Friday, 21 October 2011

The End of An Era

At the end of December....the war in Iraq will be considered finished....with the last of the troops boarding some helicopter (my humble guess) and flying out to some US naval vessel off the coast.  My guess is that some general will be that last guy.

I was there in Gulf War I and scratched my head over how it ended....with Saddam and his sons firmly entrenched in power and Kuwait simply liberated.  It was like going to a football game where the clock was resetting at half-time and you were continuing play....over and over.  The game couldn't really end.

At some point around by 2001, before 9-11, the Saudis were actively trying to tell the American government to get the troops out of Saudi Arabia...period.  There was growing negativity with all of the fundamental Muslim dudes.....and the Saudis were jerking the chain almost weekly that this was going to lead to a very bad circumstance.  The US couldn't stay there.  The general feeling was that Kuwait was happy and maybe we'd work out some massive basing deal in Kuwait....to help the Saudis out.  Thank goodness....9-11 occurred, and we simply went into an entire new game.  And yes, the Saudis were likely correct, that their fundamentalists Muslims.....were going to encourage something.  Go ask Ossama's folks about that.

I sat and watched Army folks pull one-year tours....get fifteen months off, and then return again.  I listened to various stories of wives divorcing husbands after one tour, two tours, three tours, and even four tours.  I eventually saw Air Force guys pulled into ground tours....something that no Air Force general would have accepted in 1972 for Vietnam.

I was amazed one day when my co-worker's husband got a call....his potential quarter had arrived, and he was on the hot-list for an Iraq tour.  Being the number two fire chief on base.....his immediate feeling was that he'd be a fire chief in Iraq at some base.  The response was....no, you will go to a convoy school and spend six weeks learning how to lead a convoy from X to Y, then go to spend a year in Iraq.  He sat in disbelief....almost fourteen years in service, and highly qualified as a fireman.....now having to learn a whole new career situation....leading a convoy.  A day later....they found a guy who was a volunteer, and he got out of the whole mess.

Prior to the war starting....I worked with a web guru at Ramstein who was a contractor.  In the whole of Europe.....he was probably in the top three web-smart folks.  As the war started, he ended with a job offer from a company who was willing to pay near $180k for twelve months of work (half of that was tax-free).  So he did a year, then talked his ex-wife into coming over for a job, and he did a second year.  At the end of year two....the company told him to go back for three months, which he did, and then he returned to be a manager and likely making in the $250k range.  The last I had heard about him....at the sixth year.....he was still in Iraq and taking just thirty days a year of vacation at some resort.  I would imagine that he's cleared well over $1 million and may have a similar amount in a 401K account.

It's hard to say anything was gained from the whole thing.  Bad judgement calls were made and we could have been out in four years if we'd simply accepted some of the Iraqi military in charge of things on day one of the occupation....and Saddam's government totally kicked out.....with elections arranged for the public.  Our understanding of such simple matters was made complicated by people in the administration who probably weren't clear about their motivation or their goals.

We are left with 100k GI's who have some form of post-traumatic issue.  They've seen death and misery.  They've lived in a hostile situation for months and months.....then returned fifteen months later to repeat.  We have trained one of the most capable military organizations in the history of the world.  One hundred of our guys would have no issue in taking on a force twice their size because they simply have confidence in their weapons, their abilities, and their support (fighters, helicopters, and tanks). We have intelligence and reconnaissance abilities now that likely stun most of the developed countries in the world.

It is a curtain call that is deserved.  There's nothing else to be accomplished, and frankly.....our guys need a break....a long break.

Just Observations

As of yesterday, DC had hit 92 murders for the year.  You have to put this into prospective....it's an area of about six miles by six miles. Across the river, in Alexandria (Virginia)....up until last night....we had zero murders.  That changed with a shooting, so the county of Alexandria finally racks up one murder for the year.  Yesterday's big shooting in DC came around midnight and on some bus in the southeast section of town.  A guy got up to the front as the bus stopped, and pointed out some guy in the rear to some new guy who got onboard....the new guy shoot the guy in the rear, and pointer and his killer-buddy both walked off the bus.  Curiously, a camera got a huge close-up of both, and I imagine at least a hundred folks will identify both by the end of the week.

I was sitting and reading over entertainment news.....here was Jessica Simpson who apparently got all pregnant or at least the rumor is such, and she won't admit nothing until the bidding episode ends on which National Enquirer-like paper gets the win.  She apparently wants $500k for the interview and personal photos of her in a pregnant-pose.  Maybe it's just me.....but I can't think of anyone else in the entertainment world.....who has absolutely no talent at all....singing or comedy or acting.....and somehow still keeps herself on some front page.  And some idiot entertainment group is actually willing to give up $500k of money....just to get her to admit being pregnant.

I noted.....kinda quietly this morning....that the Navy admit they've got sixty-four guys off one aircraft carrier that they are kicking out of the service for drugs.  The amusing part to this story....is that a number of these guys are out because of "fake pot"....this "spice" stuff.

The US government came to admit yesterday that they handed out another $500-odd million....to a electric-battery type car company that had these grand plans for a US factory producing these battery cars.  Funny thing.  The company did all the research, and eventually decided two years after getting the loan.....that they just couldn't build these cars in America.  So the factory is located....in Finland.  I paused over that....thinking about this.  Something doesn't make sense.  A US government loan, where the jobs eventually appear in Finland?  Battery-run cars in Finland?  Well.....it's fairly cool or cold for six months out of the year and I just can't see that many Finns buying up these cars for winter-driving.  The company involved says that there was no manufacturing company in America....that could build their car.  There's a bunch of things about this story which don't add up.  Frankly, the idea of the US government thinking it can be part of the commercial success of America....by tossing or loaning money....makes very little sense.

I got my hometown newspaper yesterday.  The big deal this week is the grand opening of some deli in town (it's maybe 500 folks, at best).  Far as I know....it's the first deli ever to open.  We've had the "Bears Den" (a burger joint), a Piggly Wiggly, and a local grocery where they would make up sandwiches but nothing like a deli.  The plain truth is that folks will likely stop in....ask for the nice lady to make up a extra large baloney sandwich, with French's mustard, some some dill pickles, and a drop or two of smoke sauce, and that would fine enough for them.  If they knew there were thirty-five different cheeses, forty-two different cuts of meat, and sixteen styles of mustard behind the counter....they'd probably freak out.  It'll take five years....but eventually someone will come in and ask for a Reuban sandwich.....which features sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, corned beef, and thousand-island sauce....and the deli lady will faint over the fact that some local guy actually knew the ingredients.

Some California county school board gal woke up this week and realized that the local press had figured out that she wasn't divorced like she'd always claimed.  She was actually married....for more than a decade. The thing is.....she's married to some guy who spent over twenty years in prison, for murder (he recently got parole apparently).  The gal, who shall remain nameless....wanted everyone to know that this was a legal type situation....seen as a "confidential" marriage situation....so she didn't have to say a word about it.  That might have worked if the guy was just a bad Wall Street banker or some guy who had sold drugs for a living....but marrying up to a murderer gives you a different image.  Most folks I know....would not be voting for such a person on the local county board.  My guess is that she will try to continue on....but folks will show up at county board meetings and continually question her on truth issues.

Finally, there's this young teenage gal in Tennessee who is in high school.  She had joined up with the local junior-ROTC group at the high school....and progressing well. Then, there was this parade scheduled where the junior-ROTC folks would march.  This gal....being Muslim....wanted to wear her hijab (the head covering, not the face covering).  For those of you from Bama not familiar with such apparel....it's a silky-like covering which leaves folks questioning the coloring of your hair.  She felt a waiver could be granted....the school said no....mostly because the Army doesn't agree with stuff like that.  She accepted the ruling, but her parents are a bit angry over this.  They'd like to get some attention....to change the school rules and the Army rules.  I work with Army folks and I've come to realize over the past eighteen months that they are fairly bright and very capable of changing stupid rules.  But accepting the hijab probably won't be on their top 100 things to fix.  The problem would be that if they did change the rules....they'd have to write it up to reflect only women wearing the hijab, and that'd upset the delicate nature of Army guys, who might also want to wear the hijab.  Then a bunch of folks would get all disturbed of the unfairness that Army women had over Army men.....and you just can't have that.  Meanwhile, in the shadows.....the Marines are mostly snickering because if this was truly important....then the Marines would issue a hijab.

Only in America.

Just Fixing Things

Yesterday, some Senators decided that they were going to "fix" a problem in America.  They passed legislation that would allow foreigners (folks without any citizenship or visa).....to buy a $500k home or two $250k homes, and get an automatic visa for themselves and their immediate family.  In essence, some rich dude from the Philippines, Belgium, Russia, Peru, or Tonga....could help cash-strapped America recover from its economic mess by bringing in their buckets of cash.

I sat and pondered over this for a while.  You can imagine some wealthy millionaire sitting a in a third-world country and always wanting to reestablishment himself in a safer and more modern country.  This might make sense.  You can imagine some rich Chinese guy who dreamed of owning a place in Manhattan and living the good life in New York City....now having that chance.

The problem here....this was designed in a certain way.  I can also imagine a guy buying the two $250k houses, getting himself here....renting out both his cousin involved and somehow coming up with some scheme similar to this and eventually 300k Nigerian guys are sitting in Missouri, with folks there asking stupid questions to their Senator how they all bought this upscale property and figured into things.

The comical side of this is the price-tag amount.  $500k was the magic number.  I paused over this.  Where I grew up in Bama.....you might find an entire farm with a vast amount of land involved....that ran for $500k but finding a house in the county for that much?  Wouldn't happen.  Here in Arlington....about eighty percent of the houses and half-acres....would be a minimum of $500k.  Out in Hollywood.....I doubt if you could find that many homes at the $500k level.  Someone had a reason for making it $500k and not a million or $200k.

So in the years to come....if you are driving up in Montana and run into a bunch of rich Mongolian folks and just can't understand how they came to live out in the wilds of Montana.....remember, your wise Senators did this.....just to fix things.