Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Princess Plebe and I

Hi, guys!

I recently read Gail O'Sullivan Dwyer's book,Tough as Nails, shown above. It is her personal story of being a member of the West Point Class of 1981, the second class at the U.S. Military Academy to have women members.

It is wonderfully written and had me laughing on almost every page. I highly recommend this short paperback to those who wonder how the women who showed up up to become plebes at West Point in 1976 and 1977 ever got through to graduation.
They were clearly pioneers and fit the title of the book perfectly.

However, there is one factual error in the book. The first women to wear the uniform of the United States Corps of Cadets were not in the Class of 1980. I know this to be a fact for I was there when the first women put on the uniform and had their hair cut to the prescribed length—NO LOWER THAN THE BOTTOM OF THE COLLAR.

The first women to wear the cadet uniform were two with reasonably short hair already. They were selected as subjects whose hair would be cut by a beautician from Newburgh, New York in a training session for the barbers at West Point who had little or no experience cutting women's hair.

One of them was named Eleanor Peters, a gorgeous brunette. The other one was the girl I married, a gorgeous blonde. Yep, I married one of the first two women to ever wear the uniform at West Point.

Today, you know her as The Queen Vee. Back in 1976, she was just The Princess Plebe. Despite clear West Point regulations that Cadets may not be married nor have ever been married, she received her Plebe haircut while openly displaying an engagement ring and a wedding band... Plebes are always a work in progress.

Skeptical at all of the above? I have photographic evidence from the days before Photoshop was invented.

Tomorrow, this Princess Plebe and I will have been married for forty years. And Victoria, now The Queen, is still gorgeous. And she tells me that I am still a work in progress...

Happy Anniversary, Miss Dumb Smack!




Saturday, November 21, 2009

Two Thanksgiving Letters - 36 years apart...





Hi, Guys!

In this Thanksgiving week, thought I'd share with you two letters written around Thanksgiving. The first, and its attachment, above, I sent while in command in Vietnam, November 1968. Click on them to enlarge. They were typed on a manual typewriter - yes, they actually existed in those days...

Much to my surprise, I found the file copies of them in the National Archives in 2004 while doing some research on my former unit. Note the small National Archives proofmark in the upper left corner. Hence, the second letter, below, published in November 2004 by the editors of The Pueblo Chieftain in Pueblo, Colorado.

11 November 2004

Letters to the Editor

Soldier Recall Pueblo Brownies Kindness in 1968

Dear Editors:

I am COL (USA Ret) Ken Carlson, writing from Fairfax, VA.

A few days ago, I was doing research on some battles my unit was in during my time in Vietnam, 1968-69.

At the National Archives II in College Park MD, I came across unit records that included the attached letter I wrote to the girls and leaders of Brownie Troop 198, Pueblo, Colorado.

I don't know if that troop still exists. However, if they do, I want the girls, now mothers and perhaps even grandmothers, to remember how much my men appreciated their thoughtfulness.

And also to know that their kindness and patriotism are now officially documented in the Archives of the United States, giving them a lasting place in American history.

This Thanksgiving, we still have soldiers a long way from home and under the stress of mortal combat. I hope that there are other Brownie Troop and similar organizations who have picked up the torch of support that their predecessors in Brownie Troop 198 carried so well.

Sincerely,

Kenneth G. Carlson

COL (USA Ret.)

Fairfax, VA

As you can see, friends, Soldiers never forget those who remember them while they are in harm's way.

The Queen Vee joins me in the hope that you and yours have a joyous Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 2, 2009

November 9th - Twenty Years Ago


Hi, guys! Next Monday night marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall,
one of the highlights of my life.

You've read the poem I wrote about that wall as a second lieutenant in 1967, the same poem that was read in 1994 as the Berlin Brigade colors were cased by President Clinton and the Brigade deactivated. But where were we on 9 November 1989?

We were in Heidelberg where my assignment was Chief of Doctrine, Concepts and Analysis Division, a cover name for what we really did which was think tank work for the four star, Commander in Chief, US Army Europe (CINCUSAREUR).

In the fall of 1988, the Deputy CINC, Lieutenant General George Stotser, had received a surprise invitation from the Hungarian Army Chief of Staff to attend a meeting of the Warsaw Pact military chiefs to be held in Budapest. This was a big deal at the time - a NATO general asked to sit in on the Warsaw Pact meeting, presumably as a "confidence building measure" between the two opposing sets of forces in Central Europe.

LTG Stotser called for me and a few of my fellow officers to meet with him in order to plan the types of questions he might expect and some of the things we thought he should be looking for in the meeting. Armed with our ideas, he went to Budapest and returned with amazing news!

Seated to the left of the Hungarian general, with the Soviet Chief of Staff on the Hungarian's right, LTG Stotser found himself continually being nudged and whispered to by his host. Speaking near-perfect English, the Hungarian general kept telling General Stotser that they had to get the Soviets out of their country before their economy was completely destroyed by the "stupid Russians."

The fault lines between Warsaw Pact "allies" was big news, both to us and to Washington, where it was quickly reported.

On 2 May 1989, the reform-minded Hungarian Communists began, without notice, to dismantle their portion of the Iron Curtain, the fortified border with Austria. Less than two months later, more than 25,000 East Germans had decided to "vacation" in Hungary and somehow ended up in Austria. The crack in Iron Curtain quickly became a flood. USAREUR was asked by the West German government to assist in the housing and feeding of all the Eastern refugees arriving in Bavaria. The cries for all of the fences and the Berlin Wall to come down became louder.

The Czech government soon followed suit, opening its border with Austria. In the 24 hours prior to the 9 November events in Berlin, more than 20,000 East Germans had escaped across the Czech-Austrian border. On the night of 9 November, huge crowds pressed against all the checkpoints in Berlin after hearing that the East Germans were going to open the border. Confused and without official direction, the East German Border Guards (VOPO's) decided that they couldn't shoot everyone, so they opened the gates and the Wall was no more. The evening sky in Heidelberg and throughout West Germany was ablaze with fireworks usually saved for New Years Eve.

Several weeks later, the officers of USAREUR Headquarters met for a professional development session at the local Officers Club. After the CINC reviewed what our role had been in the dramatic events of the past year, he asked me to come forward to speak. He had read my poem of 1967 and asked that I read it. Following that, he asked for my poetic thoughts as to what had transpired in just the last few weeks.

Here is what I read:

A Soldier Remembers
by COL Ken Carlson

On Friedrichstrasse in '61
I watched that awful sight.
I overlooked my tank main gun
Throughout that dreadful night.

I watched them string the strands of wire;
I saw the shattered dreams.
They forced me to withhold my fire;
I still recall the screams.

I watched the Wall be built by blocks;
I watched the families part.
I saw the tears, I felt the shocks,
It simply broke my heart.

Patrolled the Wall with JFK
I was there in '63.
A Berliner he became that day
And joined the likes of me.

For I was there both day and night
No hours of nine to five;
I beamed the Wall with Freedom's Light
To keep their hopes alive.

Along the border, miles away,
My buddies did the same.
They kept their posts, through "come what may,"
While blessing Freedom's name.

The politicians came and went
As did the network news;
But cookies that my Mom had sent
Would help us cure the blues.

My friends and I have kept the trust
For twenty eight long years.
Through cold and rain, we knew we must -
For we still saw the tears.

And so today, with Wall now split
And barriers torn wide,
Forgive us if we smile a bit
And show our soldier's pride.

For we've been here at your request
Each Fred and Sue and Bob.
You sent your Army, sent your best -
We're proud we did the job.

Not a dry eye in the house, for all in the audience had lived through much of what was expressed in the poem. And all knew - Freedom isn't free.







Thursday, October 15, 2009

Moline's Second Military Wedding


Hi, Guys! On this night, 77 years ago, my parents were married in the First Lutheran Church in Moline, Illinois. My Mom would later claim that this was Moline's second military wedding, an unlikely event since Moline was home to the 57th Illinois Volunteer Infantry during and after the Civil War. But May's wedding WAS a big deal.

The daughter of a prominent factory owner and president, she married a dashing young second lieutenant of Infantry, a West Point graduate from the Class of 1931.
Both had graduated from Moline High School, with Mabel Johnson one year ahead of Gunnar Carlson. Although both were standout athletes, they did not date while high school students.

Their first date was at the Shorthills Country Club in the summer of 1932, where May was impressed that Gunnar was such a gentleman that he carried a handkerchief to place between their hands while dancing, and Gunnar was impressed that May let him kiss her on the first date. From that day forward, neither ever dated anyone else.

The wedding was among the largest held in Moline until that time, partly because it was advertised in the Saturday morning paper as, "one of the most colorful weddings to be seen in Moline for some time" and "a military presence will be offered by seven fellow Army officers... with crossed sabers both in the center aisle and outside the Church." Another reason was that the paper also announced that the public would be allowed to be seated in the balcony.

The crowd quickly filled the Church, causing May's father to begin placing chairs in the aisle until my Dad warned him that there must be space left for the wedding party to walk up to the altar.

May's Uncle Sam, from Detroit, was seated by the military usher, but on the "groom's side of the aisle." When he came back to the rear to correct that, the Army lieutenant told him, "It doesn't make a bit of difference, Mr. Swanson; we're not going to cheer here tonight anyway."

Apparently there was some cheering however, since the night of October 15th 1932 also marked the opening of the new Rock Island Bridge across the Mississippi River, about a block or two from the Church. After the ribbon cutting, many of the boisterous and somewhat looped crowd (during Prohibition!) wandered over to the Church to see what all the fuss was about.

One of the spectators was a young cub sports reporter from radio station WOC in Davenport, Iowa who had been sent to cover the bridge event. Once the bridge was open, he brought his radio reporting gear to the front of the Church and began reporting on the wedding and the scene you see above. The reporter at the microphone was Ronald Wilson Reagan, later the 40th President of the United States.

50 years later, May and Gunnar celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at a party sponsored by their two sons at the Fort McNair Officers Club here in Washington. In the next room was a wedding reception and Gunnar and May were asked to come over to speak to the new bride and groom.

May and Gunnar are together again tonight in the Mansions of the Lord. I have written this posting to remind them both that we have not forgotten their love for each other and for all of us. Happy 77th Anniversary, Folks!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Six Things I Believe About Healthcare

Hi, guys! The picture lured you in to this blog post, didn't it? Ha! The real subject is healthcare and some observations of what I believe to be true.

1. Health insurance is misnamed.

Insurance is a policy written by a company which protects you from the aftermath of some accident or natural disaster. It is a bet between you and the insurance company, made possible by actuaries who can predict what the exposure of the insurance company will be to any risk over a large population. You pay premiums based on the amount of risk the insurance company accepts.

In health insurance, it is a certainty that you will visit a doctor. The insurance company thus pays everyone who owns a policy, some more than others.

To be a real insurance policy, the company should have to pay only your catastrophic health care costs if such a catastrophe befalls you. All the normal healthcare expenses should be borne by the individual or by his company should they choose to offer such a benefit. The latter would not be insurance - it would be part of your compensation package.

2. Healthcare in America should not be called a "right."

A "right" is something which everyone has just by being an American (for example, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and the government must protect everything that is a "right." Healthcare, however, is a service, which occasionally protects life, but more often just provides temporary or permanent relief from sickness or injury.

Healthcare for you is similar to automobile maintenance or repair for your car. Some people can afford to have the very best mechanics and concierge service, some choose to spend the minimum on Jiffy Lube - and some do it themselves.
In healthcare, some spend a fortune on executive scans and checkups, see the best doctors, have multiple elective surgeries, use personal trainers in personal gyms, etc. Others may get a yearly physical and visit their doctor only on those occasions when their home remedies don't work. And there is a third group that goes to the emergency room for sniffles and coughs. Yet those who claim healthcare is a "right" would also require that everyone get the top level of healthcare which only the rich presently can afford. The cost would bankrupt the American taxpayer, already on the ropes.

Some might ask, "so would you let people die in the street?" No -- that's what emergency rooms are for and why we spend lots of money on Medicaid for those who cannot (or choose not to) buy any healthcare, relying on the rest of us to pay the bill. Yet somehow, the indigent always seem to find money for booze, smokes and even cellphones - look closely at the photos...

I read the press every day, and never read nor hear of Americans dying in the streets from lack of healthcare. The "dead in the streets" argument is a strawman, set up by liberals to demand that everyone should get equal healthcare treatment, just as they want all Americans to "spread the wealth around."

We conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. Everyone should have access to healthcare, but the type received will vary based on the willingness/ability to pay.

3. There should be no automatic exclusion of "pre-existing conditions," but policy premiums must reflect the risk assumed by the insurance company.

If your house is on fire, no insurance company should be expected to issue a policy amid the flames. If you live near the coast in Florida, your opportunities to buy home policies from a number of competing companies have greatly diminished. If you have had cancer, like me, you must expect that any insurer will either not take you or will charge you a lot more for a policy which includes cancer coverage.

However, a health policy which covers other health catastrophes, such as a heart problem, should be made available to cancer patients. But we must recall that healthcare is a business and healthcare profits help fund innovation and progress. Only if we want health insurance providers to commit corporate suicide should we expect that everyone get equal coverage at the same price.

4. Medicare is not an example of a program of universal healthcare, as some have said.

Those who propose universal healthcare would make it a "right," as described above. Medicare, on the other hand, is a health program for those over 65 that has been developed for that group of seniors based on taxes collected from them during their working years. Unfortunately, like Social Security, it has become a "pay as you go" program, with current taxes paid by younger Americans for current older American recipients healthcare, not by money saved "in a lockbox" from their previous contributions.

We, the American people, allowed our Congress to spend Social Security and Medicare trust funds for other "priorities" rather than invest them for growth and eventual payment. Seeing all that Social Security and Medicare tax money sitting in a trust fund was just too tempting for the Congress not to grab...

5. Universal healthcare under a "single payer system" is a disaster.

I spent more than two years in England and Canada in the mid-1990's. At almost every lunch or dinner with clients and prospects, the subject of the Brit and Canadian healthcare systems was discussed. The Canadians said that one of the reasons 90% of their population lives within 100 miles of the American border is because they turn to American healthcare when their system places them on a months - long waiting list for something as routine as an MRI. My son, Thomas, reports that there are more MRI machines in Cleveland than in all of Canada.

And in England, there is a panel in the National Health Service that calculates the cost/benefit ratio of procedures based on "quality of life years" or "Qualys", as they're called. If the procedure is expensive and the expected benefit will not be used over a significant number of years, then the procedure is disapproved. Keep you alive for another two years? Not cost effective. This is not fantasy - it actually exists!

6. Any healthcare reform that does not address tort reform is pandering to the Trial Lawyers, pure and simple.

I have medical doctor classmates from West Point who report that they pay over $70,000 per year for malpractice insurance, yet they have never been sued. They must practice "defensive medicine," often requiring MRI's and other tests when the results almost never change their original diagnosis. When asked to declare someone disabled for worker's comp purposes, they do so, fearing lawsuits from patients.

They believe that every patient should have legal recourse if actually harmed by a doctor or hospital, but that the current practice is not that. Currently, the medical profession is being held hostage by the legal profession.

Adding millions more indigent patients to the public healthcare rolls will be great for trial lawyers and poor patients who need money from anywhere they can get it. Like the current TV law firm ad says, "We'll deal with the government - you have enough to worry about." It will be a disaster for the healthcare community and will reduce the number of providers.

I would be quite interested to hear your thoughts on or additions to my list of six things I believe about healthcare. With some polishing and/or better thoughts, I intend to send my list to my Congressman and Senators.

The healthcare high ground...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wonderland

Hi, guys!

Is it just me, or is the news from the Obama Administrations becoming "curiouser and curiouser" each day?

First, we discovered that the "Cash for Clunkers" program, which was set to start on July 1st, didn't actually begin until July 24th. Something about it took the Department of Transportation longer to organize than either planned or expected.

Then, with ONE BILLION DOLLARS of funding as of July 24th, the program ran out of money six days later. SIX DAYS, ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Something about unexpected levels of demand for this program in which the taxpayers will give you up to $4500 to get rid of the rust bucket in your carport to buy the new car you were planning to buy anyway. UNEXPECTED DEMAND?

Administration answer? Add another TWO BILLION DOLLARS of taxpayer money, stir briskly and season to taste. Then see if you like it -- or if "more unexpected demand" continues...

Next, the Sunday talk shows with SECTREAS Tim Geithner and ECONOCZAR Larry Summers went as reported by the AP below:

"Geithner said the White House was not ready to rule out a tax hike to reduce the federal deficit; Summers said Obama's proposed health care overhaul needs funding from somewhere. (Secretary DUH)

"There is a lot that can happen over time," Summers said, adding that the administration believes "it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what." (Except the closing of Gitmo? - Czar DUH)

During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly pledged "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime." But the simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care promised without increasing the federal deficit — must be paid for." ("Perhaps I need to recalibrate my words" President DUH)


Finally, we get word from England, via the London Telegraph, that:

The Government's drug rationing watchdog says "therapeutic" injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy.

Dr Christopher Wells, a leading specialist in pain relief medicine and the founder of the NHS' first specialist pain clinic, said it was "entirely unacceptable" that conventional treatments used by thousands of patients would be stopped.

"I don't mind whether some people want to try acupuncture, or osteopathy. What concerns me is that to pay for these treatments, specialist clinics which offer vital services are going to be forced to close, leaving patients in significant pain, with nowhere to go,"

He said: "The consequences of the NICE decision will be devastating for thousands of patients. It will mean more people on opiates, which are addictive, and kill 2,000 a year. It will mean more people having spinal surgery, which is incredibly risky, and has a 50 per cent failure rate."

So, let's see... The same bureaucrats who can't figure out how to set up a car trade-in program are the very ones that ObamaCare proposes to put in charge of healthcare, ONE SIXTH of the American economy? And the "progressive" Congresscritters pushing for all this are the ones that think the "single payer" programs of government-run healthcare in England and Canada should be the model for our own?

Now do you see why I titled this post "Wonderland?"

As Alice said:

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"

She must have been one of the Obama "CZARS."

Head back to the high ground!

Take along your phone and computer to do what is necessary.







Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hating Independence Day


Hi, Guys!
America's Independence Day, the 4th of July, is one of my favorite holidays. Yesterday, our family celebrated in the standard variety of ways. Dragonfly's family sponsored a Church picnic breakfast and invited me to speak on "What Liberty Means to Me." The Carlsons (pere) and Carlsons (fils) joined the Leesburg Gang for a late afternoon barbeque and birthday party for America, then most went to the fireworks in the local park. The Honeybee's family had all the kids together for shaving cream fights, fireworks, Wii contests, made to order lunches and a barbeque dinner with more fireworks and a slide show of the day's activities. The Digital Architect and his family were in San Diego, celebrating with the family of Mindelicious. They will join us next week.

So where was President Obama? He had time for a brief appearance in his yard and a helicopter flight (!) to distant Fort McNair (maybe 4 miles away) to be seen with the troops.
Other than that, no statement, no rousing holiday speeches, no parades. I suspect he must have been working hard on getting the teleprompter right for his next set of speeches during this week's extension of the "Apologize for America Tour"which will take him to Russia, Italy and Ghana. You can be sure that there will be lots to apologize for in each place.

While he's gone, the local paper will keep up the Obama drumbeat. My favorite fish wrap, the Washington Compost (rapidly becoming the Washington Ghost) viscerally hates Independence Day. Our nation's birthday involves celebrating those things which the liberal press finds abhorrent - independence, liberty, patriotism, celebration of our fallen heroes, recollection of our glorious history as the world leader in support of freedom.

Here are some excerpts from the Compost's front page article this AM. The full article is available at Washington Post.com (WARNING -HAVE A BARF BAG HANDY):

"Washingtonians gathered yesterday to celebrate Independence Day in a country transformed by recession, war and a shift in political winds, events that have affected their outlook on the nation's fate and their own..."

"Until yesterday, Helen Ingallis had never wanted to wave an American flag.
She felt that the country was too aggressive in its foreign policy, that its leaders were irrational and self serving. This year, adorned in patriotic red, white and blue, the District native...paraded flag in hand. 'I feel like there is finally hope..."

"Surviving Marines also gathered, about 80 of them, some still close shaven, others wearing their hair long. They remembered their fallen, 21 young men, 17 of whom were killed in the 2004 battle for Fallujah, Iraq... Karen Cox started by pointing out that the hotel staff had provided a box of tissues for each row of chairs in the room. 'It's okay to let the tears fall -
don't fight it too hard...."

" Vera Nathan and her (same sex) partner, Sheneva Willingham, sat in the park, drinking Schlitz High Gravity Lagers, sharing cigarettes and taking in their new neighborhood...On the table was the couple's wallet, along with a picture of the president and the first lady on election night... Neither Nathan nor Willingham has a job. Recession has made their hard lives harder. 'I've had to fight for everything, Nathan said. Just got me a place
and I'm still scrambling to get to eat.' "

In my view, this Administration and its sycophant liberal press hate Independence Day -
after all, they are rapidly trying to make Americans more dependent. More dependent on
international approval, more dependent on foreign oil, more dependent on junk science climate change policies and - most of all - more dependent on the government for everything from banking to automobile manufacture to healthcare to temperature control in our homes, and on and on... And this sudden dependence on the government to run every aspect of our lives must happen immediately! Don't read the warning labels on any of these bills...

Now I understand what Candidate Teleprompter meant when he said as he accepted his party's nomination on June 3rd of last year:
"This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals."


Whose very best selves? Whose highest ideals? Not mine, that's for sure.

"Extreme Makeover", indeed. I want the TV rights.

Fortifying the high ground, I remain sincerely yours...


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thoughts on 14 Fathers


On this Father's Day weekend, I would like to share with you some thoughts on 14 fathers for whom I am grateful.

First, of course, is my father, Gunnar, shown above on his wedding day in 1932. Dad has now been gone from us for 26 years, yet there never passes a day when I don't think about him and all he meant to me.

Second is a father named David, who raised my daughter when I believed, under the circumstances, I could not . David did a magnificent job and then provided his exceptional daughter the opportunity to find the Queen and me. I am forever thankful for his efforts, his achievements and his willingness to share.

Next are the four fathers I am privileged to call my sons. Christopher, Thomas, Travis and Matthew are shown below in their monkey suits with gorgeous brides. Each of these men are now fathers as well, and excellent ones at that. I am thankful that all of them have done so well in leading and loving their families.





Well, that's six of the fourteen fathers I want to thank. Who could possibly be next?

The next seven are my six grandsons and my grandson-to-be. While not yet fathers, they are fathers-in-waiting. So Christopher, Owen, Jonah, Soren, Samuel, Hugo and (can you hear me?) Baby Boy X - pay attention to your Dads and learn from them how to be the great fathers you are destined to be. I'll be watching...

Finally, at Number 14 but actually at Number 1, I want to thank my Father in Heaven for the many blessings he has bestowed upon both me and my family. Last year at this time, my condition was pretty bad. Now, thanks to the tender mercies of my Heavenly Father and the prayers from all of you, I am happy and much more healthy. There are still challenges ahead, but I have confidence in the future.

So, Happy Father's Day to each and every one of you who have earned the title, "Dad."
Of all my degrees, ranks, awards and decorations, "Dad" will always be my proudest
achievement.

As the current country music song goes,

"Fathers don't just love their children
Every now and then...
It's a love without end,
Amen."




Thursday, June 4, 2009

Remember Them - They Died for Your Freedom....




  • The Wall Street Journal

The Meaning of Bloody Omaha

On D-Day, the U.S. saved Europe from itself.

The skies over Normandy are invariably filled with dark rain clouds. But on one day in late April the sky was cloudless and the English Channel tranquil. Youngsters built sand castles on Omaha Beach and dogs romped in the surf. It was a vastly different scene from the bloodshed and violence that occurred on this same beach 65 years ago.

In an effort to understand what the GIs experienced on that fateful day of June 6, 1944, I climbed up a steep hill to the plain above the beach. Unlike the soldiers, I didn't carry an 80-pound pack on my back. And even though I observed German fortifications on my way, no one was firing at me.

These fortifications are a reminder that despite feints to Calais and bombing along the coast prior to the invasion, Nazi forces were well ensconced when the U.S. and its allies landed. Most of the bombs aimed at these German installations landed several kilometers inland -- a condition that distinguished Omaha Beach from Utah Beach. Omaha Beach was Bloody Omaha, a scene of so much death that it was unprecedented in American history. One soldier noted "there were body parts everywhere and the sea turned red with blood."

Many never made it to the shore from their landing crafts. Some were shot and some drowned, not realizing that if you wear a flotation device around your waist instead of under your arms it may not be possible to stand in the turbulent surf with a heavy pack. There was panic, confusion, camaraderie and bravery on the beach that day that changed the world.

The cemetery for the fallen overlooks Omaha Beach. It was noon when I stood at the edge of the cemetery, looking out at row after row of the graves. The bells played "God Bless America." There was a burly fellow wearing steel- frame glasses standing in front of me, most likely an octogenarian. As the bells sounded our eyes met. I wanted to say something to him, but he removed his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. Words were unnecessary; he and I shared a silent understanding.

There is simply no way to describe the sacrifice Americans made on the D-Day invasion to reclaim Europe from the grip of totalitarianism. Even the notoriously dispassionate Europeans realize that this is consecrated ground, a place where angels spread their wings to honor the deeds of youthful warriors. No St. Crispin speeches were necessary here, for this Band of Brothers knew what need not be stated: They were saving Europe from enslavement.

As a local Normandy resident wrote during the occupation, "A German lieutenant said 'we are your masters.' Well they were, until the Americans arrived." Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a 20th century Moses. Gen. George Patton's Third Army fanned out across the northern tier of France. Though he had his detractors, Gen. Patton knew how to fight and win.

We have grown complacent as a people in the last six and a half decades since the war in Europe reached the beginning of the end. But it is hard to remain unemotional at the hilltop cemetery that honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in freedom.

Though we owe these men a debt we can never repay, what we can do is honor them. Their bravery can still inspire if the story of D-Day is told with passion and honesty.

The world offers challenges each year since freedom is tested in each generation by new pharaohs. We need the guardians of liberty to remind us how precarious that freedom is. We need to rise to the occasion the way young American soldiers did on June 6, 1944. They are a constant reminder that liberty requires vigilance and courage if it is to survive.

Mr. London is president of the Hudson Institute and professor emeritus at New York University. He is the author of "Decade of Denial" (Lexington Books, 2001) and "America's Secular Challenge" (Encounter Books, 2008).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Intergenerational Wealth Transfer

Above is a picture of some young guy and the first car he ever owned, a Chevrolet Corvair Corsa.  Not nearly as sporty as the Corvettes, GTO's and Pontiac Le Mans
that many of my West Point classmates bought, but for $2300, pretty cool.

Of course, that was purchased before Ralph Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed.

Turns out, old Ralph was right - putting the engine in the back was something that only Volkswagen knew how to do.  The General Motors attempt at that made for a dicey ride in which the car seemed to want to spin around with a mind of its own.

The Corvair was taken to Germany and sold when I left for Vietnam.  Some unsuspecting German bought it for more than I had paid two years earlier, and that was after two accidents, both spin outs!  I told him that it was very temperamental and needed to be driven with care, but he wanted it anyway...

That, however, was the last General Motors car I ever owned.  From there, several Ford products and a Mercedes in Germany until the Queen discovered a used Honda Accord.  Since then, we have bought nine Hondas in a row, and I have now graduated to an Acura.  Change the oil and those cars run like a Swiss watch.  Plus, most are made in Ohio!

But several months ago, I did buy another General Motors product - their common stock.  Just could not bring myself to believe that GM could go under.  After all, talk about too big to fail...

Well, on Monday, my GM stock became worthless but my grandchildren and great grandchildren now own 60% of whatever the "new" General Motors will be.  Their co-owners are the few remaining bondholders who successfully argued that a secured GM bond ought to be ahead of the UAW pension fund, but lost out to the Obama Administration's Automobile Restructuring Committee, who know how to count votes rather than preserve bankruptcy law hierarchy.

I can only "hope" that my small loss will become a great gain for the grandkids and great grandkids, since my best guess is that they will own GM for a long time, with direct payments being made to the "New Government Motors" from their tax dollars, as well as the interest they will have to pay on the ongoing and incredible process of doubling the National Debt.

I also "hope" that all this money being created from thin air by the Fed can somehow be removed from the economy at exactly  the right moment so as to avoid a massive dose of inflation.

However, as my former boss, General Gordon Sullivan, was fond of saying, "Hope is not a course of action."  

Pay attention, folks...  Maybe we are going to need some of the change that these tax and spend policies ought to cause.  2010 elections are not too distant to consider.

D'ya think?


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Right Wing Extremist - C'est Moi!



Last week, Secretary Janet (from another Planet) Napolitano released a report which both stated and implied that returning veterans are a significant threat to the security of the United States.  

Included in the nine page DHS Intelligence Report was this: “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

Thought I would share with you a video clip from the Country Music Awards of 23 April.  This performance brought the house down unlike any other.  I guess all those in the audience, to include Nicole Kidman, are part of the right wing terrorist recruiting network.  As are Trace Adkins, The West Point Glee Club and LT Andrew Kinard, USMC, enroute to Harvard Law in the Fall.

I was unable to imbed this video, so here is the URL to paste in your browser:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ge9zXIQq5HI

In case Secretary Napolitano needs more intelligence on this "veteran threat", I have also included the location of a list of 58,260 names of likely suspects at the top of this page.  Included are 30 of my West Point Classmates, three of my roommates and three soldiers who were killed in action while I was in command.

Perhaps the Secretary could walk the several blocks from her headquarters to this location and tell the visiting families that their sons and daughters, had they survived, would have been likely terrorists.  Perhaps...

Or maybe the high ground would cause her to become dizzy and faint.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Surprise! Are You Surprised?



April seems to be the month for surprises.  After all, it begins with April Fool's Day, the day for surprising your friends with faux surprises.

Sometimes surprises that come in April can be delightful.  Just after I finished cancer therapy last year, The Queen and I were at the beginning of a very lengthy and painful recovery process when we were given a wonderful surprise which many/most of you know.  That's the kind of event in which we were really, happily surprised!

But this April, it seems we have surprises each day on the news which are not so surprising, and certainly not very delightful.

Yesterday, the North Koreans launched their long expected missile over Japan, the event that had been specifically prohibited by the UN Security Council.  Today, the United States, which had warned that such a launch would be "a provocative act," will announce a White House ordered 20% reduction in its spending on our missile defense system.  Surprise!  But are you surprised?

Several weeks ago, when President Obama signed the $410 Billion spending bill, he announced that the earmarks contained in that bill would mark "the end of the old way of doing business." Today, as the House Appropriations Committee begins putting together the new bills which will make up the more than $ 1 Trillion budget for this year, the committee has accepted requests for more than 3,000 additional earmarks which have never been evaluated by any authorization committee.  Surprise!  But, after gagging, are you surprised?

Yesterday's Washington Compost reported the following concerning the proposed Congressional vote to give Washington D.C. a voting Representative in the Congress:

"Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting D.C. delegate to the House who aspire to be its voting representative, has made clear that she regards questions of constitutionality as irrelevant and she thinks members of the House and Senate do, too. 'I don't think members are in the least bit affected in their votes on the on the question of its constitutionality,' she said just last week. 'People vote their politics in the House and in the Senate.'  "

Surprise!  But, besides feeling ill, are you surprised?

There was a great quote at the start of Mary O'Grady's opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal:

"We have sunk to such a depth that the restatement of the
   obvious has become the first duty of intelligent men."

George Orwell, 1939

So, here is the obvious, a paraphrase attributed to Edmund Burke:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that enough good men do nothing.

Head to the high ground, armed with your teabags, stamps, envelopes and both email and snail mail addresses for the people who claim to represent you.  Restate the obvious to them.  Don't be among the good men who do nothing.  Please.

Surprise them. Perhaps for change you can believe in...


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Calling a Spade a Peach?




Hi, Guys!

First, the picture above is required by Dragonfly in her latest post.  It is the sixth picture in the IPhoto file on this laptop, and she tagged me to provide it.  The photo is of the Queen and the Kernal at the Class of '66 mini-reunion last September in Nashville.

But my real purpose in blogging today is to address the new Administration's desire to change the English language in the spirit of kinder, gentler, political correctness.

As you know, The Global War on Terror has now ended.  Michelle Obama planted a victory garden on the White House Lawn, but we can no longer hope for victory.  Now we have just another "Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO)." 

The attack on America which occurred on 9/11/2001 is now a "Man Made Disaster- (MMD)" in accordance with language recently used by Secretary Napolitano of the DHS.

I think a few additions are in order.

First, whenever we send Hillary to other countries to blame the United States for whatever is the subject du jour, as in her discussion of US drug addiction and weapons in Mexico, then we have begun HOPE - a "Heavy Overseas Peace Engagement." 

Next, if we ever discover that we may have to actually fight with somebody over threats or "Man Made Disasters" perpetrated against the United States, the President can go on national TV to announce  CHANGE - a "Combat Heavy Assault on Negative Government Entities."  Much clearer than "regime change," no?  Plus, it's CHANGE we can believe in.

I can hear it now..." Hey, Willy, how long we been on this here OCO?  Couple of years? Man, with the casualties we've had already, I pray we don't run into any more MMD's tomorrow."  

" Don't worry, Joe... The lady diplomat in the pants suit is out on another HOPE
mission right now.   If she gets it right, we won't have to continue this CHANGE we've 
been working on for the last couple of years." 

"Can't believe we're taking fire yet speaking English while saying nothing.  See if we can send a message up through the chain of command asking them to cut out this "Correctly Re-defined Acceptable Parlance."  

"Them words are too big for me, Willy. 
I've only got this piece of cardboard to write on.
What's the acronym?"

Let's all meet Willy and Joe on the high ground and help them out...



Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lemonade from Lemons




Hi, guys!

In all the news of massive government spending, increased taxes, and a nonetheless slowing economy, perhaps you missed this.  Some bad news followed by some good news!

Last week's Obama budget for 2009 deleted all funding for the continuation of work on the
National Radioactive Nuclear Waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.  This was in keeping with Candidate Obama's promise to "protect the people of Nevada" and Senator Harry Reid, who in 2006 pronounced the Yucca Mountain Project as "dead," just before announcing that the surge in Iraq would never work and "this war is lost." So, Obama's budget decision was good news for Harry but not so good for the rest of America.

We have spent nuclear waste currently stored at 121 outdoor sites throughout America, each site meant to be temporary and each a hazard of radioactive material being stolen.  In 1982, Congress passed and the President signed the Nuclear Waste Act, mandating study on several sites around America for permanent and secure storage of this material.  Five years later, Congress selected the Yucca Mountain site in the Nevada desert, some 80 miles south of Las Vegas.  After a failed Nevada challenge in the courts, Congress again confirmed Yucca Mountain in 2002 and serious planning work continued.

To date, the American taxpayer has invested $9 Billion in railway, site planning and initial construction.  In addition, we have purchased a $13 Million tunnel boring device designed specifically to complete the work at Yucca Mountain.  

The EPA  and the Department of Energy have each spent addditional funds to separately CERTIFY in 2005 that the radiation leak risk from Yucca Mountain is so small that the US Government stands behind its finding that less than 1 millirem of radiation per year is the highest possible risk, and that for 10,000 years!  That's less radiation than you get making one coast to coast flight... Unsatisfactory to Senator Reid, additional studies led to USG certification (that means financial liability) that the Yucca Mountain site would be safe for ONE MILLION years.  Still unsatisfactory for the man who declared the project "dead" three years ago.  So, the Obama Administration has announced that it will begin all over again to do the work that has been going on for 27 years.  

More bad news.  In the $787 Billion"Stimulus Act" recently signed by President Obama, there were to be no "earmarks."  They still insist that to be true.  However, one "shovel ready" project was $8 Billion for work on high speed rail projects ready to be built.  Trouble is, there was only one such project anywhere in the nation - the high speed rail line long championed by the Senate Majority Leader to link Las Vegas to Los Angeles.  Apparently the twenty-odd flights per day between the two cities were not enough to keep the dice hot or the cards shuffled enough for Harry.  So, high speed rail there will be, thanks to the good senator. Oink!

Do you see how any of this can possibly end in good news?

Here's how.  With all the transportation plans done for the Yucca Mountain site to accept delivery of nuclear waste, let's get some value for the money we've spent and will spend!  A few minor adjustments, and we can have the waste continue to be delivered to the Yucca Mountain site where it can be easily transloaded onto the Harry Reid High Speed Rail and delivered to Los Angeles, specifically the location  shown below.  Let the recipients figure out what to do with their gift from Harry.  "Go ahead, make my day..."



Wasted years? - 27

Wasted dollars? - $9.5 Billion plus

Solving two long term problems at once? - PRICELESS!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Well, That's a Bummer...


Hi, guys!

The "Save the Planet" people just keeping getting loonier.  

I love this planet -- it's the only one I will ever inhabit, so it feels like home.  God made it for us and we should take care of it.  But there are some limits.

Here's an article from London in today's Daily Mail.  Some highlights in green.  I'm not making this up.

Luxury toilet paper is more harmful to the environment than gas-guzzling cars

Last updated at 1:51 AM on 27th February 2009

More than 98 per cent of toilet paper in the U.S.A. comes from virgin forests

More than 98 per cent of toilet paper in the U.S. comes from virgin forests

Extra-soft toilet paper is more harmful to the environment than gas-guzzling cars, campaigners claimed yesterday.

An obsession by Americans for the expensive quilted and multi-ply paper means that thousands of trees are being cut down for the U.S. market every year.

More than 98 per cent of toilet paper in the country comes from virgin forests and uses hardly any recycled materials. 

Toxic fumes are also released into the atmosphere because of the chemicals used in paper pulp manufacture.In Europe, up to 40 per cent of toilet paper comes from recycled products.

Scientist Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defence Council, said: 'This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous.

'Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. 

'Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.

'I really do think it is overwhelmingly an American phenomenon.

'People just don't understand that softness equals ecological destruction.'

Greenpeace has launched an ecological guide to toilet paper in an effort to counter the multi-million pound marketing budget of luxury toilet paper manufactures.

Lindsey Allen, Greenpeace's forestry campaigner, said: 'We have this myth in the U.S. that recycled is just so low quality, it's like cardboard.'

Americans use more paper than paper than any other country - about three times more than people in the UK, and 100 times more than the average person in China.

Toilet paper manufacturer Kimberly-Clark denies that its products are damaging the environment.

Spokesman Dave Dixon said his company used paper from sustainably farmed forests in Canada.

He added: 'For bath tissue Americans in particular like the softness and strength that virgin fibres provides

Well, a thought or two on the above.

1.  I now understand why Europeans always seem so dour and downbeat.  Hemorrhoids can do that to you.

2.  The three seconds that Europeans use toilet paper may also be as a result of the pain of wiping with the recycled cardboard or corn husks or whatever that stuff is made of.  Have you ever used European toilet paper?  Not pleasant, let me assure you.  

3.  The three second wipe must also mean only one or two "sheets of pain" are used very quickly by Europeans, which may, perhaps, ofter some insight as to the smell on the Metro in Paris or the Tube in London.

4.  Since Eurpeans apparently do not cut down trees nor use chemicals to process pulp, just how exactly do they get paper?  The husks and cardboard answer is beginning to make sense.

5.  Since "luxury toilet paper is more harmful to the environment than gas guzzling cars,"  perhaps we should elevate hydrogen sulfide to become the "leading greenhouse gas," replacing the evil CO2.

Somebody go ask the bears - you'll usually find them with their roll of corn husks, in the woods on the high ground.