Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What did they expect?

At a personal level the only thing I can compare the devastation from Katrina to is the loss of the WTC on 9/11. It's not as bad, I'll grant you, for any of a number of reasons. Even so, the visceral feel I have when I see all of that damage and realize "those are my neighbors" is reminiscent. And horrible.

Which is why I, personally, can't fathom the sentiment I'm starting to pick up from some of my work-mates. Namely: "Hey, you live along the Gulf of Mexico, you've got to expect these things. It's not as if it hasn't happened before..."

I'm afraid that my faith in humanity in general, and Americans in particular, continues to wane. The upside of that, of course, is that my Faith in Jesus grows, but it's certainly not a painless path (not that it's supposed to be, but I digress).

I've lived all over the northeastern quadrant of the United States. I've lived in the Lake Effect Snow regions of upstate NY; I've lived in the Hurricane/Blizzard regions of New England. I now live a commutable distance from NYC.

I know what it's like to see more than 3 feet of snow fall in a day (many times, in fact). I know what it's like to see houses washed into the see. These days I know, completely, that a WMD could very possibly detonate within 60 miles of where I live.

And I know what it's like to hear people say things like "but you knew that when you moved there," because I've heard it so many times. It never gets less stupid, either.

I'll grant you that people know about the risks when they move. I'll grant you that some people build houses in places that truly are dumb. I'll even go as far as to say that for any and all of the risks that I've lived near, the only assistance I'd personally ask for would be food/water/shelter. I've never expected the government to bail me out if my house is destroyed.

But is it too much to ask that people would feel compassion for me? And if it's not, is it too much to ask that we feel compassion for the people who lost their homes in LA, MS, and AL today?

I know that the news will be loaded with stories of great kindness, but there will also be stories of looting. I like to think that some of the people who are saying "what did they expect, living close to the Ocean like that?" are basically the same kind of people who would loot. "Looters in Waiting," if you will.

Animals are what they really are. They're a breed of person that's common to all countries, rich and poor, and they are at the heart of most human-caused suffering. If they can gain from it, they will do it - even if it's just a relative gain, made by pulling others down. They're the first to don the black shirts, white hoods, gang colors, or jack boots. They're the first to cry "intolerance," "discrimination," or worse if they think they can get away with it.

Satan's handiwork, that's for sure, and it's chilling to hear it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Dad Was Shot Down In Combat

My dad was shot down in combat. This happened years before I was born and he doesn't talk about it much, but the story has gotten some traction in the press so I know quite a bit about it.

It was off a Japanese-held island, and fortunately my dad managed to keep his plane together long enough to get over the ocean and bail out. He was the only survivor. None of his crew were ever even found. No burials at sea. No closure. He was the pilot and, of course, he feels some responsibility even though he knows there was nothing more he could have done. How he survived is something that only God can explain.

Again, dad doesn't talk about it much.

Recently a book has been written about what happened to aviators who flew with my dad that didn't make it "feet wet" as they now call it. They went down into enemy-held jungle, and were all horribly tortured to death.

I've thought about my father being captured and tortured to death. How couldn't I have those thoughts?

And, yes, in case you were wondering, I'm not actually talking about MY father. I'm talking about the current president, George Walker Bush, and HIS father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Not a word I write here isn't true, except for the perspective. It's not me who almost lost his dad in combat; it's the president.

Cindy Sheehan lost her son in combat, and that is an anguish that I can't relate to. But I haven't read Bradley's latest book, "Flyboy's," and stayed up at night considering how close my own dad came to being dismembered alive. GW Bush has.

And I imagine Barbara Bush, his mother, hasn't had an easy go of it. First her young husband is shot down over the Pacific and comes *this* close to either being tortured to death, eaten by sharks, or left to die of exposure and thirst in a life raft. Then her son, like his dad, becomes a military pilot, an inherently hazardous thing to do (particularly in the F-102, which was a very unforgiving aircraft).

No sleepless nights, there...

As Cindy Sheehan leads the charge about how unfeeling George W. Bush is, perhaps someone in the press should remind everybody of just how personal military service and sacrifice is to that family. I don't think it's possible for them, of all people, to send young men and women into combat without respecting exactly what that means.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Peggy Noonan

I love Peggy Noonan. No, not in an emotional way - I'm referring to her writing. She's an amazing writer, and a keen observer of the human condition - normally from a Republican vantage point.

Probably the best there is, actually.

Of course, I wouldn't be blogging about her if I agreed with her column today, would I?

Peggy talks about why Bill Clinton is chummy with GHW Bush, and vice versa.

Her points are mostly valid. Let's face it, this is Peggy Noonan we are talking about. It's not Ann Coulter who once in awhile fires off a truly wild shot. No, Peggy is mostly on in her analysis, as you'd expect. She talks about what each man has to gain from being friendly with the other. Of the political capital it is generating for both of them, etc.

The small hole in her argument, at least for me, is this: who has even noticed, other than the professional "noticers?" Seriously. Had Peggy not mentioned that George and Bubba were becoming chummy, I wouldn't have known.

Do I watch the news? Quite regularly.

Do I read internet news? Well, that's rather obvious.

Had I noticed that Bubba was surf casting in Kennebunkport, or that Barbara was calling Bubba "son?" Not even a tiny bit. Not so much as an inkling.

And, to really drive it home, I could care less. George HW Bush is a very old man at this point. I'm not saying he's feeble, mind you, but he is old. He might be my favorite president since Ike, but even I have to admit that his time is near.

We have to cut him some slack, you know? Maybe he's spending his last minutes trying to make some political capital for his son; maybe not. I don't know and I don't care. Maybe he's trying to get traction for the current governor of Florida, to make a run at the "hat trick."

But I doubt it. Even Peggy couldn't stretch it that far.

What I think he's doing is... well... frankly, I don't know, nor do I care. He's in his sunset years - can't we just let him be? The man was born in to privelege, but turned his back on it to sling a carrier bomber onto his fanny. He was an ambassador to China, ran the CIA, and worked his way up to top job. He did a fine job, regardless of whether he was steering towards a fiery right-wing star or not.

One thing he certainly did do: he didn't drop the ball as the Soviet Union collapsed. There were about 50 different ways for a president to mess that up, and Bush didn't. He might have 1/3 the charisma of Bubba, but he is at least Clinton's equal when it comes to maneuvering. I'd venture that he's superior, in fact.

As for Bill... well, Bubba is Bubba. He will always be idolized, but the people who idolize him are slowly starting to realize that they are the lunatic fringe, while the rest of us realize that the fringe is really alot larger than a fringe, but that's another blog.

He's marginalized by the true mainstream, and idolized by people who don't seem to get it. I'm not going to make them get it, and Peggy's not going to make them get it, and his hanging out with GHW Bush isn't going to change things one iota. Not for him, and CERTAINLY not for his reptilian "wife," or whatever the right term would be for people in a relationship like that.

So why is Peggy even mentioning it?

Methinks that, just a bit, Peggy might be getting too close to the very people she's supposed to be observing. She's right when she criticizes how our politicians have become a horribly elitist bunch of self-servers, beyond any group that's come before them here in the USA.

But if you get too close, you risk getting sucked in.

Leave the old warrior alone. He's earned that much.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Psssst... Wanna buy an H?

With gasoline over $3.00/gallon in some places, summer temperatures showing that global warming isn't merely a theory, and war continuing in the Middle East, it's hard to get away from talking about "alternative sources of energy."

Today we talk about everyone's current favorite: the fuel cell. If you believe half the press, the fuel cell is the solution to just about every problem.

It doesn't pollute. Even a high school chemistry class could tell you what happens when you oxidize hydrogen: you get *water.* How cool is that? No greenhouse gasses; no smog. Maybe Cuisinart will design an add-on to your car that brews coffee from your exhaust gasses, as you drive...

As a fuel source, it's basically inexhaustible. I mean, look at the oceans - they're LOADED with Hydrogen, right? Every water molecule carries two of them. And the technology to deploy them is *this* close. There are hydrogen fuel-cell cars on TV right now, so we know that they exist. And in Iceland, they're actually deploying them.

If you believe the press, Hydrogen is the penicillin of fuels. A miracle cure for whatever energy-issues ail us. Unfortunately, our friend H2 might be closer to snake oil than real medicine.

The root problem with hydrogen as a fuel is that, basically, free hydrogen doesn't exist. That same chemistry class that can tell you how to blend hydrogen with oxygen to make water will also tell you that H is the first element on the periodic chart. It's there for a lot of reasons, and one of them is something called "electronegativity." That's basically a measurement of how tenacious one atom holds onto another atom, and in the case of hydrogen that's very tenacious indeed.

Hydrogen doesn't like to be alone. It desperately looks for other atoms to cling to and "hydrogenate." Yes, you can find hydrogen all over the place, but never alone outside of a laboratory.

Here's the rub: unless hydrogen is alone, it's worthless in a fuel cell. This isn't Willy Wonka; you can't pour whatever fizzy drink you want into a fuel cell and hope for the best. A hydrogen fuel cell needs... well... hydrogen. Pure hydrogen.

The good news is that the technology to make pure hydrogen is simple. That High School class might be a bit challenged to do it, but just a bit - and a college class absolutely could. No sweat. Just add lots of energy to water (a process known as hydrolysis) and the hydrogen will come off as a gas, ready to be collected, bottled, and poured into your new "Hummer H2O's" fuel cell.

If you re-read that last sentence, however, you might stumble across the thorn in this thorny issue. No, not the Hummer... To make hydrogen that is suitable for use in a fuel-cell, you need to add energy. In fact, you have to add more energy to get hydrogen than you will ever retrieve from the fuel cell. Quite a bit more, actually. And that energy - electricity, to be specific - has to come from an existing electrical generation technology.

When you think about it, hydrogen fuel cells are really nothing more than chemical batteries. Instead of storing electrical power via one chemical path (electrochemical), we store it with another (electrochemical conversion - almost the same thing). But it's still, essentially, a battery powered car. Like all battery powered cars, you need to have a lot of electricity around to charge your fuel cells.

And where will we get that energy?

Nuclear works, but is hardly in vogue. Coal is fine, but the greenhouse gas situation actually gets worse than it is now. Natural gas, ditto. Plus we have the small fact that US Energy production is already operating at capacity, and that includes all practical hydroelectric sources. Imagine how much more electrical generation capacity we'll need to generate enough hydrogen to feed our "Suburban Hydro," or "Excursion FC..."

How much coal are we willing to burn, and can we put the plants in your backyard? How many nuclear plants are we willing to fund and live with?

See the problem? It's a tough one, and one that the MSM just doesn't seem to know how to address.

There's an interesting wrinkle in this, and that's geothermal. People have known about geothermal energy for at least 100 years. It's clean, basically free (other than plant depreciation and maintenance), and plentiful in some places that sport lots of geysers and active volcanoes.

Like Iceland. The whole island is already fueled by the hot ground they live on. That's why you see Fuel Cell cars and filling stations springing up all over the place there.

The MSM sometimes dwells on how difficult it will be to build hydrogen filling stations, etc. Baloney. Those are engineering problems with rather straightforward solutions. Not easy, mind you, but certainly do-able. The real issue is having enough free, clean energy to generate the quantities of Hydrogen necessary to replace gasoline. Iceland has that kind of energy, at least to fuel their own economy. Do they have enough to fuel ours? I have no idea. I'm not sure if anyone has ever considered how large the hydrogen-generation plants would have to be, or if there's enough geothermal energy available, globally, to make this more than a novelty.

Will Iceland be the next Saudi Arabia? Hawaii the next Iraq? Might be an interesting time to purchase some land near Old Faithful...


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Air America: Like Taking Candy From A Baby...

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin (linked here) for her "Air Enron" coverage. I particularly like her link to Air America's own "10 Best Bumper Stickers" contest. Classic.

My submission?

Taking Candy From A Baby Since 2004
Air America

I don't generally put anything on my car, but I could see myself making an exception for that one...


Monday, August 08, 2005

#1 in a long series: Liberals Are Usually Wrong

I caught a documentary on the Discovery Channel this weekend called "Hiroshima, the First Weapon of Mass Destruction."

We'll save the overall bias of the Discovery Channel for another day. Today, let's just focus on this title. Specifically: It's a lie.

Perhaps it's a mistake, and the person who penned it actually believes it. If so, "mistake" is the wrong word: it's an example of criminal spin stupidity.

Hiroshima was horrible in ways that all of Hollywood's magic simply can't capture. Even so, to claim that the atomic bomb is the first weapon of mass destruction is grossly false. Hiroshima was far from the first weapon of mass destruction.

Incendiary weapons were, and are, every bit as gruesome as atomic weapons - particularly in the tinderbox cities of 1940's Japan. I knew a survivor of the great Dresden firebombing and, believe me, the emotional scars of that attack are as intense as any from Hiroshima. I'm not cheapening what happened to Hiroshima. What I'm saying is that the atomic bombs are hardly unique.

Does the fact that only one plane destroyed Hiroshima make the horror of the massive Tokyo (etc.) firebombings any less qualified to be termed "results of a WMD?"

And what about chemical weapons? Chemical warfare predates atomic warfare by decades, and they were always meant to be WMD's. Biological? There are records of diseased animals being *catapulted* over besieged castle walls, correct? Do we believe a plague-infested carcass is anything but a WMD?

No, anyone with even a passing knowledge of history knows the lie in the title of this documentary.

Then why do it?

We all know why: to taint. To spin. To add yet another straw to the unceasing attack on our beliefs, our self image, and our culture.

If this blog survives you will find that I am deeply, deeply proud to be an American. I believe that our immigrant roots have yielded a culture that is unique in Human History. As powerful as Ancient Rome, we enslave no adversary. The economic hub of the world, we choose to spend our blood and treasure for the freedom of others. That's unique, and we should be proud of it. As a blog, this site will likely focus on these areas for they are what made - and could still make - us great.

Even so, there are many pieces of baggage in American History. Many cases where we didn't take the high road. Americans are people and like all people are often selfish, mean, petty, and stupid. We won't be afraid to discuss those times, either.

This is one of those times. Not in how we ended WWII, but in the scurrilous way that yet another America-Last'er spins the truth.


First Blog

Wow... I went to comment on another person's blog, and suddenly I have one of my own. Could be interesting. Let's see what happens - according to Rob.