Thursday, January 31, 2008

The woes of subcontractors and the Army

Contractors providing unsatisfactory meals
Contractors grossly over charging for services barely rendered.
Contractors under no command and control
Contractors basically costing way too much money

2008 US Army?

Wrong it was 1660's French Army. When Louis XIV came to the throne he inherited an army that was a mess. Of the many challenges he faced was contractors and subcontractors that were bilking the crown for lots of money while providing piss poor services. His answer was Fran├žois Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, or simply Louvois for short.

He was the Secretary of War for the French king and he dealt with the contractors by the following means:

If a contractor was found to be providing bad service they had a hangman’s rope around their neck. Then they were taken before the unit they were servicing and flogged. He got rid of much of the contractors since he did not like the idea of divided loyalties.

We could learn a thing or two from this guy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

President Who II ?

So now we are down to basically 4 candidates. I will not belabor the poor electoral process that forces so many good candidates out so early. We now have 4 to choose from. What do I think now?

I have read the website of all 4 people seeking the office. They all sound pretty good. Each has there fair share of "nudge-nudge-wink-wink" statements designed to pander to the right or left. But on the whole there is a markedly non partisan tone to much of what each has to say. Clearly they are trying to appeal a broad spectrum of people. This makes the fringe idiots mad since they want a fire breathing ______ (fill in blank with either liberal or conservative)

Here are some quotes:

"Now, we know that government certainly isn't the answer to all our problems – that's not even close. But we also know that good government – smart government -- can be a partner for progress. It can help us solve problems and accomplish things together that we could never accomplish alone." -Hillary Clinton

"The teenagers and college students who left their homes to march in the streets of Birmingham and Montgomery; the mothers who walked instead of taking the bus after a long day of doing somebody else's laundry and cleaning somebody else's kitchen — they didn't brave fire hoses and Billy clubs so that their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren would still wonder at the beginning of the 21st century whether their vote would be counted; whether their civil rights would be protected by their government; whether justice would be equal and opportunity would be theirs. . . . We have more work to do." - Barak Obama

"A democratic government operates best in the disinfecting light of the public eye. Ethics and transparency are not election year buzz words; they are the obligations of democracy and the duties of honorable public service." - John McCain

Romney's site was boring. The three listed above are really the only contenders that need be considered. None of them are Bush or even close to Bush.

As for partisanship there is NO love lost on McCain by the republican right. McCain's own mother said this to TIME this past week, when asked if she thinks the republican party will let her son be nominee.

"Yes, I think holding their nose they’re going to have to take him." - Roberta McCain

I cannot predict who will be President this coming fall. I have total certainty it will be one of the three mentioned above. This is a good thing. Any of those three would make a very good President that we can be proud of. None of them are perfect, or agree with me on every issue. But on the core issue of leadership through the use of ones intellect all get a passing grade. Each has a deep well of experience to draw upon to help them along. Each is a fighter and is willing to actually put themselves on the line for us. This is a good thing. All three are actually smart enough to be President.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My take on Heith

There is nothing so unatural than to be separated from your child. The pain is huge and spirit destroying. If Heith Ledger split in September then his holidays would have totally sucked. The anguish of not being with your kids is just the worst of the worst. I totally understand if this was the cause behind of his death. Be at peace now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Family Values

My Definition:
Honesty with children and parents
Loyalty to family even in tough times
Being compassionate and merciful at all times
Treating children as human beings not property
Being unafraid of others
Teaching children not to be afraid.
Be willing to say you are sorry and mean it.
Do not expect more from a child than you do from yourself.
Embrace the world
Teach your children to embrace the world
Be patient with yourself, your spouse, and the children
The glass is ALWAYS half full or more so
Give all love unconditionally. For there is no other kind.
Practice what you preach

Honesty is first and formost. Lying to a child is a sure way to make them mistrust you when ever you open your mouth.

Loyalty, not blind loyalty, but honoring the family unit and being willing to fight and die for it.

If you cannot treat you spouse and children with compassion and mercy you should not be in a family or have one. Go get help.

Children are humans and you will spend far more years dealing with them as adults than as little kids. Start treating them as individual people from the start.

You cannot be a good parent if you are afraid of the world around you. The children pick up on that fear and begin to wonder if you can protect them and then they begin to fear the world, their sole filling with dread.

There is nothing so monstrous as a parent who makes a mistake and never acknowledges it. If you wish your children to admit their failures then you have to do the same.

He that is without sin cast the first stone.

Embracing the world is done by learning and always keeping an inquisitive nature. Never shutting down and turning away. Children see your love of knowledge and wish to imitate it.

Patience is so very hard and so very necessary. But it must flow to the whole family. It does not good to be patient with your own foibles and not with the kids and your spouse.

Life is short and full of trouble. Best to see the good side.

Love given in any other form than unconditionally is selfish control, loathsome, cruel, and hateful to God.

The last is self evident.

Parents owe their kids at least as much as the kids owe them. Remember the kids did not ask to come into the world. They were dragged kicking and screaming into it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Almost Dead

Every once in a while I get to retell the story of how I almost died. Well here we go again...

It was 1992 and the date was January 9th. It was a Saturday Morning. My partner and I had parked at Timberline Lodge at 11pm the night before and had spent the night time hours slogging up the lower slopes of Mt. Hood, up the ski slopes, past the warming hut, beyond the top of the Palmer Chair, then turning northwest we made our way to Illumination saddle.

At the saddle, a wind blasted notch between the summit ridges and a rocky horn, we met up with two other climbers. By 4am it was quite light out and we all began a slow descending traverse of the upper reaches of the Reid Glacier. The western side of the mountain, though easily viewed from Portland, is remote. It also takes the steady prevailing western winds, driven across 5,000 miles of ocean that would rage across the western face like sea spray. That day it was very calm and the winds were from the east. We could see spin drift blowing off the summit. Ice tinkled down around us.

There was a silence on this day. I could here my hart pounding in my chest and here the breath of others. That was about it. I had felt reasonably good all day and was feeling strong. The ice and snow was good. There had been an avalanche earlier and the loose snow was gone. We all moved up in two rope teams, toward icy cleft known as Leuthold Couloir. As we entered the fall line of the couloir we entered an ice stream ankle deep of near constant spin drift. The ice rang across my boots. The little ice stream had scoured a glass smooth surface and my crampon points didn't bite more than a few millimeters into the rock hard gray ice.

The other two climbers were well ahead of us when my first worries began. I had felt strong and was positive about reaching the summit. Then in an instant I came down with a bad case of mountain sickness. It was as if my world was ending. I had trouble moving up or down. We sat for a time on a mushroom of rime ice. It was turning into a beautiful day with a deep blue sky and gentle winds. With little wind it was getting steamy, not bad for January. But here I was almost unconscious. I lay with my head against my partner as he tried to revive me with juice, candy, none of it worked.

Finally as I lay flat on the rime ice, he carved a bollard and began the first of 8 repels down out of the couloir. I can't tell you how hard it is to lower a full grown man down 800 feet of ice, mainly because I did not have to do it. My partner did. I can tell you that I felt like a hell, getting banged up as I slid down the slope.

When it came time to traverse I was feeling better and we started back toward Illumination saddle. About half way up a steep ice sheet whose surface had the look and feel of ten billion ice cubes all dumped out and froze together, I fell.

I tried to self arrest but the art of self arresting is the art of getting it right the first time. If you fail to self arrest in a fall there is very little hope of arresting again. I picked up speed, caught a boot on one of the ten billion ice cubes and did a back flip, with my ice ax out of my hands and flying about me.

As the back flip happened my brain split into two people. One was screaming for his mother. I know it sounds melodramatic but it was true. I was screaming for my mom and as spun down the slope. This screamer had no idea who he was or where he was or why. He only needed his mother, nothing more. He did not even understand what was happening to him. He was suffering from pure, uncut, unfiltered terror. There was no peace, no comfort, no happy endings.

The other person was totally detached and listening to the screamer in puzzlement. "So I am going to die." He calmly thought while his other self screamed away. He also did not know who he was. This other person was not afraid, he was robotic and noted that all he could see was a dark blue blur followed by a white blur and that this vision repeated endlessly.

Then I stopped. I pendulumed back and forth then came to rest on my stomach face down hill looking down the throat of the Reid Glacier. When I opened my eyes the two people became one and that one was a mess. I had no idea who I was, where I was, what had happened to me. Total amnesia. I remember beginning to scream again that I did not who I was.

Then my parters called down to me. This was the equivalent of hitting the reset button. I suddenly was in possession of the facts. I had tripped, fallen, failed to arrest and cartwheeled about 80 feet. I was banged up. I remember laughing with pride that I did know my name and said it over and over again as I began to ascend to the saddle. In 30 minutes we were both sitting on our packs at the saddle, the sun blazing down on us. My partner had saved my life.

I was then, it seemed, more alive or aware of the act of being alive, than ever before or since. I danced down the mountain as happy as I have ever been. I noted the sky was blue, the sun white hot, the hills and mountains a grand spectacle and the whole world the epitome of magnificence and splendor. There was no vale of superficial problems blurring the world. All was crystal clear and nothing beat the feeling and knowledge that I was alive. I felt like I had my finger stuck in the light-socket of the Holy spirit. And there was no religious mumbo jumbo about it either. No quires of angels or God in a tunnel of light either. Only the feelings of absolute certainty of death and absolute certainty of life. And God said LIVE!

I would not wish the profound sense of horror I experienced on anyone. It is a feeling so awful that it colors my feelings toward any persons death. I know that I do not want to be alert enough to know about it going to happen. At the same time it sharpens the focus of life, if you can escape its grasp, so that even momentarily you get to see how spectacular life really is, any life, all life.

I will die again someday and probably not luck out as before. Will I meet that day with a sense of "oh yeah I remember you." Or scream for my mom. I will let you know.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Sun King

With great anticipation I have delved into the story of Louis de Burbon. Why? Certainly not because I think Louis XIV was the pinnacle of enlightened leadership. The story of the builder of Versailles, the Grand Monarch, Machiavelli's Prince made flesh, is mainly interesting to me for the simple reason that Louis was able to take a state that had been plagued with a weak king and turn it into a state with a king who had total control (theoretically) of his state.

What I have leanred however is to put a very different face on this "absolute" monarch. Far from being the total tyrant Louis, though successfully destroying the nobility and reducing it down to The King, Dukes, and everyone else, was the king of a state that was out of anyones control. France in the 17th century was suffering from the effects of a command economy, similar to that of the Soviet Union.

In its attempt to control the flow of money into the state, its policies systematically destroyed the agricultural production. Taxes had no uniformity accept in that they were all collected inefficiently and came into the hands of corrupt civil servants. So horribly was the tax system mismanaged that it is estimated that it cost France 25% of the collected revenue just to collect the taxes.

France had the most regressive tax system imaginable. The wealthy paid practically nothing while the artisans bore the brunt. This crushed innovation, industry, agriculture, and the people themselves. Only the very poor or the very rich got off.

The best that can be said of Louis XIV is that his vast expenditures, and reduction of the power of the middle aristocracy, set France on the road to revolutioin. Louis XIV was the grandest king of his age and the longest reigning monarch in the history of Europe. The Sun King burned so brightly that the fire of French kings died out within a century after his death. Would it were that England had suffered such privations it too would no longer suffer the silliness of monarchy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Climging on Mars

What else could get people wanting to go to Mars? Extreme sport! Climbing Everest? tish tosh! What about Olympus Mons the highest mountain in the solar system. At 88,580km high the mountain dwarfs little Everest. The first "problem" would be a 6,000 meter escarpment to gain the gentle lower slopes of the mountain. The second problem would be the long slow slog up the remaining 79,000 meters, a slog that would require a trek of approximately 150 miles up hill. The caldera rim encircles a crater that is roughly 53 miles in diameter. With 3km absail you could reach the caldera floor.

Friday, January 11, 2008

RIP Edmund Hillary

Here is a guy that really lived his life to the fullest. It was luck that put him on top of Everest. If a few things had gone differently other men on his expedition would be famous. But he and Tenzing Norgay were the first. Tenzing had already nearly summited on another attempt.

People who do not climb mountains do not understand why other do. There are lots of reasons, but I think the main reason is that we just like to explore. The inner kid lives in the great explorer. Hillary also was on the first team to reach the south Pole since Amundsen in 1911. He also took off with Neil Armstrong in a ski-plane and landed on the North Pole making him the first human to stand on Everest and the two poles.

"He devoted all of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan trust, which he founded and to which he had given much of his time and energy. Through his efforts he had succeeded in building many schools and hospitals in this remote region of the Himalayas. He was the Honorary President of the American Himalayan Foundation, a United States non-profit body that helps improve the ecology and living conditions in the Himalayas."

And he seems not to have been a jerk. He had a life lived to the fullest. A true human being.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Because he is listening to what people say and is crafting his message to address toward those concerns. Populism. Now being a populist can be good and it can be bad. Currently, in this era, it is a good thing provided that it is real.

People are sick of corporate owned Presidents and politicians. That is what put FDR in the White House. The reality of life the America is radically different depending on your economic status. Most all the politicians are so wrapped up in the arms of the moneyed elite that they don't really have a clue as to the average American's angst.

Huckabee was another winner based, not on any religiosity, but on his very democratic sounding message of workers needs. Edwards was also helped by his staunch support for the average Joe. The big ticket guys and gal did not fair so well.

As Barak Obama said Iowa is not the end it is the beginning. So we shall see how things develope. I am very pleased that the political scum (Grover Norquist crowd) are worried. Good. God rot the lot of them and may his mighty hand support the men and women who wish to bring more economic and social justice to this land.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well the new year is upon us. And I must say for me it has been a very swift and adventurous start. My daughter got her first car yesterday! This is quite scary, not that she is not a good driver, but that it is yet another chapter of my life, and hers begun. I remember pushing her on a swing set and carrying her on my shoulders, and hiding out in her Lion-King tent and playing dolls. Now she is driving her own car. She is paying for it and the insurance and the gas.

I feel proud and sad at the same time. In seven more years I will be doing this again with my younger daughter. I told her that she is starting 2008 by getting a new car and will finish this year in college. Wow! I need God's help quite a bit these days.

Now onto other matters:

Hopefully this year will be better than last. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, General Patraeus and Mr. Croker are really the last option for us there. They have been proving their worth by doing what should have been done years ago. It is monstrously sad how many soldiers and civilians might be alive today if the current occupant in the White House had listened to reason in the beginning.

Regarding the "beginning":
Even if the war ends this year, and I hope it does, the farce in Iraq will still be the worst blunder in US foreign policy. It was a war the NEVER HAD TO HAPPEN. UN resolution 1441 that ordered the Iraqi's to get rid of their WMD (remember that term?) was actually adhered to since we now know Iraq had already gotten rid of them. This was the reason the US used as a justification to go to war. Let us never forget that. The farce in Iraq has cost us almost half a trillion dollars and thousands of gallant soldiers who deserved better than to be sent to war for nothing.

The election:
Well Iowa is tomorrow. So what. I am tired of the entire election hinging on the machinations of a couple dinky states. Give all of us a chance to be heard!

John McCain:
I really hope he pulls out a win and even ends up with the nomination. As a final poke in the eye to the unlettered simpletons that tore him down in 2000. Then again modern Republicans have not been noted for their skill at choosing good leaders.

Barrak Obama:
The best man for the job. If you want a different crowd in the White House, he is the guy. Lets just not end up shooting him and making matters worse.