Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rear View Mirror's 2006 Predictions

Today I will flip around Rear View Mirror and instead of looking at what has happened I will take a gander down the road into 2006. Some of these are actual predictions and others wishful thinking on my part. Let me know if you can tell which is which.

  • After spending millions getting Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner the NY Mets break my heart by ending the seaon 15 games under .500. Only then will Delgado and Wagner realize they destroyed their careers by coming to NY and beg to be traded to Kansas City.
  • Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi remain on the run making periodic public appearance, but still manage to stay just a step ahead of U.S. forces.
  • The NY Jets quit the NFL when every one of its players gets injured in Week 3. Ownership declares this is simply less painful for the fans then putting them through another 2005-like season.
  • More unrest in France as its Muslim population decides job training with being accepted as equals in their own country is not enough. Renault stock goes through the roof as 25,000 cars are burned in three days.
  • Iran announces it will explode a nuclear weapon. The next day a joint U.S.-Israeli strike force hits several Iranian nuclear facilities. President Bush announces that if American inspectors are not given total access to the Iranian program we will destroy that countries ability to drill for, pump out and export oil regardless of the impact it has on world oil prices.
  • President Bush announces a national energy policy that actually makes sense.
  • Islamic terrorists are captured with bomb making equipment sneaking over the Mexican-U.S. border, possibly by Arizona citizens patrolling the border.
  • There is a major discovery of some type by one of the Mars rovers.
  • Most of my predictions will be proved wrong.
  • Things in Iraq will get worse. All the talk about a U.S. troop draw down will inspire the terrorists to step up their activities, thus putting pressure on Bush to bring the troops home.
  • Bush refuses and instead fully calls up all National Guard and Reserve forces and floods Iraq with troops.
  • Chinese and Taiwanese naval units exchange gunfire.
  • North Korea fires another missile over Japan.
  • Hollywood continues to fall farther away from the mainstream and posts its worst ever year at the box office.
  • In a desparate attempt to drum up business, Hollywood announces it will allow movies to be directly downloaded to home's immediately following their theatrical release.
  • Howard Stern fails on satellite radio.
  • David Lee Roth, Stern's replacement, fails on traditional radio.
  • My daughter manages to sleep through the night for three consecutive days.

I could go on and on, but that's enough for this year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pathetic Celebrities had a great rundown this morning of 2005 celebrity lows.

The story covers everything from quick ending marriages and engagements to the stupid names Hollywood types enjoy tagging onto their children as if they were a pet dog.

I rarely expect much from anyone with the adjective celebrity placed in front of their name. Heck, many of them, Paris Hilton, actually have not done anything of note except managing to be born into wealthy families.

I wonder if the Hollywood divorce rate is higher then the national average? If so why. Can't these people committ to someone else or are they so self-absorbed that fully sharing themself with another is simply beyond their limited capabilities?

Secondly, what is with the truly idiotic public behavior? Did Russell Crowe really believe heaving a phone at a hotel clerk would get him a long distance line, why did Oprah think a store should reopen after closing time just so she could shop? Does the world revolve around her fat ego? No.

I'm not even going to discuss Michael Jackson and Robert Blake getting off scott free. I'm sure Phil Spector will follow in their footsteps in 2006. After all having the police find a woman you picked up that night found shot to doeath in your living room with one of your pistols is hardly damning evidence.

It would be great if all these celebrity types could be knocked down a few pegs, but that would require the elimination of the entire publicity industry, a group of people dedicated to making the foolish famous, and that will never happen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Back from the Holiday

Just a couple of quick notes from the past few days.

Every Christmas Eve the North American Air Defence Command, NORAD, based in Cheyenne Mountain, Colo. performs a truly neat service. It "tracks" Santa on his route from the North Pole to all the world's boys and girls.

Using radar and satellite coverage, kids can watch Santa's progress around the world. There is even an email address and a toll free number for kids to write and call. My family's email was quickly answered with a personal response. What other country would allow its troops to email its citizens from the nation's most important defense facility?


The NY City transit strike ended with a whimper last week as the Tranport Workers Union evidently got tired of losing money in a cause that was getting them nothing but animosity from New Yorkers forced to fight their way to and from work every day. The union workers lost about 5 days pay for their 2.5 days on the picket line. That means if they receive the 3 percent raise originally offered they will break even for the year.

Real smart move guys.

Another Saddam era mass grave was discovered in Iraq over the weekend. Nothing like a little reminder to the world about what life was like under Hussein.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Local Media Fails New Yorkers

The New York City transit strike is exposing a major flaw in how local breaking news is covered on the web.

There is none. After taking a look at three radio, five TV and four newspaper web sites I have no idea what is taking place right now in NY City. All these news sources are simply listing Associated Press stories from this morning regarding the strike going into affect. These are paired with additional AP reporting on angry commuters, but the information that people need to know cannot be found.

The local radio stations all have the ability to broadcast online, but these are innaccessible due to high traffic. At least I hope that is the reason.

During hurricane Katrina all the local New Orleans TV stations had reporters doing live reports that were posted on the web. While the subway strike is no where near as devastating, it would be nice if something were available that was not six hours old. Nobody needs to see NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge on his way to city hall again.

News that needs to be told is how crowded are the operational commuter line train stations working. Are they crowded? Does the NYPD expect terrible traffic on the way home tonight. There are not even updates on the negotiations or stories saying there are no negotiations taking place.

Considering how much information was available almost immediately from Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami and even Iraq, it is unbelievable that New Yorkers cannot find out what is happening outside their office and h ome windows.

New York City Transit Power Play

New Yorkers awoke this morning to a citywide transit shut down, that appears to be more about a union boss flexing his muscles then getting the workers a new contract.

The Transport Workers Union leadership decided to rebuff what looks to be a pretty fair offer from the Metropolitan Transportation Association, according to a story in the NY Post, shutting off most city-based subway and bus service with an illegal strike. Public sector workers in NY are forbidden from striking do a legal statute called the Taylor Law. Union President Roger Toussaint did not seem perturbed at all that he was leading his workers down a path that will cost them two days pay for every day they are on strike, not to mention disrupting the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

In fact I think he loves it.

He has been hankering to shut down the city during the run up to the strike today. You could hear it in his voice, and when he all but eliminated any hope to a settlement Monday evening six hours before the strike deadline by saying things did not look good, despite the MTA offer that was on the table.

I would be surprised if he even bothered to read it.

He has been an activist since grade school. According to a bio of Toussaint by Columbia University said:

In his early teens he associated with activists and trade union organizers. At 17, he was arrested and expelled from school for writing slogans on the walls of school buildings proclaiming "Free Education Means Free Books." Leaving Trinidad and Tobago in 1974, he came to New York and settled in Brooklyn. Continuing his education at Brooklyn College, he took part in student protests against fiscal cutbacks and for minority student programs. After a succession of blue-collar jobs which included work as a welder, he was hired by the Transit Authority as a Cleaner in 1984, becoming a Track Worker in 1985.

He immediately became active in union politics. From his TV interviews he clearly loves the spotlight in the same manner as Al Sharpton.

I believe NY is suffering because an average man has ended up with extraordinary powers, powers wants to flex for all to see.

For Toussaint to lead his workers into a ruinous situation is one thing. They are foolish to follow so it's their own fault. However, when he effects other's ability to earn a living then his actions border on crimminal and unforgivable.

Monday, December 19, 2005

President Must State The Obvious

So this is to what politics in the United States has been reduced. An American president having to point out to his detractors that we are winning the war in Iraq on many fronts, and defeat in the war on terror is not an option.

It is almost impossible to believe that major players in Congress believe cutting and running from Iraq is a plausible conclusion to our efforts. The fact that Ted Kennedy, John Murtha and others want to negate the sacrafice of 2,100 American troops just so they can say the president blundered by invading Iraq and score political points from the left. These people, along with John Kerry, keep insisting Iraq is nothing more then a rerun of Vietnam, just replace the jungle with the desert and you can't tell one war from the other. The only action the U.S. could take to make Iraq mirror Vietnam is if we abandon that country like we did Vietnam in 1975.

The president's speech was his best effort to date to make his case for Iraq. He primarily spent his time verbalizing what everyone already knew. That the job was tougher then expected, but there are concrete success stories that validate American efforts. Three national elections have taken place, each with a larger turn out then the last. The Sunnis are becoming involved in the political process, the terrorist have been unable to forment a Shia/Sunni/Kurd civil war and the locals are finally getting angry at being killed by foreigners whom have an agenda of their own.

All this news is available for public consumption, if the average person is willing to dig around for it and ignore the doom and gloom prophecies eminating from the Democratic half of Congress and the mainstream media.

Then, as if having to deliver such as speech wasn't bad enough, the Democrat response was particularly nearsighted.

Harry Reid immediately came out stating the president did not Bush's spell out our exit strategy. He bemoaned the fact that hard goals that, once reached would lead to troop withdrawals. Reid is blind and deaf. The president has set a firm goal. Once democracy is safely installed in Iraq and the new Iraqi is capable of defending itself we will leave. The problem for Reid and his supporters is these goals are open ended. It could take two years or 15 years for this situation to aris. What Reid wanted to hear was "we are leaving next week, see ya later."

Fighting a war that does not end in total victory is worse then not fighting at all. We fought for a negotiated end to Korea and ended up with 52 years of stalemate, we fought a partial war in Vietnam and were forced to leave due to poor public opinion resulting in a communist take over of that country. We fought for a limited goal against Iraq in 1991 and ended up at this point today.

Why do Reid, Kerry, Murtha and company want us to give up and lose? They must know that terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawiand Ayman Al-Zawahiri have made clear that Iraq is just their first step in bringing Islam to the rest of the world by force of arms. If we don't crush them now we will be fighting them some place else down the road and that fight will have to be undertaken by our children.

Pass the buck to the next generation appears to be the Democrats mantra.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Victory At All Costs

This has nothing to do with anything in particular, but.....

A fellow named David Shribman, whom I'd never read before today, has a column in the Yahoo news opinion section today where he backhandley berates Ulysses S. Grant for changing the definition of victor in war.

Indeed, other earlier conflicts may have been more difficult to end -- World War II comes to mind -- but their end was less difficult to imagine. Beginning with the Casablanca conference in January 1943, the Allies were committed to what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the "unconditional surrender" of Germany and Japan, and never mind that the man standing beside him, Winston Churchill, had not signed onto the concept, which the president said "popped into my mind" as he was speaking.
The inspiration for FDR's commitment to unconditional surrender, of course, came from one of his presidential predecessors, Ulysses S. Grant, who, while a brigadier general directing the February 1862 attack on Fort Donelson in Tennessee, refused to accept anything less from his Confederate opponents. Stubborn and steadfast, Grant sent them a message: "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." It earned him the nickname Unconditional Surrender Grant, and it brought to an end a 19th-century tradition of negotiating peace terms roughly congenial to all parties.

What really gets me is the bold sentence. Shribman states this as if a negotiated peace was a good thing. A negotiated peace has rarely settled an argument.

Think about it. The Federals, or North if you will, forced the Confederates to surrender unconditionally at Appammatox in April 1865. The war ended and while there were, and still are hard feelings in the South, there was never another outbreak of violence. Germany, Japan and Italy surrendered under the same conditions. The end result has been Europe's most peaceful period EVER. Japan spurned its militaristic ways and is now a world leader instead of an isolated country looking to build an empire.

World War I ended with a negotiated peace, creating the conditions for WWII. The Korean War ended with a ceasefire creating the most heavily defended border on the planet with war potentially possible at any time. The American Revolutionary War did not, and could not have albeit, end with Britains total surrender, which set the state for the War of 1812.

All through medieval history wars ended with the losing side trading land or treasure in exchange for peace. Then they went right back square one. Nothing was ever solved so the seeds that started the previous war were always still in place for the next conflict.

How many times did Britain and France go to war?

Shribman's overall point with his column is that defining victory in Iraq will be difficult, to which I agree. Grant raised the bar of what victory in war should be, and rightly so. Will the US ever be able to sit down and demand the unconditional surrender of al Queda? Most likely not, but we can strive to totally destroy it as an entity, which is essentially the exact same thing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Meandering Thoughts on CNN, Iran and President Bush

I've been remiss in my blogging duties over the past few days due to a ridiculously intense work schedule, but I have a few minutes to run through some thoughts on what has happened in the news lately.

Here is a story from CNN's Cooper Anderson that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the media simply does not understand how to cover the Iraq War. Cooper's article is headlinned Soldiers Say Media Miss Iraq Story. The story contained 12 paragraphs. In the sixth graph he gives a soldiers account of how well things are going in Iraq:

The unit I spent the day with is one month shy of going home. The commander, Capt. Patrick Moffett, was very optimistic about progress in Iraq, and by some accounts Baquba is a real success story. Attacks have dropped 30-40 percent since last year, and the Iraqi police in the city actually are able to conduct some operations on their own.

The only other mention of media coverage or the situation on the ground is in the ninth paragraph:

Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.

That's it. The remaining parts of the story are filler. Why have that headline and then ignore it for 75 percent of the article. Why not defend the media's coverage of Iraq or agree that it has been terrible. Anderson brings absolutely nothing to this argument other then to pat himself on the back for talking to a few soldiers and going on one patrol.

My only thought on his inaction is he does not believe the soldiers claims about the coverage is true. After all, how could a lowly corporal or private know what the American people should hear. I never had a thought one way or the other about Anderson, but I now place him firmly in the lightweight "I'm a journalist-celebrity" camp. Hopefully, Anderson's career as CNN's poster boy of the month will be shorter then Aaron Brown, who owns the title of smarmiest person ever to appear on TV.

The big news today is President Bush has officially taken responsibility starting the Iraq war based on faulty intelligence. I suppose this was done to calm those who say he refuses to admit his mistakes, but as far as I'm concerned its a moot point. As soon as it was obvious there were no WMD in Iraq, the official reason for overthrowing Saddam was negated. Bush did not have to say anything, the facts spoke for themselves.

This does not mean the war, in the end, is not worth the cost. Some 23 million people are free and voting as we speak to elect a government of their choice. If Iraq can be turned into a fully functioning democracy it will be an accomplishment comparable to turning rebuilding Germany and Japan into first class nations.

On the flip side of democracy we also heard from Iranian President President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today. He decided to announce his thoughts on the Holocaust, stating that it was a myth, never happened, all those Jews that lived in Europe under Hitler are alive and well today. Just to clarify the issue to Iran, the German leadership called in the Iranian ambassador and said in no certain terms that the Holocaust did happen and Ahmadinejad were foolish and unnacceptable. The conversation did not have much of an impact on the Iranians.

In Ahmadinejad's defense, he is not the only one who thinks this way. There are dozens of neo-nazi-types out there who say they same thing. Fools of a feather....

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wall Street Journal: It's OK To Break The Law, the online version of The Journals editorial page, today printed a paragraph that is not only contradictory, but a blatant call for businesses to ignore the American immigration law just to enable the hiring of cheap labor.

Near the end of a piece headlined Immigration (Spin) Control the Journal states:

We get the same message from nearly every business executive who comes through our offices: Without immigrants, they couldn't possibly find enough willing workers to do the available work, no matter what the available wages. Yet Republicans seem intent not merely on increasing border patrols but also on further harassing law-abiding businesses that happen to hire illegals, as if anyone can tell the difference between real and fake immigration documents. Only Republicans would think it's smart politics to punish their supporters for hiring willing workers.

The Journal's theory of turning a blind eye toward the problem is nothing more then a cheap attempt to placate its readership, the big businesses that make a fortune by breaking the law and using illegals.

First, a law abiding company loses this label the second it knowingly or even unknowingly hires an illegal alien. Ignorance is not an excuse. It is a corporation's duty to investigate and ensure that the people they hire are who they say they are. If that requires a call to the Immigration and Naturalization Service then that is easy enough to accomplish. Considering the average employer already takes certain steps with a new hire, such as checking a resume or making sure a potential employee is not a criminal on the run, adding one more step is not that much of a hardship.

If a company, either large or small, were foolish enough to knowingly hire a car thief, burglar or bank robber they would be held accountable for their actions. Just because an illegal alien's crimminal activity is different does not make it correct.

This brings us to President Bush's answer to the problem, the guest worker policy. The Journal also supports this, as if this is an instant cure all for our illegal immigration woes. What this policy's backers refuse to consider is that most illegal aliens will not want come forward to take part in a system that will tax their pay and corporations will not want to hire people that force them to meet Federal pay and safety guidelines.

The entire reason for hiring illegals is to pay them low salaries and treat them like dirt knowing full well that they have no legal recourse. Once that benefit ends companies will either, stop hiring, look elsewhere for workers or simply continue their illegal practices. None of which solves the problem.

The next problem created by the guest worker policy is what to do with the 1o million or so out of work illegal aliens? These people are not going to jsut pack up and go home. They will stay here causing unknown amounts of trouble.

The answer to the illegal alien problem is extremely difficult. There are simply to many aliens to round up and ship home and, as noted, legalizing them does not fix the problem.

Those in favor of taking extreme measures to close our borders possibly have the only solution, but it alone will not work. Stopping the influx of people is the first step. Whether this requires a heavily guarded wall, land mines or the deployment of troops it has to be done. People have to realize that getting into this country is something not to be taken lightly and that once here you are not likely to find a job. In conjunction with tighter security, the U.S. should greatly increase the number of legal aliens allowed in from Cental and South America. Double the amount let in each year, this will keep the low-end of the job pool filled yet be a great deal less then the millions that sneak in each year.

The final step is strictly enforcing hiring practices by all types and sizes of businesses, effectively cutting illegal aliens out of the process. Businesses looking to staff their low paying jobs will have to add the extra burden treating these immigrants like true workers.

Time and the reality of the new situation will eventually take care of the illegals still in the country. Some might go home, some might intermarry with the newcomers, thus gaining their citizenship and others will keep working for companies willing to risk legal problems by taking them on, probably small businesses like landscapers and restaraunts, until they are caught and expelled.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pear Harbor and 9/11

Sept. 11 is never far from my mind, but on Dec. 7 I think it is proper to reflect on that attack and the interesting similarities shared by the two tragedies.

I'm a military buff. I've read a number of books on Pearl Harbor. I know all the facts and figures of what happened when the Japanese attacked. What I always found curious, and somewhat hard to believe, were the rumors that spread during the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Reports had San Francisco and Los Angeles being bombed, Japanese troops landing on Ohau, fifth columnists sabotaging NY City's water supply and on and on. I always thought it amusing that the people in 1941 were so naive. With hindsight and history to support us we now know the Japanese were not capable of these rumored acts. What they were capable of was bad enough. In six months the Japanese overran the vast majority of the Pacific and Far East defeating everyone in their way.

In the days that followed Sept. 11 I thought about what happened in 1941 and I realized that I had witnessed, and to a small extent participated, in exactly the same type of disaster inspired hysteria.

As I watched the WTC burn and finally fall from my office window with my co-workers, we heard a pretty steady stream of alleged other attacks. The Sears Tower in Chicago had been hit. A car bomb hit the Department of State, the Air Force had shot down a plane heading to Chicago, etc.

With F-15s patrolling the NY sky, a sight I will always remember, each of these attacks seemed not only plausible, but probable. I fully expected something else to happen in NY. After all, an enemy capable of striking twice in 30 minutes surely would follow up that advantage and go for a knockout blow. Maybe a nuke was planted somewhere in the city waiting to go off.

After I had calmed down and had time to think about what I had just experienced I had a great deal more sympathy for my countrymen of 1941. Fear and living with the unknown creates an environment where anything is possible.

Hopefully, in 64 years when bin Laden has long been captured and executed, when al Queda is nothing more then another topic for The History Channel to dwell on those looking back at this period in history will be more forgiving then I was concerning those who endured Pearl Harbor.

(For Tom "Chip" Holihan, Firefighter, Engine 6)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ready And Willing

Something very intelligent came out during Saddam Hussein's trial today.

His half brother stood up and shouted "Why don't you just execute us and get rid of all of this!"

Hell yeah. I agree. Let's end this foolishness before Saddam talks his way out of the trial and makes us all look like fools.

Hussein is insane, but he is also damn smart and we had better watch out. Saddam is crafting a very sneaky defense. He is slowly absorbing the judge's power. By making a scene and halting the legal proceedings he is making a mockery of the nascent Iraqi judicial system.

So before this happens I say let the bailiff open fire the next time Saddam or someone else claims that they would welcome execution. If nothing else it would shut up the remaining defendants.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Battlestar Galaticaless Fridays

We are deep in themiddle of the trough between mini-seasons of Battlestar Galactica and there is not much that can get me out of my scifi doldrums.

Battlestar and Friday nights go together like beer and potatoe chip, beer and baseball, beer and poker, well you get the idea. Battlestar and beer go great because I can drink and not worry about work the next day. The evening is exactly what is needed for the average 41 year old scifi nut with a family. It comes on late enough that the kids are in bed and, hopefully, quiet for the remainder of the night or at least for the hour that the show is on. This gives my wife and I some peace and quiet. Luckily my wife has turned out to be a fan of the show despite the fact that she is not geeky at all.

Before Star Trek Enterprise was cancelled last September Friday's were a true nirvanna. Two hours of space heaven, but now all the pressure is on Battlestar - one of the coolest names for a class of space warship if I must say so myself, and I must. Better then Star Destroyer and even how Star Trek handled the situation. I believe with the exception of the Defiant no Star Trek vessel was ever considered primarily a warship, which is ridiculous considering how many battles they took place.

But I digress.

When Battlestar starts up again in January it had better not lost its touch. Unlike the first version that ran in the late 1970s. This went from being pretty decent to hokey in 1.5 seasons.

If for some reason the show were to lose its pace then I'm going to be reduced to finding something else that goes well with beer on Friday night.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rep. Murtha Wrong On Pullout

It did not seem possible that Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha could worsen his "pull the troops out of Iraq now" stance, but he managed with several comments he made today.

Murtha said the military is being broken in Iraq and it must be removed in order to save it.

This is the most illogical argument I have ever heard.

Following Murtha's line of thought the U.S. should run whenever a situation gets to tough. Following this line of thought we should have quit fighting World War 2 when the First Marine Division was worn down during five months of brutal fighting on Guadalcanal. Or when the Army was brutalized during the Battle of the Bulge. After Bull Run the Federal Army should have left the Confederacy alone because the cost of victory was going to be to high. The Revolutionary Army should have tossed in the towel after being run off Bunker Hill and losing the Battle of Long Island.

The Battle of Iraq has to be won. It is not going to be easy. Murtha needs to exorcise Vietnam from his mind. That was a different war being fought under different circumstances.