me

Do you want to know more about the guy who's on the other side of your screen, saying all this stuff?

Then come right in...

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These are my Mission Statements.

rant

These are my longer "deep-dive" articles on specific subjects so they don't get lost.

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The fun stuff that doesn't fit elsewhere.

We All Need to Go Back To Kindergarten

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I was involved with something this past weekend. Part of it involved etiquette. The person talking about said, "Remember what you were taught in Kindergarten." This struck a deep chord within me, because no matter where I look or go in this world, either in-person or on-line, I meet too many people who's first response to most situations is to be mean and hurtful. Frankly, any number above zero is too many.

The types of meaness are almost too many to count. Being mean to to others because they don't measure to "your" standards, anger at others who had nothing to do about why you are angry and can do nothing to solve the reason why you're angry. Maybe they don't have the same opinion/belief on a particular subject.

I feel pity for those people whos sole life purpose is to be offended about something. Or those who for some reason cannot stand another person having a different opinion or outlook on anything.

I have a single memory of Kindergarten. Mrs. Bowers was my teacher, a heavyset older lady, she retired not too long after I left her class. All I rember of her is her, with her back to me, playing a three note chord on the piano to signify the end of playtime. I did remember what she taught us about life.

  • Be nice to each other. You don't have to like others, however you should always be polite.
  • Share what's important. Make sure others have what they need.
  • Life is not fair. Help others when you can.
  • Play fair. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, the experience of playing with others is what you should aim for. A poor player quickly runs out of others to play with.
  • Clean up after yourself. Leave where you've been a little nicer than how you found it.
  • Apologize when you hurt others. Remember how you felt when you were hurt.
  • Don't take things that don't belong to you.
  • We are all different and the same. We each have different abilities, desires and interests. But we are all people.
  • Never lose your sense of wonder.

There are many others, but if all of us could at least try and start to do these nine things consistently, imagine how wonderful our communities would be.

The Truth is...

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... Somewhere in the middle.

I found an entry in my FB page this morning, about a 21 year-old woman, who posted "PUT ME IN CHARGE..." (I quoted it below) and in my usual due dilliegence, I found it came out five years ago, by someone else.

Here it is, dated November 18th, 2010:

Put me in charge ...

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine and document all tattoos and piercings. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, smoke or get tats and piercings, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your “home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good.”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

Alfred W. Evans, Gatesville

 I can at least partially agree with Mr. Evans. Benjamin Franklin spoke on the subject of Welfare, "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it."

There is also always more to the story. Someone always reads into others writings intent and meaning that is not there. Case in point, this reponse, posted July 16th, 2011. Because the first is a letter to the editor, I can post (with attributation) the entire letter. This is an article, so unfortunately even with attributation I cannot post the entire article. The author of this article is Mr. David Price.

Sometimes people form opinions about other people without knowing the full story. The well-traveled letter by Alfred W. Evans is a sterling example.

My 32-year-old son receives assistance from the government. He receives food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.

He needs the assistance because he is not able to work. He has had epilepsy since age 6. He’s gone through all kinds of hell for 26 years trying all sorts of drugs and operations that haven’t stopped his seizures. I would never wish his condition on anyone. Yet he lives with it. He has about five seizures a day. Can you imagine living with that disability?

Mr. Price goes on to document the every day challenges and difficulties his son faces. My only point about Mr. Price's letter is he says his son is on "Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance." Having extensive experience with the disability system (as a recepient and the father of a recepient) Mr. Price does not seem to realize that one person cannot be on both because they are mutually exclusive. SSI is for people who do not have a work history, SSDI is for people with a work history. When you apply for disability, you are applying for both. During the process to approve or deny your request for benefits part of the decisions include either SSI or SSDI because you can only receive benefits from one program or the other. Perhaps that is the source of his misunderstanding.

Mr. Price does not seem to realize the primary point of Mr. Evans letter. I understand Mr. Evans as referring to those who can work, however they refuse to do so.

I was employed from 99% of the time from age 16 until I was 39, when my mental illness tore my life apart. I spent ten years on SSDI, working part time most of it because of various reasons you can learn about in my archives. My son has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder which was diagnosed when he was 6 years old. He is on SSI. The last time he got on the local public transportation to go somewhere by himself, he got off at the wrong stop, became disoriented and I had to go and get him. He would love to have a job as well. My son is extremely bright and intelligent, however he is unable to handle unexpected situations on his own.

I can see both of these gentlemans' points. They are both correct, in their own context and paradigm. I firmly believe if you are able to work, if you apply for government assistance, the government should work you as hard as possible as an incentive for you to acquire a marketable skill and join the ranks of the employed. If, for some reason you are not capable to perform work, that is the true case of charity.

A beautiful thing

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Here you have a stadium, a conductor, his orchestra, a chorus of about 200 singers... And 10,000 of their friends.

Who all join together in singing the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Beautiful does not begin to describe it.

The aspects of marriage

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This is about the SCOTUS decision on Obergefell v. Hodges.

I ask that you read this entire post, as I am looking at this issue from several disparate angles. If you miss one point, you will miss what I am trying to say by a wide margin.

First, I have friends and acquaintences who are straight, bisexual, gay and lesbian. I do not qualify my friends and acquaintences by their skin color, religion (or lack thereof), sexual orientation or any demographic quantification. If we enjoy each others company and respect each others beliefs and opinions, that's all I'm looking for.

Second, who my friends and acquaintences feel strongly about, and what they do with, to and about those they feel strongly about is quite frankly none of my damn business.

So, with this decision being about marriage, let's look at the history of marriage and what was it invented for.

Way back when, at the dawn of human history, a man protected what he considered his by force. If he had (or wanted) an animal carcass, a cave/hut or a woman, he would have to defend it or take it away from another by force. There was no 911 or police back then to help the defender. If the attacker beat off the defender, the attacker got to eat, have a safe place to sleep and sex.

Both sexes are hard-wired to preserve their genetic line. Men express this by wanting to impregnate as many women as possible, thus insuring his genetic line by sheer numbers. Women express this through quality, by partnering with a male they believe will successfully provide for and protect her and the offspring, thus greatly improving the chances of her offspring reaching the age they can have their own children. While each society handles this differently, over the thousands of years of human development this has narrowed down in most societies to the male, agreeing to provide for and protect the woman and children in exchange for exclusive procreation with the woman and official claimage of the children. Thus, one man, one woman.

This partnership and desire for "legitimate lineage" gave rise to what we now call family names. In many societies, this genetic lineage was traced from the male. The male children kept the family name, the woman took the husband's family name upon marriage. Again, societies developed differently. For example, in Jewish culture, lineage is traced through the woman, rather than the man. In the West, if you are known as "John Smith," in Asian culture the family comes first, so you would be called "Smith John."

With the rise of societies, religion and government, this pairing became codified in many religions and many governmental laws. And with approval of the "one man one woman" came the condemnation of those unions that could not produce offspring (same-sex), a high chance of deformed children (as in mating between close blood relatives), or a clear lineage. Thus it has been for a couple thousand years.

In the past 500 years or so, the State has become more and more interested and regulatory in the aspects of "breeding pairs." Government began encouraging this behavior, by offering incentives to those "legalized breeding couples," in the past century this has devolved into the "marriage and dependant tax credit." Today, the Church has been religated to an optional minor role in the marriage, basically certifying the union. The licensing to approve and legitimize the union is handled by the State, as well as the divorce process when the union is no longer viable.

What does the (interim) bottom line mean? It means the State has, for all intents and purposes, assumed the burden of administering the process of interpersonal partnerships. Due to that power, if the State decides that the only criteria for marriage is a person loves and deeply cares for whom they want to marry, without regard to procreation, they can do just that. I do not need to document the numerous offenses where the government has gone against the will of the people. The consequences of that decision will go far beyond what anybody intended. Get ready for marriage between people and animals, people and their possessions, blood relatives and so on. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

And I am perfectly fine with this. Because it's none of my damn business what they do in private. I am going to neither condone nor condemn if a person wants to marry their iPhone and get their jollies with its vibrate feature. I'll just wait for the fireworks when it's time to upgrade or they change providers.

Now, this case was decided on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was drafted and ratified right after the Civil War. The clauses of this Amendment covered various things, like overturning the "three-fifths" apportionment of Slaves, prevented those who were active in the rebellion from holding federal office and sticking whomever financed the Confedracy with an empty bag and unable to collect on those debts.

The clause that Obergefell v. Hodges hung its hat on was the first Clause, which binds the States to the same obligations as the federal government.

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privlidges or immunities of citizens of the United States, ... [N]or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law."

While they did succeed, this was a bad hook to hang their hat on. It would have been much clearer if they had gone for Article Four, Section 1:

"Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records and judicial proceedins of every other State. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."

Which boils down to "What's legal in California has to be recognized in Kentucky and vice versa." If you and your spouse get married in Ohio, move to Oregon, get divorced and individually move back to Ohio, you're still divorced. Oregon had to honor the Ohio marriage certificate and Ohio has to honor the Oregon divorce decree.

Here is where I have a problem with this decision: This reciprocity is not consistently applied. If I have a drivers license, that document is accepted as proof of my identity and qualification of my ability to operate a motor vehicle in all fifty States and the Territorities as well. A marriage certificate legally obtained in one State should be likewise recognized. This decision now enforces a definition of marriage from the federal government on the States. All States must now adhere to this new definition. It is one thing for Kansas to have to recognize a same-sex marriage certificate issued by New York. I think forcing Kansas to issue same-sex marriage licenses without the Kansas State government nor the citizens of Kansas having a say in the matter is totally different and very wrong.

Now I have to ask, why is this standard not equally held for concealed weapons licenses? Everything I can say about the prior examples are valid for this one, with the additional argument of the Second Amendement. So, I would look for a forced reciprocity of CCW licenses throught the US in the near future.

What has me upset is each State is supposed to be an individual entity, which gives some of their powers to the federal government in exchange for the common defense and other advantages. That means each State should have the power to regulate the affairs that occur within the borders of the State without the interference of other States or the federal government. This decision, along with its predecessors such as Roe v. Wade has destroyed that ability of local government.

The Civil War changed us as a people. In our antebellum age, we considered ourselves as citizens of the States first, America second. Postbellum, we became Americans, a citizen of the country first, a state citizen second.

I fear very, very soon the States will no longer be independent States, with their own culture and identity. They are rapidly passing into being provinces, totally subservient entities to the federal government.

 

RAW and RAI

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Every one of the miniature wargaming systems I have played, at one time or another (some constantly) has an "RAW/RAI" argument. These stand for "Rules As Written" versus "Rules As Intended."

There are specific places where RAW and RAI go. They also have different objectives. There are also "rules lawyers" who attempt to break down each individual phrase, with the intent of "it doesn't say I can't, so that must mean I can."

Also, the written word is very powerful. When each word has an agreed upon meaning, there must be only that meaning for that word. There may be other words with a similar meaning, however that does not make the two words equal in meaning.

Looking at my current primary miniatures game, Battletech, the RAI gives the history of the Battletech Universe and what each of the rulesets do. There are currently four core fulebooks, with a fifth due out "soon-ish." Each of these tomes gives detailed rules on how to do what.

The Constitution is also very similar. There is the "RAI" area, namely the preamble where the reason and the goals of the Constitution is laid out in very broad terms.

...in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...

Then we have the Rules As Written, like Article 1, Section 9, 3rd paragraph:

No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.

This passage means that no small, specific group(s) of the People shall be targeted for punishment or profit and no law can effect the Actions of the people that were committed before the law was passed. If you know the definitions of "bill of attainder" and "ex post facto," the meaning of that part of the Constitution is clear.

I can think of several instances where this law was violated, the first one coming to mind was the Domestic Violence Act which was passed in the 90's. It stripped anyone convicted of any domestic violence charge of their Second Amendment rights, including misdeameanor convictions, even if the conviction was years before this law passed and all obligations have been fully discharged. The bill of attainder example is one where several years ago Washington wanted to punish bankers on Wall Street, so they passed a law of a 90% tax on any bonuses that was structured and worded in such a way that the law only affected less than 100 people nationwide, all of them on Wall Street.

Now we have the SCOTUS ruling in King v Burwell, over this part of the IRS Code:

(2) (a) the monthly premiums for such month for 1 or more qualified health plans offered in the individual market within a State which cover the taxpayer, the taxpayer's spouse, or any dependent (as defined in section 152) of the taxpayer and which were enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under 1311 [1] of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, [...] Bolded is mine

So, the law is quite clear, it quite clearly reads for each State that has a health care market individual to the State. By the way, Johnathan Gruber, the principal writer of this monstrosity, has clearly stated on multiple occasions that it was written this way to force the States into using the exchange. We have the authors words, and his voiced concurrence to cement his intent.

Today, SCOTUS rules that, "Those are what the words say, but that is not what they mean."

Mr. Roberts (I will from now on have great difficulty using the word "Justice" with his name) wrote in the Majority opinion:

The combination of no tax credits and an ineffective coverage requirement could well push a State’s individual insurance market into a death spiral. It is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner. Congress made the guaranteed issue and community rating requirements applicable in every State in the Nation, but those requirements only work when combined with the coverage requirement and tax credits. It thus stands to reason that Congress meant for those provisions to apply in every State as well. Pp. 15–19.

To tell you the truth, I don't give a running rats ass what they meant. This is what they said, and the law should be appliled as they said. If that is not what they meant, then Congress should change the law so it says that they meant.

Arrogance

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This clip clearly shows how The Illustrious One thinks. The exchange starts at 35:00 and the actual comment at 35:45.

The comment in question from the President was, "Hey, listen, you're in my house."

I do not have a problem with the President ejecting disruptive attendeees. I DO have a problem in him thinking that the office he holds, the authority invested in him and where he lives is "his."

No, Mr. President, that is NOT "your house." It is the PEOPLE'S HOUSE. You rent. When our elected officials think that the power granted to them is theirs personally to wield as they please, rather than in service to those who elected them, things never end well for the People.

Identification

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I am disconcerted by recent events. I am seeing people who want to be something else. If they are one skin color, they want to be another. If they are of one sex, they want to be another. I actually understand how that can happen on a genetic level.

We should identify ourselves as human beings. No more, no less. All of our ancestors came out of Africa. Our skin colors became different due to our ancestors migrating and settling in the differing climates of Earth.

That being said, there are some divisions between us. We have two sexes, both of which are needed for procreation. We have different customs, languages and societal norms, generally based on location. What is accepted as societal norms in Moscow, Russia is different from Moscow, Idaho.

But this, this labeling of people into groups within a group based exclusively on outward charastics, I am unable to abide nor tolerate this. The further we divide people into groups, be it by skin color, economic status, sexual orientation, sexual preference, all this does is promote hatred. This pigeon-holing of everybody does nothing but promote the "he is different from me, therefore I fear and hate him" mentality.

I don't care what your skin color is, if you are male, female or somewhere inbetween (or even outside of those choices), who you want to have intimate relations with, none of that. I care what is in your heart. How do you treat the people around you? The character of a person is shown by how they treat someone who can do nothing for them. Do you seek to help others, or unfairly profit from them?

It is the Liberals drive to label people by cosmetic features that led to this Rachael Dolezal fiasco. In order to insure "proportional representation" in employment, employers have to ask by force of law your sex and race when you apply for a job. Ms. Dolezal's genetic heritage or her "racial identity" should not be qualifiers for where she is employed. Under the definitions of law, she has a particular skin color. There is no provision in that law for what racial skin color she identifies with. She should have been truthful with her legal statements. This is a character issue. I can with say I am a Martian every day of the week and twice on Sunday. When filling out a job application, my wants and needs do not enter into it. In order to check one (or more) of the demographic boxes, I have to adhere to the definitions of those boxes as set forth by the law of the land.

Can we get rid of the labels, please?

Flipping the Switch

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Okay, folks.

I got tired of going through years of old posts, trying to get things just right before I cut over to Joomla. So, I cut to the chase. I started at the newest posts and worked my way backward into March for a start. I will be filling in the old posts as I can while enjoying Joomla rather than struggling with WordPress, as I have for a couple of years.

Enjoy.

Customer Service done right

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Back in May, I ripped iPage up one side and down the other for what they failed to do, make any effort to keep my websites and data secure.

Most people are all too willing to proclaim the shortfalls of another, but are rarely as enthusiastic as that when someone goes above and beyond the call to help them.

I am not one of those people. Let me tell you a story of customer service done right.

My beautiful bride of 26 years has some serious medical issues that require expensive medications that allow her to function. Without them, she is in constant massive pain, mental fog and physically unable to function. She also has a chance of dropping dead if these conditions are not monitored and treated. These medications allow her to have a quality of life.

Since I was laid off in February of 2014, her supply of these medications has been erratic at best. Every time she ran low, she became scared and took it out on me. Not because she was angry at me for failing to get her the medications, she had no one else she could express her feelings and fears to.

Now that I am employed, we are able to afford her to visit a clinic and receive prescriptions from a doctor for those medications. I chose RX Outreach to obtain these medications at such a discount that we can afford them.

I am not relating all of the little twists, turns and issues that went on for the sake of brevity. These are the important facts to know in this instance.

We were on TennCare when I was on disability for my own condition back in 2005, when the State of Tennessee parterned with Express Scripts and TennCare passed my wife's information to Express Scripts. We never knew about it and never used them. RX Outreach split off from Express Scripts some time ago and received a copy of her information.

I signed up with RX Outreach for my wife and the new information I gave them when I enrolled in May 2015 did not overwrite the 2005 information. Hence, when I attempted to log back in, I couldn't because the system was looking at the 2005 information when it was asking me security questions. I had to speak with a CSR (Customer Service Representative) to get it straightened out. Except she didn't follow through and purge the system of the old information.

When I got the prescriptions to RX Outreach and they send the medications, the meds went to our 2005 address that should have been deleted (we moved out of that address in 2007 and I told the CSR that).

It took multiple calls to track down where the meds were, why they were delivered to the old address, and how to get this straightened out.

This is an admonition to all of YOU, who have to call and speak with CSR's when things go wrong. Do not yell at them, do not curse them out or disrespect them. That's the best way to make sure it takes longer to solve your issue than if you are nice to them. They are very limited in what they are able to do.

My advice is always to be assertive, not aggressive. Make it clear to the CSR what the problem is, why you are upset and what you expect to happen. Let the CSR know you are upset at what is going on, not at them personally. Put yourself in their place. You do not have to insult or belittle the person, they are not resposible for the mistake and probably can't make it right. If they can't, ask for a supervisor. Usually, the supervisor has the authority to properly address the issue. If they don't, ask for their supervisor and so on until you reach someone with the authority to set things right.

My wife did run out of her most important medication for a couple of days. She was scared, upset and non-functional. I felt like I was a rawhide chew toy for a pit bull.

I finally got to a manager who listened to the recordings of my calls, heard that the original CSR started the entire chain of events by not deleting the old information when I told her to, and overnighted a new set of medications at no charge.

Here's the part I want to emphasize: The next day, I received a call from the Director of Operations for the company. We spent about 45 minutes discussing what went on, what worked and didn't work and my suggestions to how to improve communication and handle situations like this.

His response was he let the original CSR go, spoke with both managers and the other CSRs that I had interacted with to let them know where there was room for improvement and he was instituting a new training program and procedures for situations like this. He also gave me (I did not ask for this) a 3 month credit on the one critical medication my wife needs and his direct phone number for if this happens again.

Please remember this: No one is perfect, mistakes will be made by everybody. It is how you deal with and make the mistakes right that I will grade you. If you blow me off, you don't get my business anymore. You make the mistake right, I will keep doing business with you. Go go above and beyond making it right, I let everyone I know about you.

Idiot of the Year

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I have to post this: US Air Force Targets and Destroys ISIS HQ Building Using Social Media.

The short version is, an ISIS fighter posted a selfie on social media and was boasting about the "command-and-control" capabilities of the building he was in.

We saw it and extracted the EXIF data from the selfie, which gave us the exact location of said command-and-control bunker.

22 hours after he posted his selfie, 3 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions, GPS guided 1,000+ pound bombs) penetrated the roof of the building, wiping it from the face of the earth.

Just remember that whenever you post a selfie.

Six Seconds To Live

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I found this speech this morning, fitting for Memorial Day. This was given by USMC General Paul Kelly, in November of 2010, four days after losing one of his sons in Afghanistan.

I am quoting the entirety of the speech because I don’t want you to miss a word.

Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “ … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds.

Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

I want to emphasize that last sentence: That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight – for you.

When most people hear the phrase, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” they think of Gandalf. From this point forward, I will be reminded of Corporal Yale and Lance Corporal Haerter.

I’m going to be a bit…

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The upgrade I am performing, is turning out to be very labor intensive. I am looking at 80 hours worth of effort to perform this conversion. Between work, the lodge, the family and the house, I will be lucky to get 4 hours of work on the conversion a week. Which means it will be 4-5 months before I can flip the switch. It is the volume of my work on this blog over the past 11+ years that is the major barrier.

I have been screwed by “conversion utilities” in the past. They get everything almost right, with the end result of having to spend at least the original amount of time to go through all of the content to make sure nothing was missed.

Scylla and Charybdis are a matched pair of bitches.

UPDATE: I did a timed run, and I have a rough average of 99 Seconds a post. This works out to 64 hours of conversion work. While still daunting, it is better than 80 hours. And I’m going to try and knock 8+ of it off between today and tomorrow.

Change is Coming

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I am moving forward with an upgrade project for The Conservative Zone. This will likely take a couple of months because of what I have to do, how I have to do it and how much time there is in a day. I am moderately sure you will be pleasantly surprised when I “flip the switch."

An Important Life Lesson

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Whenever I see a picture or graphic I like, I save it on my iPad, then download it to my home system on Sunday mornings. One really hit me and I wanted to share the lesson.

The picture was about a little girl complaining about things not being fair to her father.

Her fathers response:

You’re never going to get the same things as other people. It will never be equal. The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough.

Think about that for a moment. Don’t compare what you have against what someone else has, because some will have more, or less, or not the same as you. Make sure they have enough. The truest test of your character is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm.

I think if each us did this, imagine how much better the would would be.

Another Statistical Sampling

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Speaking of statistics, I found an article that comes from data from Neighborhood Scout, listing the “25 most dangerous neighborhoods” in the US. I washed it through a spreadsheet and came up with the following information.

First of all, some neighborhoods were spread out over more than one zip code. I stuck with the first one in those cases for simplicity. Second, there were three zip codes that appeared twice on the list, so now there is really only 22 entries. I then went to a link off the Census Bureau’s website to Proximity One and got the White and Black populations for those zip codes and did a search engine on the political affiliation for the mayors. I wanted to see how long the mayors have been from one party had been in control of the city, but most cities websites were not forthcoming with that information.

So, 22 zip codes, comprising 15 different cities. 74% of those zip codes are primarily Black residents. 9 of the cities have Democrat Mayors, 3 Republican, 2 unknown affiliation and 1 Independent.

Chicago and Detroit came in “first,” with three zip codes each on the list. Houston, Indianapolis and St. Louis each had two zip codes and the rest had one zip code.

I plan to look into this more, perhaps with slightly different criteria.