23 December 2009


Get ready for a firestorm from the left. MajGen Tony Cucolo, US Army, the Commander, Task Force Marne (I am betting he is CG, Third Infantry Division "The Rock of the Marne")headquartered in Tikrit, Iraq has announced a policy within his command that soldiers who get pregnant in theater, and those who impregnate them (if they can be identified) will face disciplinary action. I can already hear the howls from feminists.

But think about this: If a soldier shoots himself or herself in the foot, necessitating transfer out of theater and leaving the unit short-handed, he or she would face court-martial. Why then ought not a soldier who voluntarily incurs some other condition that results in a similar detriment to the accomplishment of the unit’s mission (which always takes precedence) face similar action? I thought the feminists wanted women to be treated equally and insisted that they be allowed to do anything a man can do in theater.

I hope that the National Command Authority backs General Cuculo on this one.

22 December 2009


[START vent] I was installed on Sunday to fill an unexpired one-year term. Last night was my first meeting. This morning I am asking God if He really wants me to do this--the rancor and discord was disheartening. I think at one point I was called a liar and a con man, but I'm not sure. I'll resort to Matthew 18 to sort that out. Merry Christmas!!![END vent]

20 December 2009


As I write this, it is the 41st anniversary of my arrival in Vietnam. On my Face Book page, Reformed Catholic reminded me that I had started this project last year at this time. After I got through my days in the bush with the Marines of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, I took a break. But now, I think it is time to finish up my time “down south in the Republic.”

After I returned to An Hoa from Embarkation School, I was “transferred” from Charlie Company to Headquarters and Service Company (H&S Company). Major Pat O’Toole was acting CO, Colonel Riley having been transferred while I was in Okinawa. The Battalion staff, consisted of Lt. Tom Pottenger (a TBS classmate) as Adjutant and S-1 (Personnel Officer), Major Bob Kerzic as “the Three” (S-3—Operations Officer), and I was now “the Four” (Logistics Officer). There was no officer available to fill the S-2 (Intelligence Officer) billet, so the “Two Chief,” an NCO performed that function.

I had no idea how to be the Four, but fortunately for me, Captain Castagnetti was soon assigned as Regimental S-4. Three-Five’s four was a Captain who had shepherded our little gaggle of lieutenants down to An Hoa the previous December. Those two Captains took me under their wings and I began to learn how to be a staff officer. In particular, Captain (soon to be Major) Castagnetti began to “invite” me to his bunker for a nightly “four” school. The many things I learned, from references to Marine Corps publications to tricks of the trade, stood me in good stead for the rest of my career.

A few days later, we got a new Battalion Commander. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph K. Griffis is one of those men who make a mark on a young man’s life. He was a veteran of WWII (as a very young enlisted Marine) and Korea. Joe Griffis was a hard man who knew the hard business of war. And as young men often do, we failed to realize just how lucky we were to have him as “the Old Man.” Fortunately, we had the privilege of being his boys for another 39 years.

In 1969, he wore a trademark blue bandana at his neck and insisted that every man in the battalion carry a rifle unless he was actually carrying a crew-served weapon. (That would later cause me some grief, but that is a story for another day.) He himself had acquired a M-16 carbine, another trademark.

As a result of his arrival, Maj. O’Toole came back to An Hoa and resumed his position as Executive Officer. The battalion continued to operate in The Arizona.

I did not really like being a staff officer. It was tedious and not very exciting. Then I heard that 1st Reconnaissance Battalion was looking for platoon commanders. That struck me as a perfect solution.

A reconnaissance platoon commander led recon patrols deep into enemy-controlled territory. A team of six to eight Marines with a Corpsman would be inserted into an area for several days to seek out enemy positions, snatch prisoners, and call in artillery on enemy formations. It was lonely and dangerous work, but it sure beat manning a desk. All I had to do was get the transfer.

I can best tell what happened in this way. In 1999, the 1st Marine Division Association held its annual reunion in Philadelphia. I had been a Life member since 1969 but had never attended a reunion. Robin Montgomery called me and asked me to attend so that we could vote for his platoon sergeant who was running for Vice President.

SWMBO came into town for the banquet on Saturday night. That afternoon we were in the Charlie Company hospitality suite when in walked J.K. Griffis. He was greeted warmly by a number of folks. I caught his eye.

“Sir, you probably don’t remember me, but. . .”

“Of course I do, Mac. You were my Four!” After 30 years!!! I started to introduce SWMBO when I was grabbed from behind in a monstrous bear hug.

“Mac, Mac, you sonuvabitch! I was hoping you would be here!” It was Colonel O’Toole.

SWMBO’s eyes were like dinner plates. I began to introduce her to a grinning Colonel Griffis and the XO. Pat O’Toole turned to SWMBO. “I am so pleased to meet you,” he said. “Let me tell you about the crazy sob you married.”

“He had been the Four for a week or so. One Friday morning, he reported to me with an AA form (Administrative Action form) requesting a transfer to Recon Battalion. I tore it up and told him ‘You’re the Four. Now get back to work.’”

“But he wants to argue. ‘Major,’ he says, you can’t do that. The book says you can forward it recommending disapproval, but you have to forward it.’ I said ‘The hell I can’t. You’re the Four. Now get out of here.’ There was no way we were going to lose him.”

“Well, the next Friday morning, there he is again. I tore up his AA form and we had the same conversation. The next week, I had something going on with Regiment, so I told one of the S-1 clerks to go up and tell Mac that I was busy and that he should just go ahead and tear up the AA form himself.”

“And, Mrs. Mac, the crazy sob did just that!”

Unlike most sea stories, that one was spot on. The room erupted in laughter. A couple of guys said “So. It was you. He has told that story for years!” I was home again.

A few days after the “AA form incident,” I went on R&R to Hawaii and by the time I returned, I knew that I was the Four for the duration of my tour. In retrospect, it was right for me.

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

18 December 2009


I just heard Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D.ILL) being interviewed on POTUS (XM 130/Sirius 110). The issue was, of course, the massive restructuring of the American economy that the Democratic Party is attempting to foist on us in the form of so-called “health care reform.”

The specific topic was whether or not the missing Senate bill (set to be unveiled by Harry Reid and his cohorts 36 hours before the Senate votes on the measure) can withstand a cloture motion. Under the Senate rules, a filibuster can be ended only if two-thirds of the Senate votes for “cloture,” i.e., to limit debate. Right now, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has stated that he will not vote for cloture if the Senate bill does not contain language similar to the Stupak amendment which was added to the House bill.

Tim Farley was talking to Rep. Schakowsky about the possibility of compromise on the issue. He referred to the warning by former-President Clinton to the Democratic party that “America can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” (In so doing, he was paraphrasing Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, a tactical and strategic genius and one of my heroes, believe it or not. The Admiral said “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”)

Rep. Schakowsky, demonstrating an astounding ignorance of American history complained that the real problem at hand is the rules of the Senate. In particular, she is incensed that “a Senator from a small state” can hold up what she thinks is the most important legislation of the past 70 years. (I wonder if that member of the Democratic Party base—the NAACP—would be willing to put the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act lower on the list?)

Apparently Rep. Schakowsky has never studied the Constitutional Convention of 1787. She espouses the demand of the large states that they control the Federal legislature—a demand that failed in the convention. The idea of a Senate in which the States were represented equally balancing a House of Representatives whose membership was based on population was just one of the checks and balances written into our Charter. Now, Rep Schakowsky wants to rewrite 220 years of Constitutional history so that what she deems “best” for the Nation need not be subjected to any such checks on an unbridled central government.

She should know better. Shame on her!

09 December 2009


I'm probably preaching to the choir, but Quotidian Grace is sponsoring her 4th Annual Sappy Christmas Song contest. The prizes are mundane, but the honor associated with writing doggerel and drivel is really heady. Give it a look.

08 December 2009


Well, Jumper Girl has worn me down. I am now, tentatively, on Facepage or Facebook or whatever.

The darn thing has way too many moving parts. I have hundreds of people who now want to be my “friend,” including numerous of JG’s teenage friends. I think not. I am an old dog—I do not want to learn new tricks.

But the games are fun, and I can IM (wow, catch that use of internet slang!) SWMBO which is often the only way we can communicate without teenage interruption. So, off we go, into the 21st Century. But I miss my fountain pen.

04 December 2009


For so long as any Congress is in session, especially the current one, the wallets of the American people are in danger. No one loves to spend someone else’s money like a member of Congress. Nothing gets their juices going like a big pot of our money that they can lavish on folks other than the people who earned the money and paid it in taxes.

The latest case in point is the Troubled Asset Recovery Program.

TARP, as it is known, was created to remedy the serious problems created by Chris Dodd, Barney Franks, and others of their ilk. Playing the racial prejudice game so beloved by liberals, they forced through a series of laws that mandated that banks must make mortgage loans to people who could never qualify for those loans. When questions were raised, Barney, Chris and others claimed that the objectors were simply prejudiced against poor people of color.

As a result, lenders soon held huge blocks of bad paper. As the housing market tumbled, there was no way that the properties that served as collateral for the loans could cover the value of those loans. Without some help, the holders of these “troubled assets” were likely to fail. Starting in October, 2008, and continuing through the change in administrations, the complex plan was designed to keep lending institutions afloat and to encourage lenders to continue to offer credit necessary to move the economy.

Well, it appears to have worked. Lender after lender has begun to repay the loans to the Treasury, i.e., to us, the taxpayers whose taxes were the source of the loans. Mission accomplished.

“But wait a minute,” says the Congress. “You mean that there is going to be hundreds of billions of dollars just laying around?” They are grinning like a kid at Christmas. Never mind that the whole idea of TARP was to make loans and then recover the money to repay the loans. They now want to use this “windfall” to fund “job creation” programs. Just because the money was meant for one specific program will not stop these profligates from spending it on their pet causes.

When they rail against the deficit, they are lying. If they were really interested in the deficit, they now have hundreds of billions of dollars to pay it down. Don’t hold your breath.

But there had better not be any suggestion that we have to impose a new tax to “pay” for Afghan operations. They have plenty of extra cash laying around.

03 December 2009


In his classic Street Without Joy (La Rue Sans Joie), Bernard Fall wrote of an experience he had in Saigon in the early 50s. He was at a French Officers’ Club, watching several Frog officers and their ladies at play. An old Cambodian Master Sergeant respectfully approached one of the officers with a document for signature. The Frog rudely dismissed the Sergeant, berating him for interrupting his recreation and telling him to wait until the officer was ready for him. The Sergeant waited for several hours.

At 5:00pm, the sound of the French bugle call for evening colors wafted over the trees. Fall could see the tricolor being lowered. The Master Sergeant snapped to attention, while the Frogs and their ladies ignored the flag.

Fall wrote that he knew at that moment that the French experiment in Indo-China was doomed.

Yesterday, as I drove past our local elementary school—at which SWMBO is a one-on-one aide and Bionicle Boy is a student—I noticed that the National Ensign was tattered and torn. I went into the office to see if anyone had noticed. (Marines are pretty flag-conscious, but I have come to learn that most civilians are not.) The secretary apologized and noted that she would order a replacement.

This morning, on my way to the VA, I saw the old flag still flying, albeit at half-mast. I called SWMBO and asked her to find out who had died.

Her reply e-mail was to the effect that the flag was stuck at half-mast because as it was being lowered for replacement, the halyard had become stuck. Then she added, “Next time you are tempted to complain, please don’t. 'The office' has told teachers that ‘some parent’ complained about the condition of the flag. The staff is buzzing, suggesting that ‘If the parent is so concerned, he should just go out and buy a flag himself!’”

I made time in my schedule to drop in on the Principal. He was very cordial, apologized because he had not noticed the condition of the flag, and cordially declined my offer to buy a new flag. I left satisfied by his response (and his obvious leadership).

But what does it say about our sense of nationhood when teachers belittle a fellow citizen simply because he sought to correct a situation in which the Flag Code of the United States is being violated? See, 4 USC §8k. "The world wonders. . ." (100 irrevocable lifetime macho points for anyone who can explain the final quote as it aplies to US history.)

02 December 2009


On September 11, 2001, the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by a foreign quasi-State and its allies. The United States government had failed in the primary responsibility of any Nation: thousands of innocent people were killed for no reason other than that they were Americans.

In response, a united government and Nation responded militarily. “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.” Luke 11:22. History reflects that despite repeated attempts to do so, the enemy has failed to carry out another attack on our Country. The primary reason for that is that we have employed our Armed Forces, our strong men armed (a Colonel I once served under referred to ours as “the profession of violence”) professionally, competently, and, when necessary, violently to take the war to the bad guys. That is what a Nation is supposed to do in carrying out its primary duty of “provid[ing] for the common defense.”

If we cannot defend ourselves, nothing else matters. The victor will set the agenda.

Now, the President has decided that we must do more to defend our Nation. The limp-wristed amongst our fellow citizens are aghast.

This President, "their President," was supposed to come in, order our troops and our nation to tuck its national tail between its legs, and slink home to cower in the corner. He was to immediately release all the thugs and brigands captured on the field of battle or in their secret headquarters and let them go.

The limpest wrist of them all, Nancy Pelosi, and her cohorts are dismayed that the President has finally realized that it is easy to coach from the cheap seats. Now that he is on the sidelines with the full responsibility that comes with his position, things look a lot different. Now, if a skyscraper falls, or a dirty bomb pops off inside the Loop or Times Square, or some school district suddenly finds that its inventory of elementary schools has been violently reduced by one, the responsibility is his and his alone. Harry Truman had it just right.

But Nancy and her cohorts have a new way to get their way and to endanger the Country. Her surrogate, Congressman Obey (D. Wis.), wants to “pay for the war” by imposing a new war tax on the American people. That way, he says, the people “will know” the real cost of the war and will demand that we turn tail and run.

Sadly, he may be right. But, if that is the principal that ol’ Nance and her gang want to use, they are a bit late. Where is the tax surcharge to “pay for” the trillion dollar stimulus package? The American people deserve to know the real cost of a "stimulus" that is not working. Where is the surcharge to pay “for the” the two trillion dollar “reform” of health care? The American people deserve to know the real cost of a “reform” that will not work.

Sorry, but those are being “paid for” by the heavy use of smoke, mirrors and outright deceit.

So, until the Congress decides to have one principal for paying for things, let’s not worry about the cost of the troop surge which will be approximately one percent of the cost of the stimulus and health care packages.

And the surge has one other advantage: it has a good chance of working!

29 November 2009


In Master and Commander, when Captain Jack Aubrey, RN, is shown a model of a revolutionary new mode of framing a frigate (circa 1809), he remarks, “What a remarkable age in which we live!” In 2009, I think that thought frequently.

The blogosphere has allowed us to reach out to folks and reestablish contacts in all sorts of ways that were impossible just 20 years ago. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I made such a contact. Al Paglia, one of my TBS classmates, left a voice-mail message for me concerning a blog I wrote on 14 December 2008. In that blog, I mentioned an incident during our final Physical Readiness Test. A group of us helped a shipmate who was suffering from heat stroke finish the test. I named those I remembered: Pat Oates, Larry North, Tom Mahlum, Blackie Mohr “and several others.”

Pags sent me the following e-mail (which he cc’d to Tom Mahlum):

Hey Mac- hi Tom- upon reading Mac's blog I was impressed with his detailed description of our training, but now that I know that Mac was [later a TBS] instructor, I no longer marvel about his photographic memory. However the following quote requires modification, should you agree. It is as follows "I was running with Pat Oates, Larry North, Blackie Mohr, Tom Mahlum and a couple of others." As I read that I cried out "That was me, that was me!"

Shortly after the turn for home someone ran into trouble, possibly more than one. We took all of the gear to lighten his load- I recall Mahlum having someone's utility belt and possibly more. I know that I carried someone's rifle to a point where we had to return the gear to that Marine in order to comply with the rules that we all finish with our full complement of gear. I do remember someone having a hand on the rifle once it was re-slung over his shoulder in order to lighten the load. I knew then that those of us who gave up the idea of winning by a wide margin to help another Marine would never leave a Marine behind, no matter what the cost! I remember being comforted by that thought and being proud of being part of that.

Enjoy your families today- and as always, SEMPER FI!


So, for the record, Allan Paglia, attorney, warrior and shipmate, was right there with us.

But—to quote the late, great Paul Harvey, “Now for the rest of the story.”

Al Paglia was one of several lawyers in our Basic School class. It was 1968 and Congress was working on the Military Justice Act of 1968—the first major re-write of the Uniform Code of Military Justice since it was adopted in 1949. One of the major changes was to convert the system into one that was run by lawyers. Prior to that, courts-martial were staffed with non-lawyers. As a result, the Officer Selection Officers were actively recruiting attorneys.

But, until the Act was passed and signed into law, there were no guarantees. When our Military Occupational Specialties were announced, the Act having not yet been completed, all of the attorneys in our class were designated as 0301 (basic infantry officer). Several of the attorneys suddenly discovered that they had strong religious scruples against getting killed—er, that is, against war -- and declared that they were conscientious objectors.

But not our Pags. He simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Ah, what the hell. I came this far with you guys. Might as well go all the way.” And that is why I love him!

While we were on leave en route to Vietnam, the Act was signed and his orders were modified to send him to Naval Justice School and Camp Lejeune. It took him another year of hard work to get orders to Vietnam, but he was finally successful. The man is, after all, a warrior!

Glad to finally get that one right.

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

24 November 2009


I am an aficionado of “alternate history.”

Several years ago, Newt Gingrich and William R. Fortschen took a shot at alternate history writing a three volume series which asks “What if Lee had listened to Longstreet at Gettysburg?” Good stuff. Then they asked, “What if Yamamoto had taken personal command of the attack on Pearl Harbor? What if Genda’s plan had been completed with the third raid on the sub pens and the fuel farm?”

That is a work still in progress, because Gingrich, Fortschen and Albert S. Hanser have taken a side trip to Tenton, NJ.

In this retelling of American history, it is December 1776. Washington’s Continental Army has retreated from Boston to Long Island to New York, down across New Jersey, and into Pennsylvania. Along the way, it shrinks from 30,000 to less than 2,500 as the men who joined a victorious force expecting a quick victory walked away when the going got hard. Washington is desperate for a victory to rally the cause, and he needs it before the enlistments of his troops expire at the end of December.

Miraculously, Thomas Paine, suffering from writer's block, manages to publish and distribute a little pamphlet, The American Crisis. Its opening poetic phrasing is read to the troops:

“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

With those words on their minds, in a driving nor’easter, Washington’s rag tag army crosses the Delaware, dodging ice floes in rowboats. Soldiers jump into the frigid river to save precious artillery pieces. Troops march, often barefoot, over rugged terrain, fording rushing streams that they expected to be shallow. Arriving at Trenton, they defeat a crack Hessian regiment, the best of the best. A New Jersey family is physically reunited, but remains politically divided and eternally estranged.

Washington’s victory raises American morale. The British realize that the fight will not soon be over. The United States stays in the fight until victory is won 7 years later.

“Hey, wait a minute,” you say. “That’s what really happened.”

And that is the point the authors make: By all rights, the history we learned in school, with the Union Jack hanging from above the blackboard and a picture of the Queen (God bless her) staring down on us, would have included the disintegration of the rebel army that Christmas Day. We should have learned about the capture of the traitors Washington, Adams, Hancock, Franklin, Jefferson and the rest. We should have studied about their trial in London and the grisly executions that followed. The American cause should have ended in that bleak December.

Instead, those few men who did stand in the face of the most terrible adversity were, themselves, the authors of a most improbable outcome. It was they who "rewrote" history. Only when a few strong men went beyond all that could be expected of them did we prevail.

What this book offers is the novelist’s ability to explore the unrecorded part of our history: Washington’s fears, Paine’s struggle to find the words for his pamphlet, and the thoughts of common men willing to endure unbelievable privation, loss of family, and pain that we cannot imagine, all for the sake of something bigger than themselves.

My great-great-great-great grandfather, William Jack, served in the Continental Army during the Revolution. Our family tradition has it that he was with Washington at Trenton, the first of nine men of seven generations in my bloodline to serve this Nation in combat. I do hope that he was one of the few who stuck it out. But as this book reminds us, a lot of the “summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots” who had rallied to the cause in mid-76, had disappeared by Christmas Day. Sure, a lot of them came back after the Christmas miracle, and that is something to be praised, but it was a bare few who saved our nation.

And we owe them our thanks this and every Thanksgiving Day.

To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom by Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen, and Albert S. Hanser. A darned good read.

12 November 2009


When I asked SWMBO’s Dad for her hand in marriage, he said, “Well, sure, Son. You have my blessing—there’s always room for one more nut in this squirrel cage!”

In that vein, the Scuttlebutt household has grown by one—a ten month old Border Collie-Shepherd mix named Ava.SWMBO, Jumper Girl, and Bionicle Boy are delighted, but I must admit that we have bonded and Ava likes me best.

The Four Amigos (Alex T. Cat, Gideon T. Cat, Uggie T. Cat, and Princess Gracie T. Cat), on the other hand, are not amused.

Just as, after raising boys, I found out that daughters are completely different, so, too, I am discovering that dogs and cats are different. I have been raised by cats since I was 10—never a dog. This morning at 0500, I learned that there is no such convenience as a “dog box.” Further lessons to come.

And now that she has the dog she has wanted for so long, Jumper Girl just suggested that a pig and a goat would be a great addition to our suburban household! Ah, the excitement of the young. (The answer was a resounding "No.")

11 November 2009


Recently, the Congress passed and the President signed into law, a statute that funds the Department of Defense for the coming fiscal year. Glad to hear it—providing for the common defense is one of the six purposes of the Constitution set forth in its preamble. But the joy with which liberals greeted the bill had nothing to do with the common defense or any other legitimate federal purpose.

They had attached a rider to the bill, making it a separate “hate crime” to commit an offense against a gay person. Now, I happen to think that it is despicable for one person to commit any crime against another. So do the States and the Federal government. They have outlawed literally thousands of illegal acts—ranging from murder and assault to running a red light.

But that was not enough for the liberals. They want to create a new constitutional right without resort to that messy amendment process established in the Constitution. And what is that right, you ask?

They want to enshrine in statute a “right” to be liked. And to do that, they attached an irrelevant rider to a necessary and legitimately constitutional bill. Now, that is nothing new. Riders are nearly as old as the republic. The Constitution of the Confederate States of America (1861) actually prohibited riders.

But what caught my attention was Senator Harry Reid’s subsequent outburst about the attempts by Republicans to attach riders to the so-called health-care bills. You see, in a liberal’s mind, they have a right to act in any way they want, but the other side may not. Hypocrisy!!!

The “hate crime” bill is necessary, we are told, because murdering someone who you do not like is even more terrible than simply murdering the victim. (I doubt that the victim much cares why he was killed.) We have to make thought and passion a crime, and when we do that, it is but a short step to outlawing mere thought.

And that is what the “hate crimes” bills do—they make a person’s thoughts criminal. That requires the jury to get into the killer’s heads. Nancy Pelosi is overjoyed that we can now punish a killer, not for the act of murder, but for the thoughts that led to the crime. But only if the thoughts are directed toward the liberals’ friends.

Yesterday, I heard liberal commentators repeatedly argue that Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan could not be charged with a hate crime, “because we have no way of determining why he did such a thing.” So, a guy who is a Muslim, who has written adopting the hateful precepts of radical Islam, and who shouted “Allah Akbar” as he blazed away, cannot be charged with a hate crime, but someone who guns down a black kid on the street can? Seems to me that Major Hasan made it clear that he did not like the soldiers he killed and wounded.

Don’t all victims have the same right to be liked? Obviously not!

The good news is that in each instance, the murderer can be charged with, tried for, and if convicted, punished for his conduct. And that ought be enough to satisfy anyone.

10 November 2009


Today is the holiest day in the Marine Corps calendar—the 234th Birthday of the Corps.

Across the Nation and around the world, wherever two Marines (or a Marine and a Corpsman) are together, the words “Happy Birthday” will be exchanged and old friends and strange places will be recalled. (Spouses and co-workers will look puzzled and may say, “Today’s not your birthday,” but it is!) It happened to me yesterday when a clerk at Target saw my Fifth Marines ball cap and said, “Happy Birthday.”

Her co-worker asked “How do you know it’s his birthday?” We just laughed.

I have spent Birthdays in Virginia, Vietnam, Okinawa, the Philippines, Spain, Wisconsin (including the 200th), Illinois and North Carolina. On the 200th, I made sure that I got a copy of the Milwaukee Sentinel, having just reported as Inspector-Instructor, Company F, 24th Marines. The expected headline -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARINES! –was missing. Instead, the banner read EDMUND FITZGERALD FOUNDERS WITH ALL HANDS.

In 1971, we were ashore in Barcelona, Spain after spending six weeks steaming in slow circles in the eastern Med, waiting to go into Jordan to rescue a bunch of medical missionaries sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee—a group that usually has nothing good to say about Marines until their sorry asses are on the line. The pageant went as usual, although the embassy staffer I was hosting nearly collapsed when he realized the M-60 machine guns carried by the two lance corporals in the honor guard were real. (“You brought real weapons ashore in Franco’s Spain?” A couple of good stiff scotches settled him down.)

My most memorable Birthday was in Vietnam. I had spent all night making sure that each of our companies operating in the Arizona got a hot meal (steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables and, of course, a Birthday cake). I then headed to Hill 65 to spend the day with Dick Rollins. After our Birthday dinner, we scrounged a couple of bottles of wine and sat on top of a bunker enjoying the night. In a paddy below the hill, an ARVN unit had a merry little firefight that lasted for about an hour.

I was monitoring the battalion net. Delta Company, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Jim Webb, was the palace guard for the battalion command group. At about 2100, Webb called the Battalion Commander, LtCol Joe Griffis on the radio. “Hey, Sir,” Webb said. “Look up.”

At that moment, his 60mm mortar section put a ring of 12 flares around their position. “Happy Birthday, Sir. We just lit the candles on the cake.”

Today, the colors will be blessed in Camp Lejeune and a pageant, complete with period uniforms and horse Marines will once again grace Butler Stadium at Quantico.

In 1982, I was on the Base staff for the pageant at Quantico. We were the first on the field and the last off. It was cold, with the wind blowing right off the Potomac into the low end of the football field. We were in Dress Blues and, as is normal, we had wet our right gloves to ensure that we kept our grips on our swords. About two-thirds of the way through the ceremony, the Chief of Staff, who was in command of our staff, whispered to me over his shoulder.

“Mac, I can’t feel my hand. Am I still holding my sword?”


“Well, pass the word to the staff. If I drop mine, you all drop yours, and we’ll come back and get the bastards later!”

We reminded him of that every chance we got.

Some time today, every Marine, whether he is in Afghanistan or Akron, will see a Birthday ceremony. An honor guard made up of two Marines of each rank in the unit will form an aisle, facing inboard. The Commanding Officer will escort the honored guest and the oldest and youngest Marines present to the head of the room. The cake will then be paraded.

The Adjutant will then command “Attention to Orders,” and will read the following:

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this 234th birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United State Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

"(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

"(2) The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

"(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

"(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as 'Soldiers of the Sea' since the founding of the Corps."

Since that time, Marines have continued to serve, adding new battle honors from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, from Inchon to the Chosin Reservoir, from Beirut to Santo Domingo, from Khe Sanh to Hue City, in Beirut, Grenada, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commandant and our many friends have joined us in our celebration of thei, the 234th Birthday of our beloved Corps.

A Birthday Message from the Commandant

United States Marines represent the best young men and women our Nation has to offer. To be a Marine is to be a member of America's warrior class - to be one of the few who steps forward with the courage and conviction to face whatever dangers await. Our Nation expects her Marines to be ready when the Nation calls; to leave family and the comforts of home behind; to march into battle and thrive under austerity; and to come home under a victory pennant.

From Al Anbar in the west of Iraq, to Helmand Province in the south of Afghanistan, our Corps of Marines can always expect to be found where the fight is toughest. Such is our history. Today, as we write the final chapter on our victory in Iraq, we will increasingly take the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan and add new pages to our legacy in places called Delaram, Now Zad, and Garmsir. One day, we will return to our naval heritage and patrol the high seas with our Navy brothers. Such is our future.

As we celebrate our Corps' 234th Birthday, we first pause to reflect and pay tribute to those Marines who have given the last full measure in defense of freedom. We extend our deepest gratitude to our Marine Corps families - the unsung heroes who endure hardship and sacrifice so that we are able to go forward and accomplish any mission. We extend our appreciation to our countrymen who have answered our every need. And we celebrate the magnificent men and women who willingly and selflessly continue to go into harm's way to protect this great Nation.

To all who have gone before, to those who wear the uniform today, and to the families that give us the strength to forge ahead - I wish you all a heartfelt Happy 234th Birthday!

Semper Fidelis,
James T. Conway
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps

[Ordinarily, the President also sends a message, but I have been unable to find one for this year. If I do, I will revise this to include it.]

The Commanding Officer will then cut the cake with his sword, or a bayonet if in the field, presenting the first piece of cake to the Honored Guest. The next piece goes to the oldest Marine present, and the final piece to the youngest Marine. I have been at ceremonies where the service of the oldest and youngest Marines spanned over 60 years and several wars. When they shake hands, the electricity in the room is palpable!

I'll share calls and birthday wishes with shipmates throughout the day.

So, to all Marines, and the Corpsmen, surgeons, and chaplains who have served with us, Semper Fi and Happy Birthday.

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

06 November 2009


Did it again! Shoulder popped out and it took them nearly 8 hours to get it back in this time. Yuck.

At about 5:30 on Monday morning, as SWMBO rolled out to go for her morning walk, I reached over to give her a hug. “Crunch.” I yelped and finally got to a sitting position. The shoulder was definitely out—for the second time in 6 weeks.

SWMBO took me to the ER at the VA hospital where I got great treatment, but there was a lengthy delay when a vet suffering a “mere” heart attack interrupted my treatment. (Tongue firmly in cheek—I was praying harder for my brother than for myself.) SWMBO later commented on the rapport of the other beaten up vets in the waiting area—and how we looked after one another.

After x-rays confirmed that the shoulder was all the way out, I was referred to a local hospital for anesthesia and assistance in getting the shoulder back in. The ER doc was a young woman (probably younger than my older sons), but a charmer and a damned fine doctor. They finally knocked me out, but she couldn’t get the shoulder to stay in, so she called for an orthopod.

About all I remember is SWMBO, the Doc and the nurses repeatedly telling me to breathe (I would apparently “forget” to perform that little function). They were confused when I kept asking for Gibby (my radio operator), so we’re even.

Yesterday, the orthopod looked me over. The 23 year stretch between my first and second dislocations argued for waiting and seeing. Five weeks between dislocations 2 and 3 changed that argument all to blazes!

It seems that over the years, as I have partially and fully dislocated the shoulder, I have worn down one side of the ball, which allows it to slide out of the socket with ease. The next step is an MRI, but first they have to x-ray my leg to make sure that all the shrapnel is out, lest the MRI’s magnet suck it out! Yow! If there is still shrapnel in there, they’ll do a Cat Scan instead.

Then, the fun begins. They cut through the humerus and either rotate the ball to make use of good bone or they remove the ball and put in an artificial shoulder. I am good to go on that—cannot stand the thought of another dislocation—which says a lot about how much the dislocation hurts.

Soooooooo, I’ll be leaning on other peoples’ shoulders for a while.

22 October 2009


After the fireworks faded, after Harry K sang “High Hopes” for, we hope, the next to the last time in a season dedicated to his memory, it has settled in. It’s Red October in Philadelphia. The Fightins are going back to the Series. I personally would love to see the Angels add some excitement to the whole affair so that it could be a real red October. But while we respect the Yanks, we are not afraid of them.

Ryan Howard was denied the opportunity to break Lou Gehrig’s post-season consecutive game RBI record (two walks will do that), but he is still traveling in good company. The Flyin’ Hawaiin, J-Roll, Chase, The Three Amigos (Raul, Pedro, and Felix) and this year’s Clark Kent, Jayson Werth, are all going back to the center ring. And here’s to the Skipper, Charlie Manuel, who surveys the field like Wellington and whoops and hollers like a nine year old simply for the love of the game.

Red October, indeed.

17 October 2009


Back to Okinawa in July 1969.....

Tom Kerrigan and I started our trek to the southern end of Okinawa later on the morning of 21 July. In 1969, Okinawa was still under American military government dating from 1945. The greenback was legal tender. The major American presence was in the center of the island.

We hired a cab and told the driver where we wanted to go. He shook his head and off we went. As we drove south, the “modern” Okinawa began to quickly disappear. Small farms reminiscent of the villes in the Arizona took precedence. More rice paddies appeared and there were no towns to be seen.

We finally took a gravel road to a place where the driver let us off. All around us were stone monuments with Japanese writing. I looked at the road and saw that the gravel was crushed coral. Part of a human skull was buried under some of the coral.

We followed a path to the top of the cliff where we entered a veritable forest of monuments. The cliffs were well over 100 feet high, presenting a sheer drop to the ocean below.
In 1945, as the Japanese prepared for the invasion of Okinawa, they indoctrinated the local population to resist us to the death. Some will recall that it was at Okinawa that the kamikaze made its first major appearance. The civilians were being turned into a land-based kamikaze corps. They were told that if they were captured by or surrendered to the Americans, we would kill the men, rape and kille the women and cook and eat the children. It worked.

The Okinawa operation was truly a “Typhoon of Steel.” Casualties were some of the highest of any World War Two operation: the Japanese lost over 100,000 troops, and the Allies (mostly United States) suffered more than 50,000 casualties, including over 12,000 killed in action. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, wounded or attempted suicide. Approximately one-fourth of the civilian population died due to the invasion.

As we closed in on the end of the last battle of WWII, huge numbers of civilians crowded behind the dwindling Japanese line. The Japanese commander, Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima and his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Isamu Chō committed suicide and the Japanese troops launched final banzai charges. To the horror of American troops, whole families jumped from the cliffs rather than face capture. To this day, many Okinawans hate the Japanese for their callous abuse of the people of Okinawa in 1945. They still claim that they were ordered by the Japanese army to commit suicide.

It was this example that led many US commanders to the conclusion that an invasion of the Home Islands must be avoided if at all possible. Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed.

In 1969, not many Americans made the trip to the southern end of the island. It did not take Tom and me long to realize that we were not welcome. After walking a couple of miles, we found a cab and headed back to the center of the island.

Still, I am glad that I saw it all.

16 October 2009


I am going to jump ahead a little bit in my Vietnam chronicle because today marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most memorable World Series games of my lifetime—and I never saw it. The laughingstock New York Mets reached the 1969 World Series after only 7 years of existence. And 40 years ago, they won it all.

As a part of life at An Hoa, the officers of the unit responsible for part of the defensive of the perimeter, which stretched approximately 4 miles, were routinely assigned as Officer of the Day for their unit’s sector. 1/5 manned Alfa Sector on the southwest part of the line. There were a number of sand bagged 3-man bunkers on the line, manned by riflemen and machine gunners waiting for the nearly nightly probe of the line by VC and NVA sapper units. They spent the night looking out over barbed wire, a minefield, and other assorted barriers including foogas positions.

Foogas was simply napalm loaded in a 55 gallon drum. The drum was buried in the ground at about a 10 to 15 degree angle. A blasting cap was inserted and when the hell box was clicked, a great gout of jellied gasoline flamed outward, cooking anyone caught in its arc.

The OD’s post was a prefabricated wooden bunker covered with sandbags about 30 meters to the rear of the center of the line. It was about 10 feet square and had room for the OD, the Sergeant of the Guard, and a radio operator. There was another position manned by three Marines a few meters to the rear of the bunker, covering the approach to its door.

On the night of 16 October, I was OD. We had an FM radio in the bunker, tuned to AFVN (Armed Forces Radio Network Vietnam) and—courtesy of the international date line--were listening to the live broadcast of the Mets-Orioles game being played that afternoon in New York. The Mets held a three game to one lead in the Series.

In about the third inning, the world exploded in our adjacent sector. Echo Sector was manned by Battery E, 2/11. Sappers had gotten into their wire and began chucking satchel charges to blow holes in the wire. They wanted to destroy those 105mm cannon and they wanted to do it tonight. I headed out to the line, pulling one of the riflemen from the guard bunker to follow me.

My first job was to make sure that we manned positions that could fire into Echo Sector if necessary, to prevent the enemy from turning our flank. That meant spreading troops out and that took some time. There is a maxim in the Corps: “Every Marine a rifleman.” The troops on the line were not infantrymen. They were supply men and, cooks, truck drivers and clerks. But they were Marines and they were in the line. I spent some time moving from position to position, calming them down and making sure they were alert.

After a couple of hours, the “all clear” was sounded and I headed back for my bunker, anxious to hear how the game was going. As I entered, all I could hear was a terrible “static.”

“Aw, damn, what happened,” I asked? “Did we lose the signal?”

“Nosir, that ain’t static. Lieutenant, you ain’t gonna believe this, but the New York [universal modifier] Mets just won the World [universal modifier] Series.” What I had mistaken for static was 50,000 crazed Mets fans screaming their lungs out!

Now, I am a life-long Cardinals fan, and since that improbable season in 1993 when a group of happy misfits gave us a summer of joy, I have learned to love the Phillies. In both cities, the Mets are the enemy. I confess that I take joy from every Met loss.

But here’s to the Amazing Mets, the boys of summer of 1969. Bless ‘em all.

14 October 2009


When last we revisited my little part of Vietnam in 1969, I had just been pulled out of the bush and sent back to An Hoa to become Executive Officer (XO) of Charlie Company. I settled in to the routine of life on the combat base. To the troops in the field, we were known as REMF’s: “rear echelon…., well, you get the picture. For the first time in months, I could shower daily—if you got to the shower point when it opened at 1900 (7pm) and if had been a sunny day, the water was hot while it came out of the above-ground storage tank.

The worst part of being in An Hoa was that it was a fixed target. We were rocketed or mortared nearly daily. You never left your bunker without a flak jacket, helmet, rifle, and gas mask. There were nights in the monsoon season when we went to the shower point buck naked, except for our flak jackets, helmets, rifles and knee waders. The mud was that deep.

I was assigned a couple of JAG Manual investigations into missing equipment and First Sergeant Lee kept up my reading assignments, including the Marine Corps Correspondence Manual, the Assignment, Classification and Testing Manual (ACTS Manual), and other administrative publications. In later years of my career, this early introduction to administrative procedures stood me in good stead.

After about 10 days, the Battalion XO informed me that I was being sent to Okinawa for 30 days to attend Embarkation School, after which, I would become the S-4 of the Battalion. I was stunned. The S-4 was a Captain’s billet. He is the staff officer responsible for logistics: communications, supply, motor transport, medical, and embarkation. But there it was.

I went to Danang on the 25th of June and caught a C-130 to Okinawa the next morning. As I was running for the chopper to Danang, it off-loaded a couple of Charlie Company troops coming in from the Arizonza.

“Everything OK with the Company,” I asked?

“Yessir, but Bravo 6 was KIA last night.” Damn! Captain Castagnetti. But by now, I had learned to compartmentalize death.

It was as if I had been teleported to a strange world. I had changed. The first shock was being required to turn in my weapon at the battalion armory. I had been armed with a loaded weapon never further than I could reach for over 7 months. I felt naked and exposed.

At Kadena AFB, I caught a shuttle bus to Camp Hansen, the pre-war home of the 9th Marines. We had passed through in December, but now I was not a transient. Schools Battalion checked me in and I was assigned a room in the Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ). For the next month or so, I would have a real bed, a desk, reading lamp, chair, and I would share a head with one other officer. I was livin’ in tall cotton!

The next morning, I heard someone in the shower. After he left the head, I showered with unlimited hot water (my 5th shower in 18 hours).

As I was dressing, there was a knock at the door. It turned out that my roommate was Tom Kerrigan, a classmate from TBS. We soon learned that Chris Rodatz and Pat Murphy from our class were also in Embark School.

That afternoon, when I returned to my room, I heard the toilet flush in the head. It flushed again…and again…and again…and……

“Hey, Tommy. You OK?”

The door opened. Tom flushed the commode again. “Oh, damn, Mac. Will you look at that?” As I said, a strange new world.

The school was interesting—sort of an accounting course: debit the beach and credit the ship. We learned the storage capacity and characteristics of various classes of amphibious shipping, how to prepare a detailed loading plan, and were introduced to the new computerized loading system with its 80 column pads and punch card decks. For those of you younger than 30, we were using the computer version of a slate board.

Friday nights were special. We usually went to the Iha Castle Hotel out in town for dinner. The Iha Castle was built by Continental and Pa Am airlines as billeting for their crews that were taking troops to and from Vietnam. The restaurant had a great surf and turf dinner on Friday for $2.50. The best part was the 40 foot salad bar. Every vegetable you can imagine--there were nights when I never got to the surf and turf.

We had Saturdays and Sundays off, but Kin Blue Beach was within walking distance and Kerrigan and I spent long hours there sunning. Since May, I had had a festering sore on my left ankle. Doc had prescribed Bacitracin, but the darn thing stayed ugly. There was no way to keep it clean. By July, it was a jellied white.

In Oki, I took a couple of showers a day, and the salt water soaks seemed to help. Finally, a little piece of shrapnel worked its way out of the sore and after that, it started to heal. By September, all I had was a scar.

On Monday morning, 17 July, we started our final exam. We had to prepare a complete loading plan for a ship, using the Operation Order as our guide. The instructors told us that we had until 1630 on Friday to finish, but we could turn our plans in whenever we were done. Kerrigan and I wanted to visit the southern tip of the island to see Suicide Cliffs, so we decided to work so as to have Friday off.

I worked from 0800 to about 2300 each day. By Thursday evening at 2100, I was almost done. Then I realized that I could not account for one 3 cubic foot box. It took me another 4 hours and a revision of my load to fix it. The problem with a two dimensional plan for loading a three dimensional ship is that, on paper, you can stack boxes higher than the overhead in the compartment in which they are stowed. That’s what I had done. At 0100, I went to bed.

At 0500, I got up and headed over to the Officers Club to watch a miracle happen. The Club was jammed. Neal Armstrong walked on the Moon. Then we all went back to bed.

The next week’s classes were pro forma. I was honor grad, the only officer to have a completely workable plan.

A few nights later, we were back at Kadena, anxious to get back to Vietnam before midnight on 31 July.

“Huh,” you say?

One small advantage to being in Vietnam was that Congress saw fit to make our pay exempt from Federal income taxation for any month or part of a month spent within the confines of the “combat zone.” By getting into Country before midnight on the 31st, even if by only 5 minutes, July’s pay was tax free. We made it by three hours.

The next morning, I got a ride to 5th Marines (Rear) at 11th Motor transport Battalion and caught a chopper ride back to An Hoa. From the LZ, I trudged back up to the 1/5 BOQ tent. As I started up the steps, the screen door opened and I damn near fainted. There stood Gino Castagnetti.

“What’s the matter, Mac,” he asked?

“You’re dead, Sir. They told me.”

“Sorry, young lieutenant, but it just ain’t so. C’mon in and take a load off.”

Ah, the fog of war. And I was back in the middle of it.

13 October 2009


Baseball is an intense game. The situation changes with every pitch. Witness the knife fight in a phone booth that took place at Coors Field last night. In the 2009 season, the Colorado Rockies lost only one game in which they led after the 8th inning and their ace reliever, Houston Street, had blown only two saves all season. But those never say die Phils came roaring back after a disastrous 8th to take what we hope will be the first of three post-season blue ribbons.

And what a trip it was. Sunday’s game was called on account of snow, and Monday night’s game started when the temperature was already below freezing. The gods of television must be appeased, and the idea of an afternoon game—a staple of my youth and one of the reasons we all hoped to have gym in the 6th and 7th periods in the Fall—has gone the way of the buggy whip. (Jumper Girl, my 12 year old, sighs and says, “You’re just old!!!!)

Why not equalize the two leagues at 16 teams each? One division in each could be the pre-expansion leagues: Cards, Phils, Cubs, Pirates, Reds, Braves, Dodgers and Giants in the senior circuit and Yanks, Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Tigers Orioles, A’s, and Twins (successors to the Senators) in the AL. Then go back to a 154 game season with a League Championship and the World Series. But the loss of a low estimate of 1,280,000 in attendance and 128 games that could be televised and the accompanying revenue will trump common sense, so expect to see November baseball for the foreseeable future.

Ah,but I digress: back to last night. The Rockies need not hang their heads. They are a very good team and will continue to be heard from in the National League. But those scrappy, tenacious Fightins just don’t quit, and that bodes well for the Division series.

Harry Kalas began calling the games of the HC 9 this year (trivia buffs????), but we know there is joy in Heaven because his beloved Fightins are once again playing exciting fall ball. (And we all thank our benevolent God that He allowed Harry to call last year's Series before He recruited HK for the ultimate big league.)

Side note: I was spared the ultimate schizophrenic experience when them Bums did in my beloved Cardinals. A St. Louis-Philadelphia three game series in the regular season sends me hiding under the bed. To see them battling each other to go the Series would have necessitated commitment proceedings! I will consider this season penance for 1964.

09 October 2009


As an American, I am proud whenever one of our countrymen is singled out by a prestigious international group for recognition. Barack Obama is the only president we have and we should be proud of him when he acts in a manner worthy of our respect. Thus, I am proud of our president, for whom I did not vote and with whom I disagree on almost every issue, as he is selected to receive the Nobel peace prize.

He is a leader, although he is leading our country along paths I consider to be dangerous to our Republic. I give him credit for admitting that he probably does not deserve this recognition at this time.

My larger concern is that the Nobel Peace Prize is now being prostituted by its stewards into a weapon meant to insult and embarrass America. Consider some of the "world leaders" who have received the prize in the past 25 years: Al Gore (2007), Jimmy Carter (2002), Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin (1994), and Mikhail Gorbachev (1990).

Gore is a no load whose theories on global warning are increasingly being demonstrated to be based on faulty science. He got his award because he was willing to embarrass his Country while refusing to hold the real polluters (China and the Third World) to a similar standard. Carter, the weakest and most ineffective president in my life time, a man who demanded a written guarantee that no Iranians would be hurt in a raid to recover our hostages, got the award because he kowtowed to the anti-Israeli policies of the Third World. Arafat, Peres, and Rabin, three world-class terrorists (think PLO and Irgun), were at least arguably repentant of their violent pasts.

And then there was Gorbachev who was recognized for failing to incinerate the world in a nuclear war when the USSR collapsed. Oh, that’s not what they said. He was a great leader for world peace who led Russia out of the wilderness of communism, but let’s face it, he just got out in front of the tidal wave of history that did in the failed experiment in Marxist Leninism. The real architect of that feat—Ronald Reagan—was ignored.

Had it not been for President Reagan’s decision to stand firm against the hideous excesses of Soviet Communism, we would still be “five minutes from midnight.” But a strong, patriotic American was unacceptable to the weak wristed Scandanavians who administer Nobel’s will. A weak sister like Carter or a no load like Gore are just what they want.

So I congratulate the President on his selection. Thank God for his daughters who keep him humble. I pray that he does not succumb to those who counsel for a weak America, one who places its security second to the desires of nations such as France, the Low Countries, and others whom we have had to rescue thrice in the past Century—in two hot wars and a cold one.

He could start by meeting with his fellow peace prize recipient, the Dalai Lama (1989), despite the demands of the Red Chinese that he not do so. It would be easy: the Dalai Lama is in Washington, DC today.

That would speak volumes about what real world peace means.

02 October 2009


I first visited New Market in 1981 with Camper and Moleson. I had just reported to Marine Corps Base, Quantico, and they were then in the 4th and 2d grades, attending Archibald Henderson Elementary School aboard base.

Now, my late first wife was a product of Catholic Schools in Chicago. Her grasp of history left something to be desired. (“What do you expect,” she asked? “My history book was Holy Days And Holidays.”)

It was on Columbus day, when the Feds had a holiday that the rest of the Nation ignored. She asked “What are you going to do with a day off?”

“I’ll take the boys to New Market.”

“New Market? What’s that?”

Moleson looked up from his dinner. “Mom? New Market?” (Puzzled look from Mom.) “The boys of New Market?” (Not a glimmer!) “Mom—the field of lost shoes?” (Sheer exasperation.)

I stepped in to end the confusion. “It’s a Civil War battlefield.”

“Oh,” she said. “I thought it was a shopping center!” (To Moleson): “Where did you hear about this place?”

In a voice dripping with awe, he said “My teacher is a graduate of ‘the Institute.’ He’s told us all about ‘the boys of New Market.’”

The Battle of New Market, 15 May 1864, was one of the many battles fought in “the [Shenandoah] Valley.” It is remarkable because it was the only time in our nation's history that an entire student body fought as a unit in combat.

The Valley was the breadbasket of the Confederacy. In 1864, Grant ordered Major General Franz Sigel's army of 10,000 to secure the Valley. In response, General (and former Vice President of the United States) John C. Breckinridge, CSA, cobbled together all available forces to throw back the Yankees. The VMI Cadet Corps, over half of whom were first year students, were called to join Breckinridge and his army of 4,500 veterans. The 257 cadets, aged 15 to 21, under the command of Commandant of Cadets Lt. Col. Scott Ship (VMI ’59), marched 80 miles in four days to join Breckinridge's force. While the first day’s march was completed in good weather, thereafter, spring rains drenched the column as it approached the village of New Market.

As the two armies met on a farm owned by Jacob Bushong, the Union forces held a low ridge perhaps 500 yards north of the house. Massed fire from Federal units and their supporting artillery, crashed into the 51st, 30th, and 62nd Virginia infantry regiments, opening a gap of over 100 meters. Sigel then ordered an attack.

Breckenridge had to quickly restore the line or leave the field to the enemy. One of his staff asked if he should commit the cadets who were Breckenridge’s only reserve.. "I will not do it," he replied.

"General, you have no choice!"

"Put the boys in," Breckinridge ordered, "and may God forgive me for the order ..."

Col. Ship ordered the Corps to “fix bayonets” and then moved his troops into the gap just as the 34th Massachusetts started its attack. Ship was knocked unconscious and feared mortally wounded by an artillery explosion shortly afterward. (One cadet’s rifle, on display in the Visitor’s center, was struck by shrapnel. The top 18 inches of the barrel are bent at a right angle to the rest of the weapon! Although wounded, he survived, as did Col. Ship.)

Captain Henry Wise assumed command and led the cadets as they turned back the Union charge. The entire Confederate line then surged forward over the rain-soaked and recently plowed wheat field. It is known to history as the "Field of Lost Shoes" because many cadets had their shoes sucked from their feet by the mud. The Corps captured an artillery piece and sent the Union forces reeling as Sigel ordered a retreat northward to Strasburg.

The Corps of Cadets suffered 10 KIA and 47 WIA, more than 20% of the unit. One of the KIA, Cadet Private Thomas Garland Jefferson ’67, Company B, was a descendant of President Thomas Jefferson.

Today, as I drove south through the Valley en route to Chattanooga and the 6th Convocation of the New Wineskins Association of Churches, I-81 took me through the center of the battlefield. Of course I had to stop.

The Hall of Valor (Visitors Center) was as impressive as ever. Since last I was there, the original grave markers of the 6 cadets buried on the campus of Virginia Military Institute, heavily weathered, have been moved to New Market. Their graves, at the foot of the statue of “Virginia Mourning Her Dead” on the campus of the Institute, have new markers now.

Everywhere in the visitors center, we are reminded of the response to the roll call conducted on 15 May of each year at the Institute. Because they engaged in combat as a unit, the Corps is entitled to parade with bayonets fixed. As the names of the 10 cadets who were killed in action or later died of wounds are read, a current cadet from the same company steps forth and responds “Sir, First Sergeant (or Corporal or Private) ____ died on the field of honor, Sir.”

I wonder if there are any colleges in America today—other than at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, the Institute, or the Citadel—whose student body would respond as well as did the boys of New Market to “duty’s claim and Country’s call”?

30 September 2009


Well, the Chevy is history. The Good Guys Insurance Company (honest, it is—just ask anyone who has ever served in the Armed Forces and is insured by a well known, military-oriented insurer) called with the news on Monday. Jumper Girl, who had selected the Chevy for me based on one important feature—a trailer hitch—was devastated.

Yesterday, we began the search anew. First stop, the place we got the Chevy. SWMBO said “Now, it is really unlikely that they will have another truck we can afford.” Wailing ensued from the back seat.

We drove in, and there it was. JG had her “Aha” moment. “Look, it has the big cab and a trailer hitch, and everything!” It was a year newer than the Chevy, had fewer miles, and all the features I wanted, irrelevant as they might be. And it was $35 more than GGIC had paid to settle my claim. There will be no living with a 12 year old who is always right!

I leave on Friday for Chattanooga, Tennessee for the 6th Convocation of the New Wineskins Association of Churches which convenes with worship at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church on Sunday evening. I’m leaving early so that I can visit the Chickamauga Battlefield just across the Georgia line. My great grandfather fought there as a 12 year old drummer boy under the Command of General George H. Thomas. I have never been there before and it is time.

Thomas, “The Rock of Chickamauga,” is not well known outside of the ranks of Civil War buffs. It was a battle that also involved another of my favorites, “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, a Confederate cavalryman who was the commander of US forces in Cuba in 1898, where while suffering from a fever, he was heard to admonish subordinates to attack and punish “those damn Yankees!”

So, Saturday will be a fun day for me.

My great grandfather was right in the middle of our family’s military line. Two of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, one in the War of 1812, three in the Civil War (2 generations), one in WWII, my war in Vietnam, and Moleson’s forays into the Gulf make for 7 generations and 9 combat veterans in our history. Only two were killed in action, both in the Civil War.

According to my great grandmother, Lieutenant William Jack, 10th Ohio Cavalry, was WIA near Nashville, Tennessee, on June 19, 1863, and died some 10 days later. The drummer boy of Chickamauga, John Kennedy, later married Effie Rankin Jack, the orphan of Ebenezer Jack.

On April 7, 1863, my great, great grandfather, Quartermaster Sergeant Pleasant Fountain, 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, was KIA in an action against “skirmishers” near Fidelity Missouri. My great, great grandmother was informed that he had been wounded and that she should come to Fort Scott, Kansas from far northeast Hiawatha, Kansas to take him home to recuperate. Loading her four children into a wagon, she set off, spending the nights with scattered homesteads. After a five day journey to Fort Scott, she learned that her husband was dead.

She headed back home with her three sons, ages 10, 8, and 6, and one daughter, age 2—my great grandmother. Late on the second afternoon of her return trip, they approached a farm at which they had stayed only a few days earlier. Something alerted her, and she stopped the wagon in a small draw.

She took the 10-year old aside. “I am going to that farm,” she said. “Now, no matter what you see or hear, if I don’t come back to get you, you hide here, and then get these children home.” (They were about 60 miles from Hiawatha.)

She went up to the farm to find the entire family dead, killed by the skirmishers who had won for Kansas the soubriquet “Bloody Kansas.” She returned to her children, and they drove on into the night.

Setting up a “cold camp,” they settled in for a long dark night. About an hour later, a band of armed men rode into her camp and demanded that she cook for them. She watched as they butchered a cow that she recognized as coming from the devastated farm. An hour before sun up, the men mounted up and rode away, never to be seen by her again. Family tradition has it that she “entertained” part of the force led by Captain William Quantrill. If so, it probably did not include “Bloody Bill” Anderson who would have killed even a defenseless widow and the children of a Yankee.

And then we meet as a presbytery…….

18 September 2009


. . . .or, as SWMBO was heard to say, "Another glorious chapter in the Scuttlebutt family adventure!"

I was driving to pick up my daughter at school yesterday. As I reached to pick up a cough drop on the console, the shoulder that has tricked me before showed that while you can't teach an old shoulder new tricks, it can still play the old ones. For the second time in my life, it completely dislocated. (I stopped counting the partials about 20 years ago.)

I reacted in a manful way, if screaming and spasming is manful, hitting the gas and sending the truck into a tree. A nice petite little lady in a black jump suit came running toward me to help--which I saw as a VC, so I fought my way out of my seat belt, bailed, and played hide and seek with her around the truck until one of my neighbors drove up and called my name.

After a fun few hours in the local ER, they finally knocked me out and the shoulder is back at home in its socket--and sore as can be. God was truly with me and I thank him for his mercies.

Truck may be totalled 8>(. As the bumper sticker says, "My wife ran off with my kids and my truck. Reward for return of truck.>" (Tongue firmly in cheek.)

But I have admit, injury causes wreck seems a lot like man bites dog!

17 September 2009


It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become prey to the active The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which conditionif he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

-John Philpot Curran, Speech before the Privy Council, July 10, 1790

For many years, withholding per capita has been the only means for churches to register their disapproval of actions of the GA or other courts of the church.

In several cases, those higher courts (now referred to as "councils") have sought to coerce payment of per capita through the institution of disciplinary measures or by limiting the right of congregations to participate in presbytery. For nearly the same amount of time, presbyteries and synods have attempted to make payment of per capita mandatory. Several amendments to the Book of Order added ambiguous language that could be read either way. Nonetheless, in every such instance in which such an attempt has been made, the PJC has reversed such decisions. See, e.g., Johnston v. Heartland Presbytery, Rem. Case 217-2 (GAPJC 2004) (“The Heartland policy improperly turns payment of per capita apportionments or the fulfillment of a mission pledge into a mandate”); Minihan and Richards v. Scioto Valley Presbytery, Remedial Case 216-1 (GAPJC 2003) (1992 amendment to G-9.0404d did not grant a presbytery power to compel a session to transmit the per capita apportionment assigned to it.); Session, Central Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of Long Island (Minutes, 1992, page 179) (governing body may adopt a per capita system for financing its operations, but a church may neither be compelled to pay nor punished for failure to pay any amounts pursuant to such plan); cf., Westminster United Presbyterian Church of Port Huron, Michigan v. The Presbytery of Detroit (UPC, 1976, p. 228)

The basis for the GA PJC decisions has been the clear language of Book of Order §G-10.0102 , (Responsibilities of the Session), which states in pertinent part,

The session is responsible for the mission and government of the particular church. It therefore has the responsibility and power . . . to establish the annual budget, determine the distribution of the church’s benevolences, and order offerings for Christian purposes, providing full information to the congregation of its decisions in such matters . . . §G-10.0102i.

Because the session alone possesses control of the congregation’s purse, the bureaucrats may not unilaterally overrule the conscience of the congregation.

And they have tried! In 2001, Scioto Valley Presbytery overtured the 213th General Assembly to approve an amendment which proposed to add the following sentences to G-9.0404d:

Unless excused by the presbytery, a session shall be responsible for raising and timely transmission of per capita funds to its presbytery. A presbytery may exercise care and oversight over congregations in its bounds that fail to raise or transmit such funds to the presbytery.
The 213th General Assembly (2001) disapproved the Overture.

These decisions are, of course, repugnant to the bureaucracy. When a session of a church that does not agree with the actions of the GA elects to successfully withhold per capita, the lifeblood of the bureaucracy, it encourages other churches to do the same. However, as demonstrated by the example in 2001, an effort to make per capita mandatory would, even today, have a doubtful chance of making it out of the GA.

If, that is, it was presented as a stand-alone amendment. Enter nFOG.2. Hidden in nFOG section 3.02 (THE SESSION) is a new section that provides as follows:

3.0202 Relations with Other Councils

Sessions have a particular responsibility to participate in the life of the whole church through participation in other councils. It is of particular importance that sessions:. . .

f. send to presbytery and General Assembly requested financial contributions, statistics, and other information according to the requirements of those bodies (emphasis added).

Section G-3.0202f makes payment of per capita a “particular responsibility” of the session.

Elsewhere in nFOG, the presbytery is authorized to

assume original jurisdiction in any situation in which it determines that a session cannot exercise its authority. After a thorough investigation, and after full opportunity to be heard has been accorded to the session,the presbytery may conclude that the session of a congregation is unable or unwilling to manage wisely its affairs, and may appoint an administrative commission with the full power of session. This commission shall assume original jurisdiction of the existing session, if any, which shall cease to act until such time as the presbytery shall otherwise direct.” Section G-3.0303e [The Presbytery’s] Relations with Sessions

The standard for such action remains the same as in the current Book of Order, but by changing payment of per capita into a “particular responsibility” of the session, it will be easy for a presbytery to declare that when a session does not perform that “particular responsibility”, it has demonstrated that it “is unable or unwilling to manage wisely its affairs”. An AC can then come in, take over the checkbook, and send the congregation’s money to Louisville.

So, sessions and congregations beware. If §G-3.0202f is adopted, hang onto your wallets. The GA’s bagmen will be coming.

16 September 2009


“The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients and by parts.” Edmund Burke, April 3, 1777

Edmund Burke was a contemporary of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The republican form of government adoprted in the Summer of 1787 in Philadelphia by both the PCUSA and the United States in their respective constitutions was no accident. And the fear of strong central governments held by the men of that day can still be found in the words of those constitutions.

The desire and demand of free men for liberty is anathema to despots, and they endeavor by all means to usurp the power that ought belong to the individual. That is especially evident in the restructuring of the Form of Government with respect to the congregations. Rights that have always been conceded by the leadership to reside in the congregations are quietly removed in the hope that the commissioners to the presbyteries will not notice their absence.

Compare, for instance §G-7.0304 of the current Book of Order with the proposed §1.0503 of nFOG.2. Section G-7.0304 declares that
a. Business to be transacted at meetings of the congregation shall include the following:

(1) matters related to the electing (sic) of elders, deacons, and trustees;
(2) matters related to the calling of a pastor or pastors;
(3) matters related to the pastoral relationship, such as changing the call, or requesting or consenting or decliningto consent to dissolution;
(4) matters related to buying, mortgaging, or selling real property (G-8.0500);
(5) matters related to the permissive powers of a congregation, such as the desire to lodge all administrative responsibility in the session, or the request to presbytery for exemption from one or more requirements because of limited size.
Limitations b. Business at congregational meetings shall be limited to the foregoing matters (1) through (5). . . . (emphasis added).

New §1.0503 (“Business Proper to Congregational Meetings”) strips away all of the powers heretofore residing in the congregation and then sets forth a new, very limited authority:

1.0503 Business Proper to Congregational Meetings
Business to be transacted at meetings of the congregation shall be limited to matters related to the following:
a. electing ruling elders, deacons, and trustees;
b. calling a pastor, co-pastor, or associate pastor;
c. changing existing pastoral relationships, by such means as reviewing the adequacy of and approving
changes to the terms of call of the pastor or pastors, or requesting, consenting to, or declining to consent to dissolution;
d. buying, mortgaging, or selling real property;
e. requesting the presbytery to grant an exemption as permitted in this Constitution (G-2.0404).

Note the differences. The introductory phrase of §G-7.0304 (“Business to be transacted at meetings of the congregation shall include the following:. . . “) is changed to “Business to be transacted at meetings of the congregation shall be limited to matters related to the following: . .” (emphasis added). From being a constitutional form in which all powers not delegated to the GA belong to the congregations, it has flipped into an oligarchical form in which the oligarchs dole out those few meaningless powers,e.g., to appoint local leadership, that they do not want---yet.

In other words, powers that had previously belonged to the congregation alone have been stripped away. The phrases “shall include” and “such as” in §G-7.0304 clearly connoted that the list that followed was not exclusive and that other powers also resided in the congregation and could be the basis for a congregational meeting.

Because the current Book of Order is ambiguous, and because it was drafted by the GA, in the event of a dispute between a congregation and its presbytery or the GA over the right to disaffiliate, under the legal doctrine contra proferentum, the ambiguity would be construed against the presbytery or GA. Hence the change.

By nibbling away at the rights of the congregation, if nFOG.2 is ratified as written, congregations that previously had the power to disaffiliate will be trapped in the PC(USA) at the mercy of the GA. The right of a congregation to unilaterally disaffiliate from the PC(USA) will be gone.

And, once trapped, there is more. . . . .

15 September 2009


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

-Carl Sandburg-

SWMBO and the kids are back in school. The cats have settled down for a much needed 18-hour nap after the hard work of eating breakfast, staring out the window at the trash truck, chasing air, and looking beautiful. And I can get back to the blogosphere.

Over at A Classical Presbyterian, Toby Brown has written a very nice cautionary piece about stewardship of emotion and effort, noting that we can often use up our strength on outrage when our energies could be better directed elsewhere. That piece struck home. There was a time when I scoured the web for news from the PC(USA) out of a need to protect our congregation from the depredations of the gang in Louisville. The disclosure of the Louisville Papers over a year after they had been distributed to presbyteries and synods revealed that secrecy and ambush were to be their chosen methods. But I also needed a place to vent against the hijackers of a once great denomination.

Two years ago, our little church on the hill—with other similarly situated congregations—fought our way out. Since that time, we have marveled at the peace, trust, and fellowship that can come from finding a home in a denomination that knows what it stands for and is unafraid to say just that. In the EPC, we found brothers and sisters who are not afraid to declare the sovereignty of God, the divinity of Christ, and the inerrancy of God’s word revealed in Scripture. In the EPC, we don’t need to tear pages or whole chapters out of our Bibles.

I write this by way of preface. My review of the antics and actions taken by the PC(USA) are no longer driven by self defense. I now have the freedom to watch what PC(USA) leadership and its minions are doing simply as an intellectual exercise. And they are making it easy.

The 2006 GA of the PC(USA) commissioned a re-write of its cumbersome Book of Order, but forbade any changes to the ordination standards set forth in §G-6.0106b or the odious unilateral declaration of a so-called property “trust.” The resulting product was released late and met with an uncharacteristic distrust across the denomination. Despite efforts by out-going Stated Clerk Kirkpatrick and his team to get the new form of government through the 2008 GA, it failed. Instead, the GA added some new members to the committee and directed them to take another crack at a re-write.

To their credit, the new committee worked hard to get their proposal out in sufficient time for people to study it. (A major criticism of nFOG.1 was that it was not released for review until just before the 2008 GA. Commissioners were leery of voting on something they had not read and digested—oh that the folks in Congress were so conscientious! But, I digress.) So, now it is out, loaded with booby traps for the unwary, a ticking time-bomb. If the 2010 GA does not reject this effort, and if the presbyteries adopt it, they cannot say that they did not have an opportunity to know what they were doing. And reject this piece of work they should.

As was the case with nFOG.1, nFOG.2 is a plan for reforming the PC(USA) into the Roman Catholic model of church governance. It strips congregations of long-held rights which protected them from unilateral action by the bureaucracy, remodels the “presbyterian” form of government into a hierarchical directorate, adds language that can be used to make payment of per capita mandatory, and adds a “fuehrer oath” for members of congregations.

As a child of the prairies of Illinois, I learned my Sandburg. His description of the fog as a silent predator, creeping into place unnoticed until it is too late for the prey, is an apt comparison to the nFOG that has now been unleashed on the PC(USA). I hope that sessions of the PC(USA) congregations will take responsibility to study nFOG.2 and act accordingly when they send commissioners to presbytery and the GA. If they do not, they have no one to blame but themselves.

-30- (Extra credit to the first one of you boys and girls who can explain this.)

24 August 2009


A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. Prov. 18:19

This may be the most difficult piece I have ever written. It has taken me over a month.

My brother, Chris, passed away in Chicago on July 11. He was a bachelor and it was only several days later that my Sister and I learned of his passing.

An artist and designer, he fancied himself a man of the world, sophisticated and elite, one who enjoyed the erudite and clever society of the Second City. He was a world traveler and lived only in an adult society. He was also one of the angriest men I have ever known.

Our relationship over the years has been strained, to say the least. From my high school years forward, he seemed to take pleasure in pushing buttons and getting under my skin. For example, when I was serving in Vietnam, he wrote to me announcing that he had participated in Moratorium Day activities “to end your stupid, bloody war.” There’s a morale builder.

During the 1980’s, my Mom visited me at Marine Corps Base, Quantico. On a Sunday morning, we attended services at Memorial Chapel, a church built in the Virginia colonial style and used for religious services for the Base.

If you are ever in the Quantico area, about 40 miles south of DC on I-95, it is worth the effort to get a visitor’s pass and see the Chapel. The altar decking and altar rail are hard wood, made from teak decking from battleships and cruisers that fired in support of Marines in the Pacific. (There are small brass plates identifying the various ships. I always tried to get a position in the portion of the rail from USS California, sunk at Pearl Harbor and raised and refitted to rejoin the fray.)

When the Chapel was built in the 1950’s, it was decided that the windows would be etched glass rather than stained glass. Each window would recall one of the Wars in which the Corps had served, starting with the Revolution and continuing with the war against the Barbary pirates (“the shores of Tripoli”), the War of 1812, the Mexican War (“the halls of Montezuma”), the Civil War and through Korea. Each window contains an appropriate etching and a Bible verse.

On this visit, Mom asked to go to services early so she could see the Chapel. She was aware of the strain between Chris and me, and when she stopped at the Civil War window, she pointed to the verse, Proverbs 18:19. “That is you and your brother. Please try win the city.”

And I did try, but, to quote General A. A. Vandegrift “The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps.” As we engaged in our two or three lengthy telephone calls each year, Chris would invariably cast the bait and I would chomp down on it—hard! I left those calls in turmoil.

With the prayerful help of SWMBO, however, I began to strenuously work to avoid responding to the barbs.

I realized that I was making some progress in 2004. We were having dinner together in Chicago, and the first hour or so had been devoted to tales of recent trips and other benign activities. I had prayed for forbearance and steeled myself to roll with any verbal punches, but it was beginning to look as if he, too, had turned over a new leaf.

Then, out of the clear blue, he told me, “You’ll be surprised to hear that I will not vote for John Kerry.”

I merely nodded. “Yes,” he continued, “anyone who was too stupid to get out of going to that awful war is not smart enough to be President.” I ground several millimeters of enamel off my teeth, but God calmed me and I said nothing. Dinner ended soon thereafter and we parted.

We continued to exchange infrequent phone calls. He was a telephone junkie. Mom was his best friend, and they might exchange three or four long-distance calls per day, totaling several hours. She continued to let us both know that one of her dearest wishes was for us to be closer. In my last, lovely extended visit with her before her death, she repeated her request.

Initially, after her death in November 2007, the status quo ante prevailed. After dinner on the night of Mom’s memorial service, he reduced my 11 year old daughter, Horse Girl, to tears. It was her birthday and her combined birthday/Christmas gift was a horse. She was ecstatic.

His response was to belittle her, suggesting that when she was through with the horse, it could be put to good use as raw material for glue. When she began crying, he fell back on a typical response: “Oh, look, she’s crying. It was just conversation. Please, do grow up.”

I took her outside to calm her. “I apologize for your uncle. I don’t know why he does those things, but he has done them to me, to your Aunt Mary, and others all our lives. But I will promise you that he won’t do that to you again, OK?” She nodded, her cheeks still tear-stained.

After dinner, I took him aside. “Look, you can ping at me all you want, but from now on, treat my family with civility. Do not tell my little girl that she need s to 'grow up.' She is only 11. They have done nothing to offend you, and I won’t put up with it. I know that your group of friends have a very dry and cynical sense of humor, but an 11 year old does not need to be exposed to that, so knock it off.”

He huffed and puffed a bit, but nodded.

After that our phone calls took a turn for the better. Our last three or four conversations were the nicest I can remember since we were boys sharing a bed room at home. For that, I thank him and God. I do not have to live with the memory of a last angry conversation.

The pains of a lifetime are still there but they are healing. I pray that he has at last found peace.

16 July 2009


Well, our noble elected leaders in Washington are at it again—demonstrating that many of them could not lead a bunch of condemned sinners out of Hell.

It all started when the so-called “Torture Memos” came to light, a first example that politicians are genetically incapable of keeping the Nation’s secrets and if given the opportunity to place the Nation’s best interests ahead of their own, they will usually take care of themselves first. The latest fracas started because, a few short months after the World Trade Center/Pentagon attack, Speaker Pelosi was briefed in to some degree on steps that the United States might take if necessary to get timely information to prevent other similar or even more deadly attacks.

Seven years later, when her core constituency (the hate America first crowd) discovered that we might deprive Al Quaeda operatives of sleep (gasp), or put them in solitary so they could not arrange a common story (shudder) or use a physically harmless technique that nonetheless triggers the biological fear of drowning as a last resort means of getting such information (moan), Nancy the Great backtracked like a pro.

Knowing that much of the information that would disprove her allegations was classified, she tried to claim that she was “lied to.” Then, when that was not working so well, she learned that , (or her "supporters") revealed that shortly after September 11, 2001, the president of the United States ordered the CIA to examine the possibility of targeted assassinations of Al Qaeda leaders. The AQ leadership would be fair game anywhere in the world. No actual operations were launched, and there was no legal requirement that the mere existence of a planning group be revealed to a notoriously porous Congress, but Nancy the Great waved her magic wand and, presto, change-o, there was a "lie."

And the useful idiots in Congress are aghast. “You mean, like, shoot them without like, you know, warning them of their (non-existent) Constitutional rights?”

I think most Americans had already assumed that those orders had gone out. I surely did. If someone had asked me that question, my answer would have been, “Yup! Twice, in the head, just to make sure they’re really dead. That’s how we respond treachery and cowardice. Just ask the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Of course, the problem goes back much further. The Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) (“the Church Committee” ) was established in 1975 to look into intelligence activities that might have been connected to the Watergate affair.

Delving into highly classified activities in a televised series of hearings, the Democratic majority of the Committee revealed, among other things, that the United States government had attempted to assassinate or actually succeeded in assassinating foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam, Gen. René Schneider of Chile. They also revealed President John F. Kennedy's plans to use the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba.

The evidence with respect to Lumumba is very tenuous—it was the Belgian government that did him in. The rest, with the exception of Schneider, were authorized or openly condoned by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

I recall watching the hearings. In particular, I was amazed by Senator’s feigned shock that the President of the United States (John F. Kennedy) had repeatedly ordered that Fidel Castro be killed.

Senator church and I were both shocked. Church was just disconsolate that JFK had taken such action. I asked, “If, in 1962 or ’63, the President of the United States said he wanted Castro dead, then why is the sob still breathing?” I guess it’s a frame of reference thing.

At any rate, in response to the Church Committee revelations, President Ford issued an Executive Order banning U.S. sanctioned assassinations of foreign leaders. He was strong-armed into doing so by threats that the Congress would enact those prohibitions into law; an EO can be superseded by the President. Whether any American would have the guts to stand in front of a jury and argue that bin Laden is a “foreign leader” is an open argument, but I am sure that there are some boneheads out there that would try.

But, here we are, once again. Lint-for-brains pols put their interests before ours and warn people who intend to do us harm that they may continue to make such plans with impunity.