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, who gave him a false identity and hid his illegal alien status from the unsuspecting residents of Smallville. Kansas mother. Faked identity. I must admit I do not like where this train of thought is leading.

I demand to see the paper trail on this one. How does a fictitious character, from a fictitious planet, who grew up in a fictitious Kansas farm community hiding his true identity and who now skulks behind a pair of nerd glasses as Clark Kent working as a fake journalist in fictitious Metropolis renounce his fictitious citizenship. Does his driver’s license say Superman or Clark Kent? Once his true fake identity is known will his arch enemy Lex Luthor drop some kryptonite into his diet soda?

That is what I want to know. Are you ready for it? Who issued this fake man the fake birth certificate that was necessary to establish his American citizenship in the first place? The next thing you know, he will be running for the presidency. We know his real name is Kal-El and he is an illegal alien. His real daddy is Jor-El. Jerome Corsi, please investigate.

It is a sad spectacle when our national identity is closely attached to a comic book character. In the day, however, characters like Superman reinforced for American children, like me, that standing up for truth, justice and the American way was important. Now, this comic book character, whose influence is more potent than we may be willing to acknowledge, is teaching our children that the American way is no longer sufficient. It needs to be the global way, an international way, and a way not driven by American leadership. Superman no longer belongs to America and in his new world view the American way is on par with the North Korean way. He is a citizen of the world. He can now leap the United Nations building in a single bound and use his super powers to make sure America toes the global line. At least he came right out and said it, rather than putting forth faux patriotism while taking actions to show how deeply he despises the American way.

The United States of America was founded on a single guiding principle. God-given freedom. Freedom on loan to us from our creator. Freedoms that cannot be taken from us by men less we choose to allow them to be taken. That enduring principle was woven into all aspects of the American way. Being the only nation in the history of the world founded on such a principle is what made and still makes us an exceptional nation. This ideal was reinforced by accounts of real heroes, our fictional heroes and preached to us by our real leaders. Now, although appearing as an insignificant comic book hero, our newly ordained Kryptonian-American has declared that the exceptional American way is not so important. You may not realize it, but that is just another slam at our foundation. Targeting the minds of children and telling them that there is nothing exceptional about our country.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s a Kryptonian-American! Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He’s the Kryptonian-American. Always fighting for truth, justice and all of that other stuff.

© 2011

Traveler Part 5

Vacation is winding down. Jet lag is almost gone. Sleep pattern should be near normal by the time it is turned upside down again on the return trip. Supposedly, there are plenty of ways to defeat jet lag. I intend to try another one next time. This time I tried the see food method to defeat it. The method is simple, while on vacation if you see food eat it. I will let you know how that turns out. That is if I can manage to keep my jeans buttoned during the trip home. Maybe I will resort to some of those britches with the expando waist band.

The sum of jet lag and keeping pace with the energy of two granddaughters added to the marathon shopping expeditions of one grandma equals a challenge for any grandpa. But to spend time with all of my favorite girls, I would happily start it over again tomorrow. Well, maybe day after tomorrow. That gives me time to restock my Motrin supply needed to counteract the back pain from trying to keep up with granddaughters and doubling as Grandma’s pack mule.

When is the last time that you went on an airplane ride that lasted more than 13 hours? I took my first such trip as an Army private in 1972. For those of you who may not be familiar with traveling Soldier lore, that first trip was on a Military Airlift Command (MAC) charter flight operated by Flying Tiger Airlines. Enterprising young Soldiers turned that airline’s initials into a whole set of acronyms. Fun, Travel and Adventure and yes, there were others, but I will leave them to your imagination. Flying Tigers has a history dating back to WWII. They were the long distance cargo carrier of the world for a time. Their history included military flights and even some covert ones, but don’t tell anyone I told you that. If you wonder what became of them, they were bought out by Federal Express. There is the answer to your military trivia question for the day.

These long air trips are a little more comfortable almost 40 years later, but sharing a flying cattle car with a couple hundred of your new best friends for 13 plus hours is still challenging. I do not have any great trips for surviving long duration flights. Except perhaps to stand frequently and annoy your neighbor first.

I remember when they used to try to project a movie on a screen for you to watch for your in flight entertainment. My Flying Tigers expedition had no movies. The best bet for entertainment was a book, sleep or searching for missing rivets in the wings. Playing rock, scissors, paper to see who gets to “accidentally” press the attendant call button is also entertaining. They place them right beside the reading light button. Or now they are on the touch screen of your personal digital display. These days, each seat has its own personal digital entertainment system including multiple movies, television programming, radio programs, music selections and games. It is more advanced than my cell phone and is sufficient to keep you occupied for much of a long trip. If it works. Our system was rebooted several times by an apologetic attendant. For the equivalent of a government bailout, you can purchase first class seats if you want. Sorry, bailout is probably not a good choice of words to use in connection with air travel.

If you are traveling soon, I wish you well.

Three weeks have been rather relaxing. Withdrawal from politics and news was also refreshing. If we could eliminate the travel portion of vacation, it would be better. I guess it will be a while still before our smart phones act as teleporters.

Hope I haven’t bored you with these posts while vacationing. Beam me up Scottie.


Traveler Part 4

I may be wrong. I have been before. There was that one time in 1970… Maybe we will talk about that some other time.

Do you reckon there are more homeless adults in the United States than there is cell phone-less adults? I have seen some of our presumed “homeless” using cell phones. Of course it could be similar to the lady wearing her tin foil hat and talking to her grocery cart. Frankly, I believe it is only a matter of time before humans quit having person to person conversations without assistance from an electronic gizmo middle man. At least the grocery cart lady, unless she had a friend tied up in one of those Hefty two-ply trash bags, talked directly to her grocery cart. I am sure that is because there are no Bluetooth enabled grocery carts or smart phones that also double as grocery carts – yet. However, hands free Bluetooth enabled grocery carts may make it easier to navigate grocery aisles.

Let’s see, we were traveling. Right, I remember now. Sitting at the gate and waiting for a boarding announcement, except for a woman pecking away on her laptop, practically every person present was either yakking away on a cell phone or performing smart phone tricks. The gentleman sitting right beside of me was making call after call, each of which he initiated by speaker phone. I had to listen to the ring on the other end and sometimes the voice mail prompt. As annoying at this guy was, I would have preferred that he talk to my voice mail too. I do not know how we survived all of those years before cell phones. We were clearly out of touch. Now, everyone has one and apparently the need to talk on it or text on it incessantly.

A young woman sitting behind me, in her early 20’s if I had to guess, was having a jubilant conversation with someone clearly of equal exuberance. We were being forced fed CNN and there was a spot announcing that President Obama was running again in 2012. This shocking revelation was the source of her glee. She proclaimed to whoever it was with whom she was conversing that there was no one out there that could possibly defeat him. She wished aloud, for the benefit of all present I presume, that Trump would actually run because there was just no way he could ever win or that it be Palin because she was just like so stupid. Try to hear that in your minds ear spoken in valley girl dialect.

The nannies who want to regulate every aspect of our lives should investigate all of the people wandering around like zombies with their eyes not on their direction of travel, but firmly affixed to their smart phones.

Near boarding time, an announcement informed us that our flight was delayed. There was a ground stop at our destination because of severe weather. This is another annoyance of air travel. A delay anywhere down the line affects travel across the country. This announcement caused a surge in cell phone activity. We departed only one hour late and arrived in plenty of time to make our connecting flight.

When we arrived at one of our nation’s major airports, we were surprised to find that we were inside the TSA security and walked several concourses to arrive at our gate with not even a glimpse of security. Not a single one. In days past, before TSA, I have memories of armed airport security police and occasionally local police walking the air terminals like beat cops. Our only security screening before we boarded a 777 with enough fuel in it for a very long flight, was at a small regional airport.

TSA must look to change it methods, or at least keep potential killers guessing. As long as they are focused on my shoes or the size of the bottle of hand sanitizer I have, it tells me they are waiting for the killers to show them something different.

What if a half-dozen people in cohort all carried a 4 ounce bottle of liquid onto an airplane? And, how many components could they squirrel away in those smart phones? Just thinking out loud.

© 2011

Traveler Part 3

In the Army, the grunts are the people on the ground that carry out the mission and try to do the best possible job within their leader supplied parameters. That is the context in which we should view the TSA officers who screen us before we are able to board a commercial aircraft.

If the grunts fail, the failure is most always a leadership failure. Inevitably, however, it is the low paid grunt doing the best that he or she can within the given bounds who gets the blame. Unfortunately, it is the same manner of blame that is meted out by talking heads, most of them self-labeled conservatives, when they gleefully lambaste all government workers who are doing the best they can within the parameters laid out for them by the government’s leadership. The leadership that was elected by the people who are doing the complaining. Is that not a paradox? Sadly, very few of the mouthy class take out their ire on the leaders who make the rules by which the grunts must operate. Oh, not to worry, the leadership joins the talkers in blaming their failures on the grunts in the middle who are trying to adhere to their oft inane direction. The system is dysfunctional and we are part of the reason. Our anger should be directed at those who are most responsible for it.

Sorry, I did not mean to digress off into something other than my traveling woes. It is just that the opportunities to exploit my attention deficit disorder continue to present themselves.

The TSA officer checked our passports and our boarding passes. He examined our passports with his flashlight. I am sure he must have been looking for a mark of some sort that would only show up with his light. I have no clue. The thought occurred to me that my passport was already checked by the person who gave me my boarding pass. Would it not make sense to have the TSA officer check the passports for problems before issuing a boarding pass? Better yet, might it not be a good idea if when you purchased a ticket online that your passport information was cleared through TSA before the purchase? And, if there was a problem you might need to call to book your flight? I do recall providing personal information “required by the TSA” at ticket purchase time. I am certain that there is some regulation or policy that prevents addressing potential problems before one turns up at the airport.

Remove your jacket and place it in a bin. Put your cap in the bin. Empty your pockets and place all of that in a bin. Send your hand carried bags through the scanner. Remove your laptop computer from its case and put it in a bin by itself, but no need to remove the Kindle. Remove your shoes and place them in a bin. Now step through the metal detector. Beeeep. Step back. Remove your belt and place it in a bin. Now step back through please. No beep this time, fortunately. I did not know what I would do if the metal plate that is holding pieces of my foot together caused the machine to beep. Remove your foot and place it in the bin?

I shuffled to the end of the conveyer holding my pants up with one hand while trying to locate my belt in all of the stuff that is now piled together at the end. First secure the britches. Then try to locate the shoes and put them on. Must consider slip on shoes next time. Strange, they did not separately scan the pair of shoes that I had to remove from my 4 pound overweight suitcase and place into the carryon bag. Put the computer back in the bag. Grab the carry on. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the guy with the rubber gloves. He did have his eye on me though, I could tell. Phew, re-dressed and headed for the gate.

I do not know what the measure of success is for the TSA. If it is the number of terrorists captured during the screening process then as far as I know, that is zero. We do know that there have been no terror related air catastrophes since the agency was formed and but one originating in the United States that really counted before that. What we do not know is if TSA is the deterrent that we can credit for the lack of air terror since 911. That is not measurable although the lack of events will always be used to insinuate that the agency is a success. We also know that some wannabe bombers, although fortunately unsuccessful, have made it through the screening process and onto airplanes. That is measurable failure. The shoe bomber is why we have to remove our shoes and walk around on a dirty air terminal floor in our sock feet. We still do not know what we have to give up because of the underwear bomber, except for potentially X-rated full body scans. Or, maybe we can just remove our drawers and drop them into a bin too.

If the TSA continues along the same path using the same methods, with enough determination more killers will eventually get through.

© 2011

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