Noodling in The Holy Land

"Yo Billy!" I hollered, as Leece and I slid to a stop outside The Holy Land's Quickee's. Billy was sitting on the rail slurping at a steaming hot cup of noodles.

"Why are you outside, Billy?" asked Leece, "it's cold out here."

"Yeah. Yeah. But I was gittin' steemed so I came out here," he replied.

"Steamed over what?" she asked.

"Well. You know about the 'pocket veto' and the 'real veto' over the Defense Authorization Act, right?" he asked.

"Yep." We both nodded in 'agreeance'.

"The Dems are going nuts, accusing Dubya of witholding pay raises from the troops," he said.

"Well, the military did have a three percent pay raise riding on the Authorization," Leece noted.

"Three-and-a-half. There's another half percent in the Act," he corrected, "but do you see the duplicity?"

"Not really," I chipped in.

"Well, they knew he was going to veto it. He's telegraphed that over the Iraq funding for quite some time. There's no surprise there. Except maybe down in the Pinon Canyon area, where everything seems to be a surprise these days," Billy observed, somewhat snarkily, I thought.

"The Brothers Salazar are expressing disappointment," he went on, "leading us to believe that they are shocked and surprised by yet another example of a Republican president trodding upon the little people. It's probably connected to Halliburton."

"No, Halliburton would be Cheney," corrected Leece, "that's his contribution to the grand conspiracy."

"Uh huh. So meanwhile, while appearing to be riding the moral high horse, the Senate remains in pro forma session for the sole purpose of blocking any one-year appointments by Dubya. So we have the Senate buttin' heads with the Prez over one appointment in particular, and keeping the Senate 'open' so he can't do that."

"Well, it's perfectly legal, Billy, it's even in the Constitution, isn't it?" asked Leece.

"Don't you try to cornfuse me with facts," said Billy, indignantly.

"Well, they want to block the appointment of Steve Bradbury to the Office of Legal Counsel at DoJ," I explained, "they don't like his legal views on interrogating terrorists."

"Oh. So it's all part of political reprisal, going back and forth?"

"I'm sure there's a good measure of that, but some of it may actually be valid," I said.

"I see. So how's it doon with that Pinon Canyon thing. You still bein' hung in effigy?"

"I dunno. Probably the effigy is buried in cow poop. Beats me. But the thinking is the same way. You have to buy into their whole doctrine, even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, or else you must be The Enemy. It isn't enough to be against the use of eminent domain and governmental takings. You have to sign on to the whole moonbat mess."

"Hey. Hey. You could get into their good graces by doing what that one Good Neighbor wanted. You could start gathering evidence that the gummint is sending out subliminal messages over cable TV. Or that aliens from UFO's are using the Federal income tax to subvert the Constitution," Billy advised, as he reached up and adjusted his tinfoil hat.

"Are you sure aliens were involved?" asked Leece.

"Mebbe not. Mebbe it was just yuppies using the income tax to undermine the Constitution and make us all One Worlders," he mused.

"Shoot, Billy, all you gotta do to be a 'One Worlder' is shop Walmart," I suggested.

We all had a good laugh and went inside to warm up.


Getting the bird

Some of today's photos:


"Cow pie stoopid..."

We were lounging on the bench in front of Ringo's. We had some steaming cups of crappacino from Loaf West. It was that English toffee stuff. It was pretty good, especially in the damp cold.

"Hey. Hey. I see them ranchers down south got the wind up over some a yer stuff," Billy observed, "and so does Brother Bob."

"Yup," I replied, somewhat noncommittally.

"Do ya think they akshully reed wutcha write?" he asked.

"If they do, they demonstrate a remarkable lack of comprehension," chipped in Tookie. She was having a crappie with us before hieing off to the Primary School.

"How so?"

"Well...lookit one of their favorite piss-moans," Toot Sweet said, earning a glare from Leece, "that light colonel, whatsisname, Rick...no...Rich...that's it. They asked him if he'd ever been down to the country that is up for grabs, and he said he had not but he'd flown over it. Just a simple comment by a guy who is just doing the mission the Army assigned him."

"I remember that," I said.

"So now what they do is go off about how that shows the ignorance and the arrogance of the Army, and in particular this Rich guy," she said.

"Yep. They do that. I'm kind of wondering when whatsername will work that on into 'Ridin Fence', to demonstrate how stupid city slicker Army troops are compared to the brilliance of the True Americans who live free, ridin' range, like the Marlboro Man."

"She's too busy killin' off the potential tourist market by telling everyone how stupid civilian city slickers are, to mess with the Army. She's also too busy finding reasons why tourism farming won't work," tossed in Billy, "so anyone who reeds the paper will think, 'Huh. They think I'm an idiot. Why should I go there and spend my money? I could use the cash for my Sierra Club dues."

Tookie snorted some crappacino up her snoot.

"Hah. So when is she going to run for city council or county commissioner? She seems to pass the political astuteness test," Toots contributed after her nasal passages were cleared.

Billy snorted some crappacino up his ample snoot. It was an epidemic of Convenience Store Crappacino Snoot-snorting. Perhaps the CDC would be getting involved. Our tax bux at work...

"Back to the Army...isn't it a bit counterproductive to sit there and insult the people you really should be trying to work with to kill this expansion?" Tookie asked.

"Well...that's the way they work, you see. They understand and respond it to very well. That's how they deal with people. Look at that Sylvester character and Brother Bob. They don't like my tone, but they have no compunctions about replying in what they think is 'in kind'. And they babble a lot, too, which makes it hard to follow. They aren't very good researchers," I said. "But I don't think you can kill the expansion," I continued, "especially since they are going to move another heavy combat brigade into Fort Carson. You'll notice that Brother Ken was going on about how that would really help the economies up in El Paso County and Pueblo."

"Didn't say much about out here in Hicksville, though, did he?" noted Billy.

"Nope. Why bother. Anything he says will have them foaming at the mouth."

"Huh. I find it innerestin' that in Germany for all those years we were able to run REFORGER without startin' World War III with our NATO allies," said Billy.

"I didn't know you spent any time in Germany," Leece said.

"Some, deploying with REFORGER oncet before I went off to the Far East to meet interestin' and exotic people and kill them," Billy explained.

Billy had a point. REFORGER was a large scale military maneuver, "REturn of FORces to GERmany". It was designed to rapidly reinforce the garrisons by airlift from the US along with concurrent ship-borne reinforcements in the event the Soviet Army punched into Central Europe through the Fulda Gap. Or that was the usual scenario.

"Them Germans have a cow if'n you toss a candy wrapper on the street," said Billy, accurately describing the Teutonic penchant for neatness, "much less tear up the place with heavy armor."

"Oh...I remember every REFORGER some young trooper would turn too short and take out Herman's new Beemer or a buttress on a thousand-year-old cathedral or somesuch," I reminisced.

"Yeah. Yeah. But they had procedures and processes in place to deal with all that, with conflict, to keep damage down, and to reimburse property owners for damages. It was a...compromise...between a full-scale John Wayne maneuver and 'The Sound of Music' cuteness," Billy explained.

"Compromise...huh. That's a word that I don't think you will find in southeast Colorado," I mused, "though it was oddly present in working out agreements between nations, foreign communities, local foreign governments, and the military forces of several nations. Huh. I guess this local expansion thing must be much more complex than that. No, I don't think it would apply here. Just ask anyone associated with the expansion opposition."

"Nope. They goes on about the Constitution, but do they unnerstand any of the thinking of the people what wrote it? Nope. It involves that "C" word again. They's too busy with that 'you don't agree with my silly-assed, iggerant, childish, cow pie stoopid outlook, so you must be agin me,' " noted Billy, earning a raised eyebrow from Leece, but no comment along with it."What I wants ta know is what did them ranchers ever do to you?" Billy grinned at me. Tookie snickered. Leece just shook her head, grinning a bit.

"Ah. Yes. Well, first, the Constitution is apparently a situational reference for those guys. They like to cite it when defending their own property rights but they are perfectly willing to use it as a foot-wipe when it comes to someone else's property rights. And, I disagree with the silly-assed, iggerant, childish, parochial, limited, narrow, cow-pie stoopid outlook that is going to eventually lead to the Army coming in, taking it all, and pretty much destroying the local economy that I depend on, blowing property values into the toilet even more than they already are, killing off tax revenues, wiping out jobs. Yep. Hey. Maybe that's what those ranchers are doing to me," I threw back, "them, and our local political leadership that seems perennially focused on inconsequential nonsense. Meanwhile, the ranchers who stand to lose their property want we townsfolk to write our Congresscritters and join with them...so long as we keep our mouths shut and agree with whatever half-assed approach they take. That's a dog that don't hunt. I have a stake in this too. A major stake. Needlessly aggravating the Army with that Mayberry RFD/Marlboro Man combo act doesn't resonate with me. Those boys need to tighten up their group."

This earned a giggle from Leece. 'Resonate' is one of those buzz words her master's cohort overuses. Every idea and concept 'resonates' or 'doesn't resonate.' It's an inside joke with us.

"Yes. Well. Hey. Hey. Let's go up an feed the geese!" This from Tookie.

"Sure. That resonates with me," chortled Billy.

"You better stay off the ice, young lady," Leece told her.

"Oh...they have the aerators back on, I think. Maybe not. I'm not sure if that will require a Continuing Resolution or not. It may even be tied to the Salazar-Musgrave amendment," Tookie kicked back, walking up toward the park with Billy, laughing maniacally. She is good at that maniacal laughter.

Historical footnote:


and...while Wikipedia has some 'issues' at times, here is a really good explanation of the term "compromise":

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms—often involving variations from an original goal or desire. Extremism is often considered as antonym to compromise, which, depending on context, may be associated with concepts of balance, tolerance. In the negative connotation, compromise may be referred to as capitulation, referring to a "surrender" of objectives, principles, or materiale, in the process of negotiating an agreement.

According cultural background and influences, the meaning and perception of the word "compromise" may be different: In the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries the word "compromise" has a positive meaning (as a consent, an agreement where both parties win something); in the USA it may rather have negative connotations (as both parties lose something). In the former Soviet Union, the word was rather unknown. (See Intercultural competence.)

Studies in compromise

Defining and finding the best possible compromise is an important problem in fields like game theory and the voting system. For example, the Modified Borda Count seeks to identify which of several options has the highest average preference among voters.

Research has indicated that suboptimal compromises are often the result of fallacies such as the fixed sum error and the incompatibility error, leading to the misperception that the other side's interests are directly opposed. Mutually better outcomes can be found by careful investigation of both parties' interests.


The "Kowpoop Kanoo"

Billy was snuffling from a bag of WonderRoast chicken, sitting on the bench in front of Ringo's. We had cups of steaming latte from The Barista. We sat down next to Billy.

"Merry Christmas, Billy," said Leece.

"Merry Christmas to you, too," responded Billy, "woodja like some WonderRoast?" He held out a drumstick.

"Ummmmm...no...no, I think I'll pass," said Leece, eyeing the congealed grease on the bottom of the bag. The bag had other stains as well. It didn't look like it was fresh from the store. Besides, cold WonderRoast didn't sound all that appetizing at 7:45 AM.

"Hey. Hey. You gice wanna invest in a new venture?" Billy asked.

"Maybe," I told him, "what does it involve?"

"Well, you heard a that feedlot over to Ordway that's lookin' to find good use for the manure?"


"You heard a that guy who processes the manure into those starter cups for seedlings?"

"Yes. We used some of those last spring," Leece advised him,"and they worked very well. They are very biodegradable."

"Uh huh. You gice heard a that outfit up in Portland what's offerin' biodegradable burials?"

"What?" This was a new one for Leece. For me, too.

"Yeah. Yeah. They's gots a coffin made a recycled newspapers. They call it "the Ecopod". You kin git buried in it, and it falls apart, and then so do you. This is after yer dead, naturally."

"Naturally," I agreed, "but what does that have to do with Ordway's feedlot?"

"Well, they runs 45,000 cows a year through there. That's a lotta cow crap. It's enough for a PhD, in fact."

"PhD?" asked Leece, puzzled.

"Yeah. 'Piled Higher and Deeper'," he said, snerking madly and nearly choking on his chicken.

"I see," I said, "you intend to process the cow poop in the same manner as they use for pressing it into pot shapes for starter cups, only you're going to shape it into bio-degradable coffins."

"Pre-zackly," he said.

"Huh. Sounds like a good idea. Where you gonna plant yer customers?" I asked.

"I gots 40 acres south a Fowler," Billy confided, "I'm gonna plant 'em in the Kowpoop Kanoo and let 'em compost the field. Then I'm gonna break it down into large garden plots and lease 'em to city slickers. They can experience the down-home satisfaction a growin' their own veggies."

"Kowpoop Kanoo?"

"Yeah. Yeah. That 'Ecopod' thing looks somethin' like a kayak. I figger 'Ecopod' ain't very catchy, like 'Kowpoop Kanoo'. Wutcha think?" he asked.

"Well...that guy who is selling the manure for starter pots is making a killing. But it requires some forward thinking. Do you think you'll find it around here?"

"Good question. I think some of the farmers can see it, but will any of the local banks loan 'em the money to get it goin'? That's the question."

It was, too.

"Well, we'll give it some thought, Billy,"Leece said, standing up and sipping the last of her latte before tossing the cup in the recycle bin, "but right now we're going up to City Park to check out the ice on the pond."

"There ain't no ice on the pond," he said, "they leaves the aerator on. They don't want it freezin'. Kids'll go out on that ice and the ice ain't thick enough most days. Ever since Joe Clay saved that kid what fell through the ice they ain't wanted that pond to freeze over."

"So you say, Billy. So you say."

We bid Billy adieu and walked on up to feed the geese some stale donut holes from Daylight Donuts.

"A different Christmas poem"

This just in from Ted Barker of the Korean War Project:

A Different Christmas Poem

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30t h Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One Al Taqqadum, Iraq

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know.

Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,

"I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my father’s before me.

My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.

Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son.

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."


Care packages for the troops

From Kathleen Foster:

Let's take a moment to talk about care packages. The troops love them. The big bases are teeming with junk food sent from back home. But the smaller Forward Operating Bases or FOBs could use more, especially since they can't just hit the PX for toiletries. But there are some things the guys at the FOBs want and need more than others.

Here's what they say they want:
• Coffee
• Cup O'Noodles
• Packaged tuna in the pouches
• DVD movies
• Magazines (not just the dirty ones)
• Drink Mixes like Chrystal Light and iced tea
• Cleaning supplies (sponges, Lysol wipes and Windex)

The guys at the FOBs are the ones who go into towns and interact with the Iraqis. A lot of the candy you send to them gets passed out to elated children. The Marines ask that you send lollipops instead of hard candies, so there is less chance of children choking.

Also, keep in mind that everyone is sending care packages to the troops at the holidays. That stuff starts to trickle off around March, so if you really want to make a difference the guys say send them stuff in the spring and summer (especially those drink mixes!)

Send them to any of the following addresses:

Al Qaim Bn 3/2
Attn: 1stLt Albert W. Culbreth, III
3/2 H&S Co S-3
UNIT 73130
FPO AE 09509-3130

Hadithah Triad: Bn 3/23
Capt Manny Munoz
3/23 H&S Co Section
Unit 73142
FPO AE 09509-3142

Hit: Bn 1/7
UNIT 41510
FPO AP 96426-1510


"Ain't it funny what some peeple consider 'negative', and what they don't even consider at all," observed DinkyDau Billy, as he snuffled a deep-fried porkchop while we sat on the bench in front of Ringo's.

"Explain what you mean, Billy," suggested Leece.

"Well. Well. Here we gots all these tightasses runnin' around in an uproar over the picked on and downtrodden ranchers, who themselves seem to be chasin' tails in circles while the Army does whatever the Army is gonna do, and thanks for your time anyway, Marilyn," he said, "and when we play the Emperor's New Clothes an' question all that self-servin' crap, we's 'negative'. Or worse. Possibly even heretical, pickin' on the fundies like that."

"And?" Leece queried.

"But you gots bidnesses here in town that gots ta go outside a town for bidness loans, cuz they can't git one from the local banks. What's that say?" he asked.

"Well, if you ask me..." I started...

"He did, " Tookie interrupted.

"If you ask me, I'd say it looks like the local banks think a local business expanding operations or starting up something new is a poor risk."

"Yep. Yep. That's the way I sees it, too, "Billy agreed, "so ain't it the strangest kinda hypocrisy when they go on about we hoi polloi, we unwashed masses, need to shop local, but local bidness can't even git a bidness loan?"

"I agree," said Tookie, agreeably, "and when you add all those branch banks they are opening along the Front Range, it looks to me like they're at least hedging their bets if not getting ready to bail when the Pinon Canyon expansion finally goes through."

"But that's not 'negative'. That's jist good bidness."

"What about those fundies? Think you'll catch any flack for picking on them?" Billy asked.

"One can only hope. You know, we put up with their insufferably self-righteous crap day in and day out. They whine and moan about everything from the latest movie to the Godless pinkos taking "In God We Trust" off our nickels. They whine about the 'political correctness' that caters to every allegedly godless special interest outfit, yet they are the first in line to whine to the courts about whatever bug is up their butts at any given moment. And they are awfully eager to jam their version of God down everyone else's throats. If I get one more of those stupid fundie emails I think I will just vomit."

"Which version?" Billy asked.


"Which version of God?"

"Whoever gets elected will choose which version," Tookie replied, "can you imagine if those crazies managed to circumvent the First Amendment?"

"It wouldn't matter, Toots, not to the rest of us. We'd just have to stay out of the way while they killed each other off. They'd do that before turnin' on us heathens."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Well, lookit what happened in the lead-up to the Council of Chalcedon, which o-fishully approved the divinity levels of Jesus Christ himself. Check the Chalcedonian Creed. Before that, they spent a lot of time killing each other. They's as bad as Shi'ites versus Sunnis. Lookit the Eutychian controversy. Lookit Nestorianism. Lookit all that arguin' and killin' over that. That was all Christian killing Christian. Yep. Lookit all that Christian-on-Christian killin' since. Lookit those first four Ecumenical councils. You wanna talk about a buncha politically correct conveniences? Jeez."

"Speaking of Christian-on-Christian violence," I said,"I think it's real interesting that the Fundies are so worried about atheists taking God off nickels, and returning us to being a 'Christian' nation..."

"Hah!" interrupted Billy, "they need to go back and read what the founders had to say about religion and gummint."

"...that they completely miss the point that this nation was founded by people whose ancestors - Jamestown and the Mayflower colonists coming immediately to mind - who were fleeing persecution from other Christians. Not atheists. Christians. It is other Christians who have always been the threat to freedom of religion in this country. Not atheists."

"Huh. Worst possible thing what could happen is for Fundies to take over. The rest of us would be dog meat, I think," Toots Sweet observed.

"Well. At least you wouldn't be negative."

Joint session of city council and the utilities board

There will be a joint work session between city council and the utilities board on 7 January 2008 immediately following the regular meeting of city council.

Here is the notice:

Notice of Work Session


Crowley County DSS Report

Here is the Crowley County DSS Report:

Crowley County Department of Social Services Report

"This isn't brain surgery..."

Here is a perfect example of the kind of thinking we Hicks from the Sticks are up against in dealing with the Army. Note some of the comments. The M4 jammed up like a pile of toast down at the Copper Kitchen, on average every 68 rounds. The Army's response? "...soldiers rarely fire more than 140 rounds in an engagement...". The Army also says the Aberdeen test center's dust test is 'unrealistic'. It is interesting to note that it is not the Sarah Brady Aberdeen test center; it is the Army Aberdeen test center. That sure gives me some flashbacks. If you don't like the test results, change the test till you get what you want to hear. Meanwhile, Sergeant Rock and the Combat Happy Joes of Easy Company are having a grand ol' time clearing malfunctions while dancing with the fedayeen out yonder. Oh...and the best one: "...except for some grumbling about the stopping power of its 5.56mm round...". It vexes one so when you pop Achmed a couple or three times and he still manages to kill you. The troops have been complaining about this for years. The Armchair Commandos who spend their days talking to the press have been spinning it for years.

M4 Carbine Fairs Poorly in Dust Test

The primary weapon carried by most soldiers into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan performed the worst in a recent series of tests designed to see how it stacked up against three other top carbines in sandy environments.

After firing 6,000 rounds through ten M4s in a dust chamber at the Army's Aberdeen test center in Maryland this fall, the weapons experienced a tot al of 863 minor stoppages and 19 that would have required the armorer to fix the problem. Stacked up against the M4 during the side-by-side tests were two other weapons popular with special operations forces, including the Heckler and Koch 416 and the FN USA Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle, or Mk16.

Another carbine involved in the tests that had been rejected by the Army two years ago, the H&K XM8, came out the winner, with a total of 116 minor stoppages and 11 major ones. The Mk16 experienced a total of 226 stoppages, the 416 had 233.

The Army was quick to point out that even with 863 minor stoppages -- termed "class one" stoppages which require 10 seconds or less to clear and "class two" stoppages which require more than ten seconds to clear -- the M4 functioned well, with over 98 percent of the 60,000 total rounds firing without a problem.

"The M4 carbine is a world-class weapon," said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, the Army's top equipment buyer, in a Dec. 17 briefing at the Pentagon. Soldiers "have high confidence in that weapon, and that high confidence level is justified, in our view, as a result of all test data and all investigations we have made."

Though Army testers and engineers are still evaluating the data, officials with the Army's Infantry Center based in Fort Benning, Ga., said they planned to issue new requirements for the standard-issue carbine in about 18 months that could include a wholesale replacement of the M4. But the Army has been resistant to replace the M4, which has been in the Army inventory for over 18 years, until there's enough of a performance leap to justify buying a new carbine.

"We know there are some pretty exciting things on the horizon with technology ... so maybe what we do is stick with the M4 for now and let technologies mature enough that we can spin them into a new carbine," said Col. Robert Radcliffe, director of combat development at the Army's Infantry Center.

"It's just not ready yet. But it can be ready relatively rapidly."

That's not good enough for some on Capitol Hill who've pushed hard for the so-called "extreme dust test" since last spring. Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn placed a hold on the nomination of Army Secretary Pete Geren earlier this year to force the Army to take another look at the M4 and its reliability.

In an April 12 letter to the still unconfirmed Geren, Coburn wrote that "considering the long standing reliability and lethality problems withthe M16 design, of which the M4 is based, I am afraid that our troops in combat might not have the best weapon." He insisted the Army conduct a side-by-side test to verify his contention that more reliable designs existed and could be fielded soon.

Despite the 98 percent reliability argument now being pushed by the Army, one congressional staffer familiar with the extreme dust tests is skeptical of the service's conclusions.

"This isn't brain surgery -- a rifle needs to do three things: shoot when you pull the trigger, put bullets where you aim them and deliver enough energy to stop what's attacking you," the staffer told Military.com in an email. "If the M4 can't be depended on to shoot then everything else is irrelevant."

The staffer offered a different perspective of how to view the Army's result. If you look at the numbers, he reasoned, the M4's 882 total stoppages averages out to a jam every 68 rounds. There are about 30 rounds per magazine in the M4.

By comparison, the XM8 jammed once every 472 rounds, the Mk16 every 265 rounds and the 416 every 257 rounds. Army officials contend soldiers rarely fire more than 140 rounds in an engagement.

"These results are stunning, and frankly they are significantly more dramatic than most weapons experts expected," the staffer said.

Army officials say the staffer's comparison is "misleading" since the extreme dust test did not represent a typical combat environment and did not include the regular weapons cleaning soldiers typically perform in the field.

So the Army is sticking by the M4 and has recently signed another contract with manufacturer Colt Defense to outfit several more brigade combat teams with the compact weapon. Service officials say feedback from the field on the M4 has been universally positive -- except for some grumbling about the stopping power of its 5.56mm round. And as long as soldiers take the time to clean their weapons properly, even the "extreme" dust testing showed the weapon performed as advertised.

"The force will tell you the weapon system is reliable, they're confident in it, they understand that the key to making that weapon system effective on the battlefield and killing the enemy is a solid maintenance program and, just as important, is a marksmanship program," said Sgt. Maj. Tom Coleman, sergeant major for PEO Soldier and the Natick Soldier Systems Center. "So, you can't start talking about a weapon system without bringing in all the other pieces that come into

That's not enough for some who say the technology is out there to field a better, more reliable rifle to troops in contact now.

"It's time to stop making excuses and just conduct a competition for a new weapon," the congressional staffer said.


"Preach it, sister!"

"Good morning, Billy!" Leece cheerfully greeted DinkyDau Billy. We had just come into Daylight Donuts for an apple fritter and a cappie.

"Hey! Hey! Howzitdoon?" he asked, as he dunked a chunk of one of those heart-stoppers in his cappie, then slurped and snuffled it down.

"Pretty good," I replied, "Did you know they did the Pledge of Allegiance last night at the city council meeting?"

"No! Really? I wuz wunderin' about that. I was wunderin' if they dint do the Pledge cuz they wuz afraid of offendin' somebody."

"Who knows. But it's the first time in over thirty years. And...Terilynn did an invocation, too," I told him.

"Really! Wow. Do you think they'll get sued?" he asked.

"I dunno. But the chaplain of the Congress gives invocations before they start their sessions, so I don't see why there would be a problem," I answered.

"I guess the difference is between just giving an invocation, and trying to jam your version of God down everyone else's throats," he observed.

"Yep. That would seem to be the key. Council isn't doing anything even remotely like that. And the majority, if not everyone there, was OK with it," Leece pointed out.

"Democracy. You gotta love it," Billy snerked, "Hey. Hey. Leece. When are you gonna do an invocation for Council?"



"I think you have to be on the approved pastoral list. They're having the Ministerial Association do the invocations," she replied.

"Ain't you a licensed minister of the Nazarene church?" he asked.

"Well...yes," she replied.

"Ain't you working towards formal ordination with that master's thingie you're in?" he asked.

"Well...yes," she replied.

"Ain't you on the pastoral staff of the Naz?" he asked.

"Well...yes," she replied.

"Ain't you gonna be holdin' services for the shut-ins? Administerin' communion and all that?" he asked.

"Well...yes," she replied.

"Ain't the Naz in the Ministerial Association?" he asked.

"Well...yes," she replied.

"Then it seems to be you must be an 'approved pastor.'

"Ummmmm...." Leece ruminated, pensively.

"Whaddya think, yay-hoo?" he asked me.

"Me? Shoot. She oughta go for it. Preach it, sister!" I poked her in the ribs. Bad move. Leece is real ticklish. She tossed her cappie straight up in the air.

We moved over a couple of tables so the cashier could mop up.


Blackman and Robin

Robin is dead. He died back in June. What with all the other things going on, I missed it.

Gene Ponce's site, "Ubon RTAFB - USAF during the Vietnam War and today - has a direct link embedded on his front page:

Legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds dies

An excerpt:

"General Olds, rated a triple ace for having shot down a total of 16 enemy aircraft during World War II and the Vietnam War, served his country in assignments to England, Germany, Libya, Thailand and the United States, in positions of squadron, base, group and wing commander, and assignments to Headquarters U.S. Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Triple-ace Robin Olds' legendary leadership and heroic service to the cause of freedom have been an inspiration to our nation and our Air Force," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. "He is one of our 'great captains' and a pioneer of air power.

"He became an ace with 12 aerial victories during World War II, flying P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs, and later shot down 4 MiGs in Vietnam to bring his total to 16. He also led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing -- the famed "Wolfpack" -- to a record 24 aerial victories, a total unsurpassed by any other wing during the war in Southeast Asia," the general said."

Robin Olds flew as one of Wolfpack's pilots as well as its commander. His number two, his vice commander, was Chappie James, who would rise to full general, four stars, the first black man to do so in the Air Force. James is noted for having a black panther painted on his helmet, and for referring to his association with Olds as "Blackman and Robin".

Those of us who served at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base recall all those red stars over at the Wolfpack's den, signifying MiG shootdowns by the 'pack's gunslingers. There was more of that later on at the famed "Triple Nickle", the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn RTAB. The Triple Nickle was part of the Wolfpack.

Another of America's great heroes has passed.


More fundie foolishness

The fundies have tried once again to censor what you and I and our kids read.

The Chieftain has an article here:

Children's book back on bookshelf

An excerpt from the article:

"Of all the district personnel involved in the decision to remove and then reinstate the book, [Alamosa High School Librarian] Skinner was the only one to have read it.

"I have a hard time with anyone who wants to pull a book, who hasn't read it," he said."

You and me both, Mr. Skinner. And even if they have read it, who are they to decide what should be on the shelf or not?

Polls show that many, if not most, Christian fundies are Republicans. Yet it is the Democrats who have gained the well-deserved reputation of being the party that thinks we should all be wards of the government.

Fundies. Not only are they not confused by fact, but they also want to do your thinking for you.



"Hah! Good one!" Billy said, as he folded up his Pebbler Chieftain and tossed it on the table.

"How so?" asked Leece.

"Well...think about it. First the ranchers complained that the Army never really said why they need to expand Pinon Canyon."

"OK." We both nodded.

"Then they got that Musgrave-Salazar amendment to the House bill that stopped funding on the expansion."

"OK." We both nodded again.

"And then the other Salazar and that Allard feller got the amendments in the Senate requirin' the Army to come up with their reasons."

"OK." We were beginning to feel like bobble-heads.

"But then the ranchers complained about Salazar and Allard givin' the Army another chance."

"Well, there is some merit to that complaint, don't you think?" I asked, "you would think they'd be able to give those reasons if they had planned the program out."

"Yeah, but c'mon. We're talkin' about the Army here. Internally the left hand don't know what the right is doin'."

He had a point. The disparity between the Army combat commands and the staff weenies who worked with BRAC certainly illustrated that.

"OK...so's they is doin' what the ranchers asked for. They's gonna give 'em their reasons. In fact they are going to use a professional PR consultant they already had on board to pimp it to the public. Since that consultant already knows pretty much everything there is to know about Pinon Canyon, why not use 'em?"

"OK." We were back to nodding our heads again.

"But Marilyn is havin' a hissy fit over it," Billy explained, "she seems to think all that comes under the ban on spending on the expansion."

"Isn't it?" Leece asked.

"Kinda looks like it, but then, like that Rice feller says, he's just doin' what the Senate tole him to do."

"Ummmhummm...yep. That makes sense," quoth I.

"Best part of the article is this: 'Federal lawmakers who thought they had stopped the Army from doing any planning next year on expanding the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site might be surprised how little Army planners feel constrained by the congressional ban.', "Billy shared.

We both kind of giggled. We had been talking about this earlier. Like the Army couldn't maneuver around a couple of Congresscritters.

"Marilynn hasn't figured out she's playing with the Big Kids, has she?" I asked.

"Nope. And then Rice says, 'I think we've been refocused (by the Musgrave-Salazar legislation), but not constrained.' Do you really believe some light cunnel is going to be making that kind of decision?"

"Oh, no, of course not. That came from way up the chain-of-command," I agreed.

"'Ree-fo-cussed'," Billy snickered, " ...'not constrained'...that's a real hoot. I wonder what they'll pull next. Betcha it'll be a good one."

We all nodded.


DinkyDau Billy goes Wilde

Leece and I walked into The Holy Land Quickee. We were there to fetch our lottery tickets and pick up a cappie.

DinkyDau Billy was there, sitting at one of the tables, one of those really good Juan Ortega burgers in front of him. He was scribbling furiously.

"What's up, Billy?" asked Leece, as she topped off her cappie.

"I found one a my favrite pomes," he said, "and I'm inscribin' it into your Chrismus present."

"You are?"

"Yeah. Yeah. I gotcha a really nice edition of 'The Inferno of Dante Alighieri '. Akshully, it's the whole Comedy. Every aspirin' young pastor such as yersef should have a copy a that, and also Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' and Machiavelli's 'The Prince.' which helps ya deal with some congregational 'issues'. But 'The Inferno' helps you unnerstand spirichul stuff. "

"Well gosh, Billy, you didn't have to do that," she exclaimed.

"No. I didn't. But I wanted to. You already got 'Art of War' and 'The Prince' from Yay-hoo there," he said, pointing at me. It was true. I had gotten those for Leece some time back. Also 'The Inferno', but not nearly as nice a copy as Billy's gift, which was the Birk and Sanders version.

"So what are you writing, Billy?" she asked.

"I'm inscribing Oscar Wilde's E Tenebris," he said, "you want me to reed it?"

"Sure. I'm not all that familiar with it."

"OK. Here goes:

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God's throne should stand.
'He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel's smitten height.'
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than
The wounded hands, the weary human face.

"That's quite intense, Billy," she opined, "how does that apply to you?"

"I coulda wrote that myself," he said, "cuz that's where I was before you found me. Now I ain't no more, cuz you found me. I thunk'd about 'I once was lost but now I'm found,' but that ain't the half of it. Merry Christmas."

He handed her the book and, turning abruptly, left Quickee's.

"Think he'll be OK?" I asked Leece.

"I think so. Where it counts, he'll be fine."

"He left his burger. Shall we snuffle?"

I got the raised eyebrow look.