Flight 93 on A&E

For those of ya'll who have cable or satellite, I would encourage ya'll to watch their movie on Flight 93.

The movie wasn't full of special effects or big stars. Just a plain and straightforward movie about plain and ordinary folks who did extra-ordinary things. Perhaps that style of production is one of the best tributes that could have been made.

Years later, words still can't express the things I think and the things I feel about that day, or when I think about the courage of those who taught those terrorists and the world that when the chips are down, the ordinary American will stand up and be counted.

There are moments in American history where brave men and women made their stand, even in the face of certain defeat or death:

  • The Alamo defenders were wiped out, but bought time for the Texas Army to rally and win their freedom from Mexico,
  • The marines at Wake Island fought against overwhelming odds against the Japanese, but held up large numbers of Japanese troops and ships to buy time,
  • ... and now, we are have the legacy of those brave Americans on Flight 93, who made their stand and denied those terrorists their victory.
May we always remember their courage, and work to emulate it in our lives.

Annulment Update


A letter which I received today informed me that: "William Earl Capps is free to marry before a Catholic priest provided all other requirements of both civil and canon law have been met."

I guess that means I get my one last chance to get this right one day ...

Busy this week & on the road tomorrow

Those of ya'll who read this blog (however few or many that may be) won't be hearing much from me this week. My research on Eastern iconography is nearing its end, with the paper to be completed by the end of next weekend - at last.

Tomorrow is one of those Road Warrior days, and will keep me rather busy. Over 300 miles and twelve hours, with a coordination meeting in Newberry, stops in Columbia, job sites in Clarendon County, and wiring a LAN in a field trailer near Florence. It will be quite a day.

Just add a mangy dog, sawed-off shotgun and some psycho post-apocalyptic bikers and the Road Warrior get-up is complete ... hahahahaha :)

While I'll be a bit out of the loop, those of you who know how to reach me via cell or email are welcome to do so. Always nice to hear from any of you (are there any?) who read this stuff.

Ford Layoffs: Job One to be affected

... this just in. The cuts of over twenty percent of jobs at Ford are expected to affect Job One.

The long-time position, which was first publicized in the "At Ford, Quality is Job One", may fall victim to the corporate axe. However, some industry experts and even car buyers believe that Job One has long since been eliminated.

Stay tuned for details as they become available ...

Tide turning in Iraq?

While the media fails to take notice of how the military effort in Iraq has moved steadily westward, with little violence in the Kurdish-held north and Shiite south, we have an interesting development that has been surfacing in the media:

Iraqi nationalist rebels in the Sunni Arab city of Ramadi have turned against their former al Qaeda allies after a bomb attack this month killed 80 people ... three local Islamist groups around Ramadi met to distance themselves from their fellow Islamists in Qaeda, joining the shift against al Qaeda led by more secular, tribal and nationalist groups ... U.S. Major General Rick Lynch said in Baghdad last week: "We are seeing examples of Iraqi rejectionists (nationalists) taking up arms and informing on terrorists and foreign fighters. "We are seeing this in Ramadi."

This follows other recent reports of infighting between imported Qaeda terrorists and Sunni militants who when faced with a choice between fighting U.S. forces who are committed to staying the course, and political involvement, have chosed the high road and sought to participate in negotiations with the government and support for the electoral process.

Seeing the group most supportive of the former regime and least friendly to cooperation with the new government deciding to come to the bargaining table isn't just an encouraging sign for those hoping for a drawdown of U.S. forces, but more importantly, the involvement of the full range of groups in Iraq will signal major progress towards to establishment of a rare Islamic democracy.

No doubt this will be a troubling development for places like Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations where alliances of political strongment and religious leaders have heretofore been able to resist reformist efforts to introduce democratic reforms. When a nation like Iraq becomes a democratic nation, it will make it a lot harder to disparage democracy as just another aspect of "corrupt and decadent" Western society.

Stay tuned ...

Tomorrow: Elections in Canada

If you're living there, don't forget to vote.

If you don't, but you're interested in watching the election returns, click this link.

Everyone's calling for a Conservative win, but with a minority of seats. But the likely increase of Tory-held seats by thirty percent or more is still progress, and will provide a crucial test of their yet-unknown ability to govern.

Interesting things to note ...
Conservative offense:
Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, has been spending the last few days focusing on the Toronto area. Ontario, the largest province in Canada, had long shut the Conservatives out, but projections show them winning a majority of the ridings outside of the Toronto area. Improving numbers in Ontario, especially Toronto, where the Liberals and New Democrats are still likely to carry all the ridings, would be crucial to winning an outright majority.
Liberal defense: Paul Martin, Prime Minister and Liberal leader, has fallen back to defend ground in Ontario as well. With the leader, so goes the troops and resources, so this means seats that could have been competitive for them elsewhere in the West are being left on the table.
New Democrats moving in: With the Liberals pulling out of the West, the New Democrats are working hard in British Columbia. While the Conservatives have done well here, the NDs and Liberals have a handful of seats, and no doubt they're hoping to convince abandoned Liberal voters to crossover to their side.

Definitely an interesting political environment, and major opportunities to change the political map for years to come.

Ambassador and former SC House Speaker David Wilkins, who himself took the helm in the wake of the historic ousting of the Democrats, and presided over the House in 2002, when the GOP held both houses, the governorship and most constitutional offices, may be able to share some insight as to how to govern, and how NOT to screw up a good thing.

Check out Drink Nation

I'm going to take a break from more serious subjects, and change gears for a few minutes to something a little less thoughtful and a lot more enjoyable.

If you're into learning how to make different kinds of alcoholic drinks, then you really want to check out DrinkNation.com. They've got a tremendous database of alcoholic beverages on their website, and it's FREE.

Go take a look and enjoy some new ideas for your next lonely evening, or the next time you've got friends over.

Maxtor, Craptor ... whatever

I've had yet another computer with a cheap-ass Maxtor hard drive experience a hard drive mechanical failure. Like everytime it happens, I end up spending a day or two of work time fixing the computer and getting it back up and running, working around the rest of my job. Usually by working late or early.

But this time, it was MY freakin' computer.

Oh, what FUN this is gonna be. Can't wait to get started when the new drive arrives tomorrow afternoon. Dammit ...

Two Shots: The Battle of Cowpens

Tuesday, January 17, marks the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. Few, even in South Carolina, are aware of the battle, and its significance to the outcome of the War for American Independence.
While few are familiar with the name, the battle was recreated as the big battle scene in the Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot". True to what really happened, led by Gen. Daniel Morgan, a rough-and-tough farmer turned solider (sound familiar?), the militia fired two rounds on the over-confident British regulars, who charged with bayonet right into American regular soliders. While the rest of the battle in the movie differed somewhat, the outcome was the same - a major defeat for the British.

General Cornwallis, angered by the loss of his dragoons and seeking to avenge defeat, as well as at
King's Mountain the previous fall, defied orders to keep his army in South Carolina. He pushed northwards into North Carolina and then Virginia, allowing a coalition of militia and regular Continential forces took advantage of his departure to push the British to evacuate the entire state, with the exception of the vicinity of Charleston.

Cornwallis' quest led him to a draw at Guilford Courthouse, then to resupply his diminshed and exhausted army at the small Virigina port of Yorktown. I'm sure you know the rest of the story from there.

On Tuesday, take a moment to reflect on this important battle, and the sacrifices made here in South Carolina by so many that would help allow these remote British colonies to win their independence, and go on to have such a major impact upon the course of world events.

Canadian election preview ... Killing Kittens?

It looks like a political meltdown in the Great White North, as the speculation shifts from a close race to if the Conservatives will actually win an outright majority, with the presently-governing Liberals finishing a close second to the Bloq Quebecois party.

One sure sign of a meltdown is when the incumbent party gets
sandbagged with grass-roots satire. A major break in Liberal credibility seems to have occured when a suggestion by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper to station some military units near cities for disaster relief (after Katrina down here, I think a lot of people are willing to consider the idea) was distorted into a Liberal ad suggesting Harper wanted to use the military to impose marital law.

Not a good move ... unless of course you're a liberal. Then it's a GREAT idea. Way to go, guys!

Some campaigns, when the race was close and their numbers were slipping, have chosen to engage in a negative campaign, hoping to scare their base and paint the other candidate as an extremist. It was used here in S.C. by fomer Democratic Governor Jim Hodges. It 1998, it helped him topple the incumbent Governor, but 4 years later, it backfired and helped his challenger, now-Governor Mark Sanford topple him in turn.

Guys, waging negative campaigns doesn't work. Time and time again, surveys show that if you can't run on your records and your ideas, then you may as well go home. When will you ever freakin' learn?!?

David Janes, of the
Canadian "Ranting and Raving" blog, has an attack-ad generator which parodies the Liberal attack campaign.

Wanna join the party? Go put your own message in the attack ad and have some fun with it.

Meanwhile, three out of four Canadians surveyed wish they'd surveyed more people.

Media losing credibility with the public?

More thoughts on media and its ability to set public agendas … as previously discussed in other postings (12/23/05 & 1/5/06)

I recently came across a Public Relations Quarterly article by John J. Budd, Jr. entitled “The Incredible Credibility Dilemma”. While a lot of the article dealt with the credibility (or lack thereof) of public relations professionals and corporate CEOs, there was a survey which dealt with the credibility of various public figures that I found interesting.

In his journal article, Budd discussed the
National Credibility Index, which was the result of a study sponsored jointly by the PRSA and Rockefeller Foundations. This index was the result of a survey of 2,500 people as to how they viewed the credibility of 44 different types of leaders, officials, and other public figures.

The survey put Supreme Court judges at the top, with a score of 81.3, followed by teachers, national experts and members of the military. Talk show hosts (anyone surprised?), with a score of 46.6, were at the bottom, joined by famous entertainers, PR specialists, and political party leaders. The median score for all figures was 61.5.

No wonder political campaign operatives are so cavalier – the public hates them already.

In any event, media figures generally rated better than average in the survey, but not much. National anchors got 66.8, and local newspaper and TV reporters received 65.8. Reporters for major newspapers and magazines barely came above the median score, with a 62.4 score, just ahead of congressmen and corporate CEOs.

For media whose role as gatekeepers and agenda-setters is declining, this survey is a sign their credibility needs some serious repairs.

Canadian election preview

I like to follow the political process in other nations. One of the ones I watch most is our northern neighbor, Canada. With the last speaker of the State House now serving as the U.S. ambassador to Canada, we here in S.C. have a bit more of a connection than usual with the Great White North.

Canada, like Great Britain, uses a parliamentary system of government with some similarities to the American system, minus the office of President. Representation is composed of a body whose members are elected in single-member districts, where the first-place finisher is seated. The party with the most (not necessarily a majority) of seats is appointed to form a government.

FYI - their districts are referred to as "ridings".

In Canada, elections were called for January, after the Liberal Party, which governed with a minority of ridings and passing legislation through a now-defunct alliance with the New Democrats, was deadlocked by a temporary alliance of the three other major parties - Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and New Democrats - against them.

An interesting development is how the Conservative Party has steadily grown its support, and is now showing a modest lead in polling.

A large number of ridings remain in play, according to this poll. While one party could make a last-minute strategic push and snatch up a lot of ridings, the ridings are likely to be divided between the three non-Quebec parties (the Quebec party's support is almost exclusively contained within their province, where they are likely to win most, if not all their provincial ridings) in accordance with their share of support in the last few days.

The Conservative Party was formed from the reunification of the Alliance and Progressive Conservative Parties, whose fracture in the early 90s resulted in a Liberal landslide over the then-governing Progressive Conservative government, led by Kim Campbell, Canada's first female Prime Minister. In 2004, it made great headway and may have been poised to return to power, but stumbled in the closing days of the campaign. Now a strong effort is being made to avoid dropping the ball by the Conservatives.

In previous elections, the Conservatives were predominant in the western and central provinces, but almost non-existent in the major provinces - Ontario and Quebec - as well as in the Atlantic provinces. This time, polling suggests they are poised to run competitively in most of Canada, outside of Quebec, and pick up a number of ridings from the areas which have been considered Liberal Party strongholds.

Monday and Tuesday, the party leaders will participate in two debates which are considered key to the outcome of the election. As with Bush in debating Kerry, a failure by the incumbent Prime Minister, Paul Martin, to KO Harper will likely allow the race will continue, likely reaching a photo finish, or coming down to a race won by the party best able to turn out their political base, like in 2002 and 2004 in the U.S.,

While either party faces the prospect of governing with another fragile minority government, it's a challenge that will face whoever wins, promising political fireworks for the next two weeks, and for months and years to come.

Stay tuned.

"Let's Fight a War Game ... Everybody Dies": A Bridge Too Far & Operation

One of my favorite World War II movies is "A Bridge Too Far", focusing on the Allies' ambitious Operation Market Garden. This movie was based upon a bold Allied plan to cut off a large part of the retreating German forces in Belgium and Holland, and position the Allies to launch a push eastwards across the north German plain country before the end of 1944.

The operation, planned by British General Bernard Montgomery, unfolded in September of 1944, with three airborne divisions, the US 82nd and 101st, and British 1st (joined by the Polish Airborne Brigade) assigned to seize several critical bridge chokepoints along a highway corridor that extended halfway across Holland, northwards to the critical Rhine River crossing at Arnhem. The British 30 Corps would push northwards, connecting the "islands", and the US First Army would then push across Belgium to catch a large part of the German forces in the West in a pocket.

If the operation had worked, the war could have been shortened by months as Allied forces would have poured into Germany months before the Western Allies finally managed to cross the Rhine River, maybe even reaching Berlin ahead of the Red Army.

But that's not quite how it worked.

Overconfidence and errors in planning and intelligence led to Allies underestimating the strength, quality, and morale of German forces. Of the many errors, none were more tragic than the dropping of the British and Polish Airborne troops into the Arnhem area, where they faced two crack SS Panzer divisions and were massacred.

While most of the advance planned by Montgomery was completed, the effort to seize Arnhem failed as German resistance to the south of Arnhem put 30 Corps nearly a week behind schedule. This allowed the Panzer divisions to focus on eliminating the airborne forces before reinforcements could arrive. The result was a fifty-mile dead end that did little to effect the strategic situation, or to position the Western Allies to punch into Germany.

Based on a book by Cornelius Ryan, this movie was one of the last "ensemble" movies with large number of well-known actors. Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, and others were in this film. Ryan also wrote the book and then screenplay for "The Longest Day", an other WW II classic movie about the D-Day invasion.

Much of this film centers around the experience of the doomed British 1st Airborne. As opposed to many movies which depict the Allies as overly-competent heroes, and the Germans as bungling villans, the movie fairly showed both sides, complete with bungling by British planners, and Germans who fought back with skill and determination, as well as mercy towards the British who surrendered.

Check out this BBC report on the battle and this memorial website for more information.

The title quote is attributed to Polish Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski, the commander of the Polish Airborne Brigade, in a rather blunt assessment of the operation.

Quantity or Quality: Which is the better approach for contemporary media?

Recently, I posted some thoughts on the transformation of the media from a "gatekeeper" role in which a limited number of outlets and time allowed media to screen what was put out for public consumption, into a wide range of outlets, each now competing for who can get the most news out in the least time, to keep from being scooped by all the other outlets.

A prime example is discussed by a mea culpa story that ran in today's online edition of USA Today. The news media outlet published nearly half its papers with reports that the West Virginia miners were found alive. Instead of all but one alive, it turned out that all but one were found DEAD.

A finding of the research of Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams was that the media will often rush stories out to their audiences without vetting them. This is also a criticism which has been made of the now-famous Dan Rather "Memogate" (why do scandals now have to end in "gate" anyway?), in which a big story was rushed to the public, only to have it quickly debunked. In the past, when media was under more control by these "gatekeepers", these stories had time to be vetted before the evening news or morning paper ran, but in the 24-hour news cycle, it seems to be more about getting the story out first before getting it right.

As Dan Rather found out last year, USA Today found out that you can take a major story, rush it to the public, and really blow it in doing so.

While there are benefits from the "democratization" of news coverage, the lack of professional filtering and vetting certainly has its drawbacks, which have the potential to be rather harmful indeed.

2005: What ROCKED in my world

Ok, first of the postings of my 2005 in review, as promised.

In high school, I was a metal-head, and still am. I'm extremely fortunate that these bands that were big in my teenage years are still out there, touring. This year, I got to see some of these bands live and in person. Here's who I got to see:

Judas Priest - saw them in Atlanta in June
Queensryche - saw them open for the Priest in June, and saw their Mindcrime tour in Myrtle Beach in October.
WASP - saw them in Myrtle Beach in August.
LA Guns - saw them last fall, and in August in Myrtle Beach.
Stephen Pearcy (ex-frontman for RATT) - saw him with his Rat Pack band in Myrtle Beach.

All were pretty good, but who REALLY rocked?

WASP - Blackie Lawless and the boys took the audience along with them on a wild ride to "Helldorado" - the primal depths, spitting blood and growling out all those songs that got Al Gore's wife in a tizzy in the 80s.

Queensryche - their two-parter in Myrtle Beach was an amazing performance, with the second part being a performance of their classic Operation Mindcrime show, from start to finish, complete with characters performing the roles of Nikki and Sister Mary. They're promising a similar performance in '06, when they hit the road in support of their Mindcrime II album, with Ronnie James Dio playing the role of Doctor X. I would say this was the one show to see this year, except for ...

JUDAS PRIEST!!! I've been a lifelong fan of the Priest, and when Rob Halford left the band right after I got out of high school, I figured that was that. But Halford rejoined the band and they hit the road, performing a collection reaching from their earliest matertial to stuff from their Angel of Retribution album. Rob STILL hits those amazingly-high notes that are guaranteed to leave your ears ringing. That show was the SHOW OF A LIFETIME.

So that's my year of rock and roll. I'm looking forward to seeing more bands and shows this year!