Saturday, December 30, 2006


I'm currently reading one of the best history books I've come across in quite a long time. Armageddon, by British historian Max Hastings, is simply superb. Sixty years after the end of WWII, thousands of books have been written about the war. Despite being probably the most analyzed and dissected conflict in human history, Hastings manages to not only bring a fresh and unique view, but he also describes events that I was totally unfamiliar with (e.g., the Russian thrust into East Prussia which had virtually no military significance yet resulted in the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians).

Here are a couple of excerpts from reviews of this excellent book:

From the New York Times:

... The central question about [the European war's] final phase is not, to borrow the title of Richard Overy's excellent book, ''why the Allies won,'' but rather why it took the Germans so long to lose. This is the question posed by ''Armageddon,'' Max Hastings's splendid account of the European war from the Allies' failure to capture the bridge at Arnhem in mid-September 1944 to the final extinction of German resistance in May 1945.

It is not difficult to understand why Hitler and those closest to him did not surrender in the fall of 1944. They knew what they had done: the mass murder of Europe's Jews, the vicious occupation policies in Poland and Russia, the millions of Russian prisoners of war dead of starvation and neglect. Their only option was to hope for a miracle -- one of the new weapons that German scientists were struggling to develop, the shattering of the alliance between the Western democracies and the Soviet Union, a dramatic victory by the hard pressed German Army.

How the Nazis were able to keep fighting is more difficult to understand. Hastings offers three explanations. First was Albert Speer's organization of the German economy, which provided enough matériel to sustain the machinery of war. Second was Heinrich Himmler's huge repression of dissent, which severely punished any indication of ''defeatism.'' And finally there was the fighting power of the German Army, which is Hastings's main subject. Sometimes outnumbered by as much as seven to one, usually without air support, German troops nevertheless fought with remarkable skill and intensity, inflicting proportionally more casualties than they suffered, forcing their enemies to pay dearly for every kilometer they eventually conquered.

From the Wall Street Journal:

"Armageddon" tells the story of the last terrible months of World War II, which saw the Goetterdammerung of Imperial and Nazi Germany's bid to conquer the world. Its British author, Max Hastings, is a former war correspondent who has seen the face of battle on many fields. Thus he writes with authority, as well as humanity, about the realities of combat -- the fear, smells, hunger, humiliation and the horrendous wounds inflicted. His range spans from the lowliest GI crouched in his foxhole in the dread Hurtgen Forest to the commanders in charge. He has been helped by the post-Glasnost availability in the former Soviet Union of combat accounts previously out of reach.

The result is a broad canvas that emphasizes the appalling toll of war on the Eastern Front. Among other things, "Armageddon" (Alfred A. Knopf, 584 pages, $30) relates the ruthless rape and pillage of East Prussia by Stalin's troops, full of terrible vengeance for the atrocities committed by the Germans in Russia. Almost eclipsing the savagery of Genghis Khan, much of this was hitherto unseen by Western eyes.

From National Review:

In Armageddon, a sequel of sorts to his acclaimed book Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, 1944, published 20 years ago, Hastings recounts this final act in the drama set in motion when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. He covers not only the Western Allies' side of the story but also the much less familiar and far more brutal Soviet side of the battle for Germany. He offers penetrating assessments of the principal leaders-Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler-and of their foremost generals, but at the same time he draws on interviews and other records of the experience of ordinary soldiers and civilians. The result is an exceptionally rich and balanced work of military history that will be widely read for years to come.

I realize that I'm a history buff and that not everyone finds history as interesting as I do. However, I find Armageddon to be a unique work of history in that it does more than regurgitate the facts. Hastings offers new perspectives and insights that will reshape the historical understanding of World War II.
A Friend in Need

An interesting milestone. I first saw this in the Wall Street Journal but couldn't find it online. Here it is from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Britain pays off its WWII debt

BRITAIN has paid the last instalment of its World War II-era debt to the US and Canada, with a $US100 million ($126.8 million) payment to its allies.

Britain was left with a debt of $US4.3 billion to the US and $US1.2 billion to Canada more than 60 years ago, when London took out loans to finance reconstruction.

Annual payments on the loans, taken out at 2 per cent interest, have since totalled twice the original debt in dollar terms.

"We finally honour in full our commitments to the US and Canada for the support they gave us 60 years ago," Economic Secretary Ed Balls said. "It was vital support which helped Britain defeat Nazi Germany."

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Interesting story about a big chunk of ice falling into the sea. The ice, about the size of Manhattan, fell into the Artic 500 miles from the North Pole. Not surprisingly, junk science fear-mongers have seized on this as Exhibit #1 to support their "global warming" hypothesis. Stand by for an announcement from Al Gore.

In fact, I gave up trying to find a news story about this ice cube without the "global warming" angle prominently played up. To wit:

New York Times
A 25-square-mile shelf of floating ice that jutted into the Arctic Ocean for 3,000 years from Canada's northernmost shore broke away abruptly in the summer of 2005, apparently freed by sharply warming temperatures and jostling wind and waves, scientists said yesterday.

Science Daily
[University of Ottawa geographer Luke] Copland and colleagues concluded that the disintegration was caused by several factors, mostly related to global warming, he said.

Chicago Tribune
A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an Arctic island, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.

Washington Post
Global warming could be one cause of the break of the Ayles Ice Shelf at Ellesmere Island, which occurred in the summer of 2005 but was only detected recently by satellite photos, said Luke Copland, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's geography department.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Playoffs Coming ...

... which Bears team is going to show up? At times this year they've been absolutely dominant; other times, unfortunately, they've played down to the level of the opposition. Case in point: Tampa Bay 2 weeks ago. The Bears had the Bucs on the ropes and the game in the bag. However, they played poorly and let Tampa Bay back in the game. Tampa tied the game and sent it into overtime where the Bears won with a field goal. Ugh.

Anyway, they have a first-round bye. Let's hope they're ready to play and that they play reminisent of this cast of characters! :-)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Spiritual Devotion Meme

Saw this on the 'Singing in the Reign' blog and thought I would post it and my responses here.

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus.
I really like a well-done Benediction service. There's nothing quite like the incense, candles, vestments, etc. Moreover, the Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris Hostia,
and the Divine Praises can be very edifying and uplifting.

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer.
The most powerful "weapon" in the world -- the Rosary.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
Yes -- for more than 30 years. Which is pretty amazing considering that I've only been Catholic for about 10 years. (It's a long story that I don't have time to go into here. Suffice it to say that the ways of God and His Blessed Mother and so much surer than ours.)

4. Do you have holy water in your home?

5. Do you "offer up" your sufferings?
Sometimes. But I'm usually too stubborn, or too much of a baby to think to do so.

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
Well, not really. While I go to Mass on Fridays and Saturdays, I usually forget that it's a First Friday or Saturday.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How Frequently?
Yes, but not on a regular basis. For a while, we were going regularly on Sunday evenings. It was a great way to end the weekend and prepare for the new week. Somehow, we got distracted and stopped. However, it's (almost) a new year and I think I have a great idea for a New Year's resolution. :-)

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or a Sunday morning Mass person?
Sunday morning. Saturday evening Mass rubs me the wrong way. I know it was started for people who have to work Sundays, but I suspect many (most?) of the folks who go to Saturday evening Mass are there so they can sleep in, go golfing, watch football, read the newspaper, etc. on Sunday morning.

For crying out loud, God gave us everything -- jobs, golf, football, newspapers, etc. You'd think we could begrudge Him an hour Sunday morning to give thanks.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
Yes. It's also a great way to stealth evangelize. It made the Sign of the Cross and said grace at an airport restaurant once and a woman was prompted to come over and talk to me about being Catholic.

10. Favorite saints.
St. Joseph (see #3 above :-)
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Thomas a Kempis
(I know, technically he's not a saint. But don't tell me the author of 'My Imitation of Christ' isn't a familiar friend of our Lord Jesus)
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Irenaeus

Mary Magdalen

11. Can you recite the Apostles' Creed by heart?

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
Yes. I heard a talk by Fr. Philip Scott and he taught the aspiration 'Praise be Lord Jesus Christ, now and forever'. I started saying it and find myself saying it throughout the course of the day.

13. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
Yes. I saw three 'Hail Mary' for the injured and the responders.

When You Say Nothing At All

We were talking the other day about song covers. During the conversation, I mentioned how some covers become more popular or are done better than the original version -- with the cover subsequently "owning" the song. (A good example is Jimi Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower'.)

Here, Alison Kraus does a cover of Keith Whitley's 'When You Say Nothing At All'. While Whitley's is still a very good version, I think it's safe to say that this is Alison Kraus' song now.

Friday, December 22, 2006

If You're Going to Defend Yourself, Make Sure You've Got the Right Weapon to Defend Yourself With

Interesting story I came across via the "Of Arms and the Law" blog. It seems a bad guy tried to murder a fellow in the course of a robbery but missed and then learned he went after the wrong victim -- one who was able to defend himself and shoot back.

What makes this story particularly noteable is that the robber/would-be killer got shot between the eyes by the victim with a 9mm handgun. However, the bullet furrowed into the flesh of the robber's forehead causing a lot of swelling, a big black eye (and probably a massive headache). So, the jist of the article the blog linked to was about the "search and seizure" aspects of the cops getting a warrant to remove the slug from the perp's forehead.

However, there is another aspect to the case that the news story does not get into: If you are about to be killed by a bad guy but manage to get a shot off in self-defense, it doesn't do you much good if your weapon doesn't put the bad guy down.

Naturally, I'm not in favor of killing anyone. On the other hand, if someone is coming after me or my family with the intent to kill, I'm going to defend them / myself. And, if such an awful situation was to develop, the last thing I'd want is to get a shot off and it doesn't stop the bad guy. Can you imagine what it must have been like for this victim? He just shot this perp between the eyes and, apart from the fact that he'll probably need some future cosmetic surgery, all that happened was the perp got knocked down and ended up with a headache!

Moral of the story: If you need to defend yourself, make sure you've got a weapon you can defend yourself with. I know I do.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Progress of Technology

Earlier this week, I got a new cell phone. My contract was up and Verizon was offering some great incentives to entice me to stay with them. (It's a win-win as I had no plans to move to another carrier.) Anyways, I chose the new LG VX8600. I was putting this phone in my pocket earlier this evening and was struck by the tremendous evolution of cell phone technology over the last 20 or so years.

Here is one of the first popular cell phones. It goes without saying that this phone was "portable" only in a narrowly technical way.

I don't remember specifically, but this phone weighed several pounds, had minimal functionality (I can't recall, but don't even think it had an address book). Moreover, once unplugged from an outlet, it's battery life was an hour or two at most.

As some of you know, I used to work for Motorola's cell phone division and can remember when some of our competitors didn't even have "portable" phones. In fact, I can remember inserting a "spy" photo of one of competitors "mobile" phones which weighed 25 or more pounds and took up the entire passenger seat of a car into a proposal to drive home how "high tech" our bag phone was compared to the competition. :-)

Now check out this phone. As mentioned, it's the new LG VX8600. Instead of pounds, it weighs 3.2 ounces -- it is 3.9 inches tall, 1.9 inches wide, and a whopping .6 inches thick! It is so small and light, I don't even notice it when I put it in my pocket. A pack of gum would feel bulkier in my pocket than this phone (likely why they have it placed next to a pack of gum here :-). It takes pictures and videos, it has an MP3 player, it has Bluetooth, it can access the internet, holds 500 contacts, etc., etc. It's battery will last for days, not hours, before needing to be recharged.

It is incredible how this technology has advanced. What kind of communications devices will we be using 20 years from now?
Christmas Gifts for "Gun Nuts"

One of my favorite blogs is a gun blog by a fellow down near New Orleans called "Xavier Thoughts". He is a pretty regular poster, has well-written posts, and always has something interesting to say. His "Christmas Gifts" post -- including the comments -- is so good that I'm just going to post them in their entirety. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Gifts for the Gun Nut

At Christmas time, it is often difficult to know what to get for a person who has a passion for firearms, so here are a few pointers/suggestions:

Ammo: The gold standard. You cannot go wrong with ammo. My future son-in-law bought me a case of .45ACP last year. I was very pleased. Note I call him my future son in law today. Make certain you buy the right caliber ammunition. Ammo is usually non-returnable, and if you buy the wrong caliber, your recipient may have to buy a new gun. That's really not a bad thing though.

Targets: Gun nuts tend to be a bit budget conscious when considering targets. Tin cans, McDonald's toys, index cards and old AOL CDs are common high class targets among the gunnie set. When we cannot find those, we shoot at less attractive items. A package of Birchwood ShootNSee targets makes a great gift. In fact, a box full of them is fantastic.

Holsters: To buy the right holster you need to know which sidearm your gun nut carries and how he likes to carry it. If you have any questions, a gift certificate from Mitch Rosen, Milt Sparks or Gene DeSantis will suffice. If you pull a holster off the rack at the gun store, make certain you buy the right one, as they are usually non-returnable, and your recipient may have to buy a new gun.......

Belts: If your recipient still carries his piece strapped to a Dickie's belt from Wal-Mart, buy him a real gun belt. Trust me, it's one of the best gifts available for a skin flint CCW person.

Grips: Grips are a wonderful gift for a gunnie.....Just remember two types.....stag or faux......and you can't go wrong. Make certain you buy grips for a gun your recipient already owns, or you will have him going to the savings & loan before the next gun show. Hint: there are no ivory or stag grips for Glock, HK, or KelTec guns.

Clothing: Shirts and caps with your gun nut's favorite brand of weapon embroideried often makes a cherished gift. I have several S&W and Colt shirts, which I love to wear to cocktail parties to attract other gunnies I haven't yet met. The Smith & Wesson apparel is particularly nice......If your gunnie likes Smith & Wessons. If not, a Glock polo shirt may trip his trigger.

Magazine subscriptions: Forget it.

Cleaning Supplies: This one is tricky. Take a look at what he already has, and buy the same thing in a larger quantity. The only really safe lubricant gift he may not already have is Ballistol or Slide-Glide.

A New Gun: You really can't go wrong with this gift. If you have any question of which one to buy, just buy two......No gunnie appreciates anything as much as a free gun.

posted by Xavier at 5:15 AM
Here are the comments:

Keith Walker said...


Another good idea is cash. I plan on using extra cash for league fees or IPSC/IDPA shoots.

I'm also asking for gift certificates to Academy and Sportsman's Warehouse. One can never have enough extra magazines. Not magazine subscriptions, but mags for your gun.

A nice gun bag would be cool too.

5:37 PM

AlanDP said...

Sometimes I open my gun safe just to get a good whiff of Ballistol.

5:39 PM

Conservative Scalawag said...

Yeah, I tried that last year with my wife to get me gun stuff. Wanted something simple. Dick's sporting goods had a Winchester travel mug filled .22lr. It was a no-go. She says that my gun hobbie is personal and she really does not know what I have. Like she does know where my keys are and look inside the safe. I told her she is having a cheap christmas due to the fact that since she will not get me that Blackhawk drop hoslter that I had to save up for it myself. Just kidding. But I did want that traval mug last year. Oh well.

6:52 PM

alpineman said...

I was going to make out a "gift suggestions" list to send to friends & family (who just can't seem to get an idea of what to get the "gun nut" ...) but I see it's been done! I hope you don't mind if I forward this link on.

7:20 PM

JPG said...

Good entry, 'Zave. With a bit o' thought, it isn't difficult to buy gifts for any gunny. The only time it's easier is when the firearms enthusiast is also a peace officer or an aviator. My Elder Son has recently resumed status as a street cop, and there's ALWAYS some gadget or techno-curio coming out.

Think of the merchandising craze whereby you can sell hunters ANYTHING with a camoflage pattern. I'm figure you could make a mint if you ordered up Tupperware containers or even a Salad Shooter in flat black, marked TACTICAL, and flogged 'em to cops.
Hint: Po-leece always appreciate some sort of compact flashlight


8:42 AM

1894C said...

LOVED this sentence!

"Hint: there are no ivory or stag grips for Glock, HK, or KelTec guns."

I don't know why but as a wheel gun fan I found this LOL funny!

8:53 AM

Pawpaw said...

The gunny places I shop, Midway USA and MidSouth Shooters Supply all have something called a Wish List.

A big box just came from MidSouth and I think my lady just dumped everthing from the list into the shopping cart, and pressed Checkout.

I am indeed a lucky man.

9:26 AM

Anonymous said...

I've told my wife this for years, but so far, nada. How do you get her past saying "That's not a real present" when you ask for some boxes of .45 ACP Hydrashoks or XTP's for Christmas stocking stuffers?

2:40 PM

An Annual Ritual -- Watch "It's a Wonderful Life"

This is such a great movie. I try to watch it every year before Christmas. I think doing so would be a great holiday tradition for families (and I'm sure it is for millions of families already).

Here is a review of the movie from the Decent Films Guide.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

1946, RKO. Directed by Frank Capra. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers.

By Steven D. Greydanus

“No one is born to be a failure. No one is poor who has friends.” These platitudes, plastered across the packaging of home-video editions of Frank Capra’s evergreen Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, embody the film’s popular but misleading image as sentimental, schmaltzy “Capra-corn.” Yet the film itself is leavened by darker themes and more rigorous morals about self-sacrifice, disappointment, and the fragility of happiness and the American dream.

Like another popular Christmas story, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life is in part about an oppressive relationship between a cruel rich man and a sympathetic, less well-to-do family man, that results in supernatural intervention and an alternate vision of reality. But where A Christmas Carol was about the redemption of Scrooge, It’s a Wonderful Life is about its Bob Cratchitt, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), and his heroic virtue and consistently selfless choices, his dark night of the soul, and his ultimate vindication.

In a way, it’s actually a rather grim tale. The life of George Bailey (James Stewart in a career-defining performance) is a study in hardship, frustration and lost dreams. Time after time, happiness seems just around the corner for George, only to be lost at the last moment. More precisely, George consistently chooses to give up on his dreams for the sake of the greater good: his dreams of traveling to Europe; his college plans; even his Bermuda honeymoon.

Looming behind all of these lost opportunities is the bloated bulk of Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), whose ruthless avarice is the bane of the Bailey family and the town of Bedford Falls. Potter says that George’s father was “not a business man, and that’s what killed him,” but the truth is that the elder Bailey died fighting to buffer the citizens of Bedford Falls from Potter’s tightening grip.

It’s a Wonderful Life does not paint an idyllic world with a single dissonant threat to be stopped from artificially ruining things. There are also the nearly fatal accidents involving George’s brother Harry and Mr. Gower the druggist, Peter Bailey’s death, and of course the war itself. In this world, tragedy and ruin are always right around the corner, and only the heroism of men like George Bailey offers any hope of something better. The dark alternate reality of “Potterville” is not the result of something going fundamentally wrong with the world; it is simply the way things would be had someone not prevented them. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Like many Christmas films, It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t really have much to do with the real meaning of Christmas, apart from St. Joseph in heaven appearing in voiceover. The movie even perpetuates the popular religious confusion about human beings becoming “angels” rather than saints when they die.

Even so, the movie's milieu is more recognizably spiritual than A Christmas Carol and most of its ilk. The film is set in motion by the prayers of men and women all over town offered for George Bailey. And while George himself confesses to God in his darkest hour that he is “not a praying man,” what he does in its own way reflects the Christmas story: He empties himself out of love, becoming poor for the sake of his people, the citizens of Bedford Falls.

DVD Note: Paramount's new 60th anniversary edition offers a new transfer with enhanced visual clarity, though no new bonus features over earlier DVD releases, which seems a rather shabby way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of a beloved classic.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

From the Hedgehog blog via Powerline.

Second Lieutenant Scott Lundell, RIP: A Story About Coming Home

If you're like me, you have only a vague idea of how fallen American soldiers are brought home. Here is the story of Second Lieutenant Scott Lundell's final journey. 2LT Lundell, whose photo is at left, gave his life in Afghanistan on November 25, 2006 while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.

I learned of this story from an unusual source: a sports fan message board. The post's author told me by e-mail that he works for Delta Airlines, which brought 2LT Lundell home, and that the story was circulated in an internal e-mail to Delta employees.

I haven't been able to find another on-line source, but I don't doubt the story's authenticity. I have not been able to locate the named author, Paul Faletto, who escorted the fallen hero home from Dover Air Force Base, but Faletto has been a military science instructor at Weber State University, in 2LT Lundell's home state of Utah.

Here's the story of 2LT Lundell's memorial service in Afghanistan. And here's 2LT Lundell's obituary, well worth reading.

Scott left a wife and four children, the oldest age 10. His wife Jeanine is in the above right Deseret News photo, accepting the flag that draped Scott's coffin. If, like me, you'd like to donate to the fund established for them, send your donation to:
Mountain American Credit Union
P.O. Box 9001
West Jordan, Utah 84084
Attention: Olivia

Mark your check "Scott Lundell Memorial Fund."

Just spend 30 seconds contemplating the photo above and you'll want to help.

[Welcome, Power Line readers. Please spread the word about this family.]

A Warrior's Last Steps Home

Last Monday I received a call from the Mortuary Affairs Office. I would have rather have been called by the IRS scheduling an audit for the past 20 years.

A Second Lieutenant had been killed in Afghanistan and we were to send a person to escort him home to his family and final resting place. This time it was not a stranger, it was a young officer whom I knew.

2LT Scott Lundell was a new officer in my previous unit. He was on his way to earning a Green Beret. He had heard the sounds of the guns after 9-11 and instinctively this warrior's heart lead him to move towards those who were in danger. He put aside his personal aspirations of earning his Special Forces tab and volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan to train the Afghani Army.

His patrol was ambushed by vastly superior numbers. Undeterred, 2LT Lundell moved to counterattack. 2LT Lundell was always a natural leader. From serving as Student Body President, to serving his church on a foreign mission, to the battlefields of Afghanistan, 2LT Lundell always was a leader. His heroic actions saved many lives, yet cost him his own on that day.

I flew to Philadelphia on Thursday. It was my mission to escort and guard this father, soldier, warrior, and hero on his final journey home. It was a mission that I wished I had not offered, but accepted with honor.

The phone rang at 0200. Wake up call, 45 minutes to shine my shoes, shower, shave, and put on my Dress Blues before my ride to Dover AFB arrived. The standard uniform for this assignment is the Army Class "A", but our commander ordered all members of the honor detail to wear the uniform reserved for our most reserved occasions.

Sergeant Parsons greeted me as we entered Dover's Mortuary Affairs center. There were two other's from the Army who were there to escort soldiers home and one Marine with the same assignment. We were lead into a small conference room and began our briefing of our duties and sequence of events.

On the table in front of me sat a stack of cases holding the awards 2LT Lundell had earned. Purple Heart, Bronze Star, combat Action Badge, Paratrooper's Wings.... and a small, black, velvet bag with the words, "United States of America" across the front.

I was instructed to open the green folder on my table and remove the top form. I then to opened the black bag and began to inventory the immediate personal effects of 2LT Lundell. Out of nowhere, somebody hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. I felt sick. I could feel the fever coming on, I could feel the sweat begin to bead on my head, and my hands began to shake. This was now very real and very personal.

My unsteady hands removed his watch, his dog tags, a challenge coin he had received from the 3rd Special Forces, and finally a gold wedding band. Through watery eyes I checked off each of these items on the form. I noticed Scott had a small plastic tag on his dog tag chain. I saw the familiar words emblazoned from the Special Operations Memorial in Arlington. It was the scripture from Isaiah 6:8.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
At 0500 I boarded a special van with 2LT Lundell and we drove to Philadelphia. We arrived at the Delta cargo terminal. The driver & I unloaded 2LT Lundell and entered the office to complete his paperwork to travel home. Once we had his affairs in order, the driver took me to the passenger terminal.

I entered the bustling crowd of people all trying to fly to various destinations and began looking for the entrance to check in. I'm not sure if it was my emotionally dazed look or full dress uniform that caught the eye of the Delta agent named Michelle. She quickly pulled me aside and asked if I was escorting. I told her that I was and she took me aside and checked me in for my flight.

She upgraded my seat to first class, told me my departure gate, instructed me to use the far left lane of the security screening, and then took my and thanked me. She told me she would come to the gate and help me get to the tarmac to pick up 2LT Lundell.

I walked to the far left side of the TSA screening and stood in line. Regulations require I remain in uniform, but the TSA could ask me to remove my jacket and shoes. I was told they may have a private area where I could remove my jacket and shoes, but did not see any place where this could transpire. An agent from TSA quickly noticed me and asked if I was escorting and I nodded. He opened the line and led me to a lane that was even further to the left.

The TSA agents x-rayed my carry on bag and were able to conduct their security search while allowing me to maintain my professional duties.The agent shook my hand and thanked me. It was painfully obvious to me that this was something they had done many times, yet they really went to lengths to make me feel comfortable.

Michelle met me at the gate and introduced me to Dan who would take me down to the tarmac. The crew arrived shortly thereafter. The pilot came and shook my hand and told me if I needed anything to let him know.

He asked if he could have the other passenger remain seated to allow me to deplane first. I told him it would be very helpful if he could and that it would save time because offloading 2LT Lundell is the first thing the baggage handlers would do.

Dan led me down the stairs and I inspected the cardboard shipping container that protected 2LT Lundell's wooden coffin. There was not doubt it was him. The formality of checking his name and the condition were part of my duties.

I knew it was him. 2LT Lundell was a man larger than life itself. He required an extra large coffin. It was large enough to hold his body, but not the character of his spirit nor the love he gave and received.

The baggage handlers were most professional, but unprepared for such a man. Two of them tried to lift the end of this giant. It took another handler and me to place the 500+ pounds onto the conveyor to load 2LT Lundell into the hold of the 757. Once on the conveyor, I stepped back and rendered a salute as I watched him load into the plane.

I boarded the plane and sat down. The flight was completely full, yet I felt totally alone. I suppose it takes a couple hours to fly from Philadelphia to Atlanta, but time for me was a cloud. I heard the pilot ask the other passengers to allow me to depart the plane first and the flight attendants reminded them of this as we landed.

As we approached the gate I saw an Honor Guard formed by the baggage handlers. I had never seen nor heard of anything like this. I was stunned that the airline would go to such lengths for a fallen soldier. They stood at attention holding the flags of the United States of America, the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force.

The plane came to a rest and I stood. Not a single person moved.

Every passenger paid tribute to a man that made it possible for them to fly safely that day. As I exited the aircraft I was immediately greeted by a Delta baggage handler who told me he was a former Marine. He explained that the employees who were veterans received special permission from the Department of Defense to form an Honor Guard so they may honor all of the fallen soldiers as they transport them home. He
asked if I would participate in their ceremony and in a prayer with them.

We marched to the conveyor and 2LT Lundell was brought to us. We presented arms as he came down and then the Marine gave a short prayer. We prayed for Scott, for his family, for me, and for the Lord's protection for all who place themselves in harm's way to defend our freedom. It took every ounce of my strength to maintain my composure as I thanked each of them for what they did that day, for their service to
our nation, and for the ceremonies they will render for the heroes that will pass by them in the future. They gave me the short program and the prayer and asked me to give it to his wife. Each man had signed it: Fred Cadwell, James Davis, William Stearns, and Juan Farmer. I wished I had copied the prayer. A few short words, uttered in front of a few men, but heard by God.

2LT Lundell was placed on a special cart. Painted dark blue with the emblems of all branches of the military and these words, "All gave some, some gave all." "Delta vets honoring our own." We were taken to the employee lounge while we waited for our flight to SLC.

When the plane was inbound, we were taken to the gate. The driver parked the cart so nobody would see the precious cargo it carried. He took me upstairs so I could check in. The agent arrived and I asked her if it was possible to move me closer to the door. She said her computer was not up yet, but she would see what she could do. I stood watching the cart through the window. I doubted anybody would notice that one of the baggage carts was very different.

The pilot arrived and immediately walked over to me. He was a former officer in the USAF and his son flies F-15's out of Mountain Home Idaho. He also offered me any assistance he could provide. I told him how touched I had been with everything Delta had done. We shook hands and he went to go conduct his pre-flight checks.

The crowd around the agent at the desk was gone so I walked over to see if she was able to move me closer to the door. She handed me a boarding pass that put me at the back of first class nearest to the door. I thanked her and went back to watching 2LT Lundell. The baggage handlers came to move him to prepare to load. The gate agent opened the door and I went down to his cart.

I told the baggage handlers that they needed to get more people. So they brought two more men over. The pilot stopped what he was doing and came to assist as well. The pilot helped us load 2LT Lundell and then stood beside me and rendered a salute as he was placed into the hold of the aircraft.

As we flew to SLC, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a unit coin. He said this was from one grunt to another. He was the Commander of Dugway Proving Grounds. He knew why I was in my dress blues and what I was doing. It was a welcomed gesture of support. I felt I was not as alone on this part of the journey.

The pilot announced to the flight that they were bringing one of Utah's native sons home and that I was escorting him. He asked if everyone would allow me to please exit first. As we taxied to the gate the flight attendants repeated the request and said how privileged they felt to be able to do so and that they wished to thank all those who serve and have served our country.

Chicago was closed that day due to weather. I heard passengers say how only four flights made it out in the morning. Our plane was full of people who had rerouted to try to make their destinations. I heard several passengers mention they had less than 30 minutes to make their connections. I wondered if they would allow me to move to the door. I did not want to have to ask people to move so I could be first.

My concerns were abolished when the plane stopped. I stood and took a step towards the door. Nobody rose; everyone began to applaud at once. These strangers were bound by a kinship we all shared. We all were part of bringing 2LT Lundell home to Utah.

The first person I saw when I walked down the stair to the tarmac was BG Wilson, the Commander of I Corps. It was his command that 2LT Lundell volunteered to go to war. His eyes looked like mine. We shared in the grief of the responsibility. He returned my salute and gave me pat on the shoulder and thanked me. Behind him I saw 2LT Lundell's best friend from Afghanistan. He is a 1LT who was going through Special Forces training with 2LT Lundell. This 1LT was one of my ROTC students. I counseled with he and 2LT Lundell about this mission prior to their departure.

This 1LT had brought 2LT Lundell from Afghanistan to the USA. They had served together and they were close. 2LT Lundell's wife asked him to bring him home and to come to the funeral.

The Honor Guard now took charge of transporting 2LT Lundell. These were highly professional NCO's who I had worked with before. I was relieved to see them. They took a tremendous weight off of my shoulders.

They entered the cargo hold of the plane and removed the protective cardboard from the casket. They placed the stars of our nation's flag over the left shoulder and ran the stripes down past his feet. They brought him off the pane and placed him on a cart. The cart was escorted by his family, the Honor Guard, and at least six
airport police to a hanger. In the hanger, 2LT Lundell was taken from the cart and placed into the hearse.

After he was placed into the hearse I saw MG Tarbet. It was obvious that this was very personal to him. He looked like this was his own son. His strength and 2LT Lundell's wife's strength was incredible. I've never seen any two people so close to losing a loved one handle it so well.

The ride to the mortuary was somber. Every police officer in the valley must have been there. I have seen the motorcade when the President of the US visited Utah and it was nothing compared to what I saw this time. Every intersection was blocked for the entire 15 mile trip. Police were not leap frogging to get ahead to the next
intersection, they were already there. It was below freezing, yet there were officers on motorcycles.

When we arrived at the funeral home, the Honor Guard removed 2LT Lundell from the hearse and took him inside. Once inside, I followed the casket to a back room. CPT Wiedmeier was the Casualty Assistance Officer and he took care of the family while I went with 2LT Lundell. My job was easy compared to his.

The funeral home director and his staff only had a few minutes to try to make any adjustments if needed. We were told, "Viewable for Identification Only". This would most likely mean a closed casket and no viewing. SGT Parsons had told me they always down grade the condition to protect the family.

When the casket was opened there was opaque plastic covering his face. I feared the worst. When it was removed, he looked perfect. The funeral home people set about their duties while I inspected his uniform. Everything was in order and they moved him to a viewing room.

CPT Wiedmeier broke away so he and I could take care of paperwork. I signed over 2LT Lundell's personal effects and his awards to him so he could present them to the family. When he left to do this, I met with the Director of the funeral home and had him sign the remaining forms accepting 2LT Lundell and verifying his condition.

The Honor Guard took charge of guarding 2LT Lundell until his funeral. They would stand vigilant through the night and into the day until he was laid to final rest.

I found the 1LT who brought 2LT Lundell out of Afghanistan. His wife was clutching his arm. I thought how she must be thinking how easily the roles could be reversed and how it could be her husband instead. I talked with him briefly, offering encouragement and assistance. I'm sure those two spent the night holding each other closer than they ever have in their lives.

This was one of the greatest honors I've ever had. I wish to never do this again, but would do so anytime for any soldier.

posted by The Hedgehog at 8:49 AM | Trackback

Friday, December 15, 2006

Letter to the Trib

Just sent this letter to the Chicago Tribune. Don't hold your breath, they have never ever printed one of my letters.
Re: "Tackle facing 6 gun charges"

With four reporters working on this story, it would be nice if the Tribune could get its facts straight. It would also be helpful if the story was written as a straight news piece rather than an anti-gun oped. However, it appears that straight news reporting would be inconsistent with the Tribune's apparent anti-gun agenda.

The first paragraph of the story read:

"A cache of unregistered guns and assault rifles—some loaded—was found Thursday inside the home of Bears defensive tackle Terry "Tank" Johnson when Gurnee police raided his house while he was at Halas Hall preparing for Sunday's Tampa Bay game."

"Unregistered guns"? The fact is that guns do not have to be registered in Illinois. While it would have taken a little knowledge or research to get this basic fact correct, it sounded much better to say Johnson had a "cache of unregistered guns".

Moreover, the word "cache" sounds so much better than a less emotionally-charged word like "collection". Similarly, what is an "assault rifle"? Boy, it sure sounds dangerous, but what is it exactly? Even the drafters of the 1994 "Assault Weapons" Ban had a hard time defining what an "assault weapon" was.

However, basic factual information and accuracy appeared to be much less important to this story than using accurate information and emotional jargon to promote an anti-gun point of view.
"Not a six-shooter. Six guns"

Join the NRA today. Why? Because the liberal media continues its all-out assault on our 2nd Amendment rights, and they won't be satisfied until they're successful in totally banning private ownership of firearms.

Today's reporting on the charges against Chicago Bears defensive lineman "Tank" Johnson is a great case-in-point.

In its story, the Chicago Sun-Times reports:
  • "[A] police SWAT team stormed his home Thursday in north suburban Gurnee and seized* six guns."
  • "The guns -- which included two military-style assault weapons -- were found in several rooms of the two-story brick home on a secluded side street. A variety of ammunition also was found in the home ... ."
The uber-liberal Chicago Tribune said:
  • "A cache of unregistered guns and assault riflessome loaded—was found Thursday inside the home of Bears defensive tackle Terry "Tank" Johnson when Gurnee police raided his house ... ."
  • "The weapons seized during the raid included a .44 magnum Smith&Wesson revolver, a .50 caliber Desert Eagle handgun, a .45 caliber handgun, a .308 caliber Winchester rifle and two assault-style rifles—a Colt AR-15 and a .223 caliber."
In a separate article, a Tribune sports columnist makes the smarmy comment:
"We all make mistakes in life, especially when we're young and full of whatever it is that makes humans do stupid things.

But youthful indiscretion doesn't explain why Gurnee police found six weapons inside the home of Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson when they raided it Thursday. Not a six-shooter. Six guns, including some assault rifles. You never know when you're going to need to protect yourself against roving hordes of pillagers."
Overlooked or buried beneath all this hysteria are some simple facts.
  1. It is not illegal to own a gun; in fact, it is not illegal to own more than one gun. So, comments like "not a six-shooter, six guns" is nothing more than prejudiced fear mongering -- "Gee, if he has more than one gun, he must be a dangerous lunatic". The same with the "assault-style" rifles. A rifle is a rifle; but, try asking a liberal what an "assault rifle" is, much less what an "assault-style rifle" is, and watch for an angry snarl or a blank stare. "Assault Rifle" is a term coined by liberals to make rifles with certain features sound dangerous.
  2. Tank Johnson was arrested, not because he had these weapons (all of which are completely legal to own), or because he had a "variety of ammunition" (if you have different weapons, you need different ammo (duh)); Johnson was arrested because he didn't have an Illinois F.O.I.D. card. A F.O.I.D. card is required in Illinois for just about anything having to do with firearms. If you want to go to the gun range, you need a F.O.I.D. card; if you want to buy ammo, you need a F.O.I.D. card; if you want to look at a gun at Bass Pro Shop, you need a F.O.I.D. card. So Johnson was arrested for ignorance -- he neglected to fill out a form and pay the State of Illinois the $5 fee for a F.O.I.D. card. The penalty for this terrible crime is a small fine.
Despite being an integral part of the tremendously popular Bears team, Johnson is finding out that being a sports celebrity is no help when you run afoul of one of the sacraments of the liberal media -- we don't like people who own guns and will trash and smear gun owners wherever and whenever possible.

* these words and phrases are great examples of agenda-driven journalism. "Seized" sounds much better than "confiscated"; "cache" sounds much better than "collection"; and, never letting facts get in the way of their agenda, the reports tell us that these were "unregistered" guns -- however, guns do not need to be registered.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Obama -- Just a Repackaged Liberal

Great post from the NY Sun's blog "It Shines for All":

December 13, 2006

'Barack Hussein Obama is Liberal-Left to the Core'

"There's nothing 'new' or 'different' about Barack Obama. Behind that charm and charisma -- a media-entrancing appeal worthy of Bill Clinton -- is an extremely liberal-left politician," Larry Kudlow writes on the National Review Online.

Just look at his record. Obama voted against the Bush tax cuts on capital gains and dividends, justifying his anti-growth stance with the old class-warfare saw about tax cuts for the rich. Of course, these are the very same tax cuts that spurred economic expansion, created record job growth, and reduced the deficit as revenues flooded the Treasury.

The young senator also voted against repealing the death tax. He dismissed it as a "Paris Hilton tax break" that would give "billions of dollars to billionaire heirs and heiresses." Try telling that to the owners of farms, ranches, and small businesses who are forced to sell their legacies because of this tax.

He swings a nice protectionist bat, too. He has voted against free trade (CAFTA) and U.S. energy independence (drilling in ANWR), and has opposed lifting a $0.54 per gallon tariff on Brazillian ethanol ...

The senator is liberal to the core. He voted against Supreme Court judges Sam Alito and John Roberts. (Even liberal senators Russ Feingold and Pat Leahy voted for Roberts.) He said no to Patriot Act wiretap extensions, despite their proven effectiveness on halting terrorist attacks over the past five years. He collaborated in blocking John Bolton's appointment to the United Nations. He earned a perfect 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Barack Hussein Obama is also favored by Jiummy Carter. Need we say more?

Posted by Daniel Freedman at December 13, 2006 03:04 PM

That Was Then, This Is Now

Scenario: Jack pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack.
1956- Vice Principal comes over, takes a look at Jack's rifle, goes to his car and gets his to show Jack.

2006 - School goes into lockdown, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.


Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.
1956 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends. Nobody goes to jail, nobody is arrested, nobody is expelled.

2006 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Both are charged with assault, and both are expelled even though Johnny started it.


Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.
1956- Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal. He sits still in class.

2006 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.


Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his father's car and his Dad gives him a whipping.

1956 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2006 - Billy's Dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy's sister is told by state psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their Dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.


Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some headache medicine to school.
1956 - Mark shares headache medicine with Principal out on the smoking dock.

2006 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.


Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.
1956 Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2006: Pedro's cause is taken up by state democratic party. Newspaper articles appear nationally, explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he can't speak English.


Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle , blows up a red ant bed.
1956 - Ants die.

2006 - BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.


Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary, hugs him to comfort him.
1956 - In a short time Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2006 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


“We know the stinging truth: America’s many problems stem, above all, from 40 years of faithlessness, of failure to live fully, openly, and unashamedly as we are called to do. We are assured in our nation’s very Founding documents, laws, and institutions the God-given right to the free establishment and free exercise of our religious faith and convictions. Yet with what vigor and boldness have we publicly lived out the very blessings of liberty entrusted to us by our great American experiment in responsible self-government under God?”

—Alan Keyes

Financial Foolishness

Good article in a recent edition of the Journal.

Seven Wonders of Financial Foolishness
November 12, 2006

We may not agree on what investors should do. But I think we can agree on what they shouldn't do.

Take a look below, where I have listed seven common financial gaffes, some big, some small. No doubt a few insurance agents, credit-card executives and Wall Street brokers will quibble with my list. But I think the rest of us can agree that these are seven truly foolish mistakes.

1 Missing the match

Vanguard Group, the Malvern, Pa., mutual-fund company, recently released a report analyzing the 401(k) and other "defined contribution" plans it oversees. One finding: 36% of eligible employees haven't signed up.

That is a horrifying statistic. It isn't simply that these folks may not be saving any money for retirement and they are missing out on both a tax deduction and tax-deferred growth.

To make matters worse, these employees are likely passing up free money. Many 401(k)s match employee contributions at a rate of, say, 50 cents on the $1. If you don't put in your $1, you don't get the free 50 cents from your employer.

2 Rolling the dice

Even if you participate in your employer's retirement plan, you could still mess up royally, by making bad investment choices.

Indeed, many employees make the most elementary mistake, which is failing to diversify. Vanguard found that 13% of 401(k) participants have everything in bonds and money-market funds and another 19% have everything in stocks.

Moreover, in plans that currently offer company stock as an investment option, an astonishing 15% of employees invest more than 80% of their account in their company's shares. Betting that much on a single company is absurdly risky, especially so when you're relying on the same company for a paycheck.

3 Paying the penalty

With retirement accounts, there's a third crucial mistake: Cashing out the account before age 59½. That not only takes a big chunk out of your nest egg, but also it triggers income taxes and usually a tax penalty as well.

Yet many folks make this error when they leave their employer. Vanguard calculates that, at that juncture, 29% of 401(k) plan participants take part or all of their account balance as a lump sum, rather than leaving the money in their old employer's plan or rolling it over to another tax-deferred account.

To be sure, some people taking the lump sum may end up investing the money. But the odds are, the money gets spent, a heap of taxes gets paid -- and their retirement is suddenly much further away.

4 Taxing yourself

Paying unnecessary taxes is bad news. But you also don't want to end up paying no taxes at all.

Suppose you're out of work for a long spell or you just retired at age 60, and you are living off money in your savings account. Because you don't have a paycheck coming in, it's entirely possible that you will owe little or nothing in taxes.

That might sound appealing. But in truth, it isn't smart money management, especially if you figure you will be in a higher tax bracket once you start working again or once you begin drawing down your retirement accounts and collecting Social Security.

Let's say you are married and you file a joint tax return. If you take the standard deduction and one personal exemption each, you could have $16,900 in income and pay no federal taxes. The next $15,100 of income, which would bring your total income to $32,000, would be taxed at just 10%. In fact, you could have total income of $78,200 and still be in the 15% income-tax bracket.

My advice: If you expect to be in the 25% or higher tax bracket once you return to work or once you start tapping your retirement accounts, you might want to take advantage of your low tax bracket today by, say, selling stocks with capital gains or by converting part of your individual retirement account to a Roth IRA.

5 Insuring the affordable

Prudent folks purchase insurance to cover disasters so potentially devastating that they couldn't possibly afford the financial hit without major hardship.

What if people aren't so prudent? Consider trip-cancellation insurance and extended warranties. Sure, if you have to bag the trip to Europe or if your television goes into meltdown, it will cost you some money and it won't be pleasant. But it is hardly a financial disaster.

Similarly, there is no point in having low deductibles on your auto and homeowner's policies. If you put a $700 ding in your car, you can probably cover the cost fairly easily out of your own pocket, so there really isn't much point in paying an insurer to shoulder this risk.

The same thinking applies to insurance on your children's lives. The principal reason for buying life insurance is to ensure your family isn't left financially destitute when one member dies.

Yes, if a child dies, it is a terrible loss. But it isn't a terrible financial loss, so there's no reason to have insurance on a child's life.

6 Carrying a balance

According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate levied on credit-card accounts is closing in on 15%. That's a steep price to pay, particularly given that credit-card interest isn't tax-deductible.

Conceivably, you might carry a credit-card balance if paying down your cards meant you wouldn't have the money to fund a 401(k) with an employer match. But otherwise, carrying a credit-card balance is financial lunacy, and you should do everything possible to get your cards paid off.

7 Locking yourself in

If you and your spouse are age 65, there is a decent chance that one of you will live until age 90. That means you need to think like long-term investors, including continuing to keep a healthy portion of your portfolio in stocks.

But that doesn't mean you should buy investments with long surrender charges, which is often the case with tax-deferred variable annuities, mutual-fund B shares and equity-indexed annuities. After all, you are tapping your portfolio for income and you need the flexibility to sell at any time without paying hefty commissions.

Got a salesman trying to sell you a product with a back-end sales charge? Just say no.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Brian Regan

Thomas Sowell

What can you say -- he's the best.

The Economically Illiterate in Hollywood
By Thomas Sowell

It is not really news that Hollywood is still producing anti-business movies, but there is a certain irony in it nevertheless.

Although these movies tap a certain envy and resentment of corporate wealth, that large corporate wealth comes from far more modest individual amounts of money from about half the population of the United States, which owns stocks and bonds -- either directly or because money paid into pension funds or other financial intermediaries are used to buy stocks and bonds.

The irony is that the average Hollywood star who is making anti-business movies is far wealthier than the average owners of those businesses, who are half the population of the country.

The Los Angeles Times refers to documentary "films" that are "critical of corporate power." But just what does this vague word "power" mean when it comes to businesses?

Wal-Mart is the big bugaboo these days but what "power" does Wal-Mart have? I lived three-quarters of a century without ever setting foot in a Wal-Mart store and there is not a thing they can do about it.

It so happened that this past summer in Page, Arizona, I needed to buy some toiletries, which caused me to go into a nearby Wal-Mart for the first time. Inside, it looked more like a small city than a large store. But the prices were noticeably lower than in most other places. Is that the much-dreaded "power"?

Apparently Wal-Mart does not pay its employees as much as third-party observers would like to see them paid. But obviously it is not paying them less than their work is worth to other employers or they probably would not be working at Wal-Mart. Moreover, third parties who wax indignant are paying them nothing.

One of the morally indignant "films" (more high-toned than "movies") coming out of Hollywood makes the same complaint against Starbucks, depicting poverty-stricken Ethiopian coffee growers providing beans for the big-bucks coffee store chain.

Are the Ethiopian coffee growers worse off now that Starbucks is buying their beans? Supply and demand would suggest otherwise. But moral crusaders seldom have time for economics.

If those who claim to be concerned about the Ethiopians' poverty really are, why is not relieving that poverty just as much something for them to do with their own money as for Starbucks to do using money invested by other people -- including nurses, mechanics, teachers, and others who are paying into pension funds to provide for their own old age?

The tragic fact is that productivity is far lower in poor countries. That is the fundamental reason why they are poor in the first place. You cannot pay American wages to workers whose average productivity is a fraction of that of American workers, without driving up the cost of production to the point where businesses will take their jobs to some other country.

The real comparison is not between what people are paid in Third World countries compared to what people are paid in the United States. The comparison that affects outcomes is what Third World people are paid by multinational corporations compared to what they can earn otherwise. By and large, multinational corporations pay about double the local pay in Third World countries.

Third World workers line up for these jobs and even bribe insiders to get them such jobs. If economically illiterate Hollywood busybodies and other mindless crusaders succeed in establishing more costly pay scales without regard to productivity, that will undoubtedly lead to fewer jobs, just as similar policies do in other countries. There is no free lunch in the Third World, any more than there is elsewhere.

The net result will be people feeling good about themselves in Hollywood, in academia and in the media, while leaving havoc in their wake among the Third World people they claim to care about.

What the Third World needs are more multinational corporations, not less.

As more multinational corporations move into a poorer country, the people there not only get additional economic opportunities, they acquire skills and job experience that raise their productivity and earnings potential, even if that outrages the economically illiterate in Hollywood.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Flying Imam Roundup

I've been periodically following this story for a couple of weeks.

The biggest ally radical Islam has in its jihad against us is us; I mean we are our own worst enemy. We allow our notions of tolerance, fair play, etc. be used against by cold-blooded killers.

For example, terrorists and insurgents are trained to loudly accuse U.S. soldiers of mistreating them when they're captured. It's part of their playbook. So, in order to show how benign we are, we "handcuff" our military so that we don't offend the sensibilities of the terrorists who would gladly cut our children's throats.

This strategy is even more successful when these complaints are gleefully re-echoed by the media and other blame-America first types. Remember the "Koran in the toilet" stories which made headlines in the NYTimes, Wash. Post, Chi. Tribune and broadcast media? Sure you did. But, I'll bet you never heard the follow-up: that after extensive investigations the claims were never shown to have any basis in fact -- they were lies.

The Flying Imam story is another example. It looks like these Muslim "scholars" staged this stunt to weaken our defenses. They want to complain that they're being discriminated against by the airlines. Their complaints are being (once again) loudly trumpeted by the media. They want us to ignore Muslims who wander around airplanes and sit near the cockpit -- even though their assigned seats are elsewhere. They want us to ignore them when they ask for seat extenders -- which make good weapons -- even when they don't need them. Etc. Etc. If they're successful, we'll be ripe for another terrorist attack. Except, if it does happen again, we'll have enabled them in their murderous designs.

Here are excerpts from a couple of good pieces on this story from Investor's Business Daily and Opinion Journal.

... The imams acted more like provocateurs than victims. At the gate before boarding, they angrily cursed the U.S. Then they bowed to Mecca and prayed "very loud," chanting "Allah, Allah, Allah," according to the gate agent and another witness.

On the plane, they didn't take their assigned seats and instead fanned out to the front, middle and rear of the plane. One even "pretended to be blind" to gain access to another passenger's seat, according to a flight attendant.

Some ran back and forth speaking to each other in Arabic. Adding to suspicions, most of them asked for seat belt extensions even though they didn't need them — or even use them.

Yet the ringleader, Omar Shahin, claimed before the police report was released that they "did nothing" unusual. "It's obvious discrimination," he insisted.

Read the whole Investor's Business Daily piece here.

And from Opinion Journal:

"Allahu Akbar" was just the opening act. After boarding, they did not take their assigned seats but dispersed to seats in the first row of first class, in the midcabin exit rows and in the rear--the exact configuration of the 9/11 execution teams. The head of the group, seated closest to the cockpit, and two others asked for a seatbelt extension, kept on board for obese people. A heavy metal buckle at the end of a long strap, it can easily be used as a lethal weapon. The three men rolled them up and placed them on the floor under their seats. And lest this entire incident be written off as simple cultural ignorance, a frightened Arabic-speaking passenger pulled aside a crew member and translated the imams' suspicious conversations, which included angry denunciations of Americans, furious grumblings about U.S. foreign policy, Osama Bin Laden and "killing Saddam."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Nuff Said!

From the U.K's Daily Mail:
Women talk three times as much as men, says study

It is something one half of the population has long suspected - and the other half always vocally denied. Women really do talk more than men.

In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.

Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat - and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.

The book - written by a female psychiatrist - says that inherent differences between the male and female brain explain why women are naturally more talkative than men.

In The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says women devote more brain cells to talking than men.

And, if that wasn't enough, the simple act of talking triggers a flood of brain chemicals which give women a rush similar to that felt by heroin addicts when they get a high.

Dr Brizendine, a self-proclaimed feminist, says the differences can be traced back to the womb, where the sex hormone testosterone moulds the developing male brain.

The areas responsible for communication, emotion and memory are all pared back the unborn baby boy.

The result is that boys - and men - chat less than their female counterparts and struggle to express their emotions to the same extent.

"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road," said Dr Brizendine, who runs a female "mood and hormone" clinic in San Francisco.


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