Outside My Home Office Window

 

Clearly, apple trees like it when it rains a lot. All the time.

We’ve had Washington State-like weather here in North Texas the last two months and the branches of my little, lone apple tree in my yard are straining under a unprecedented load of ripe fruit worthy of the state.

It’s an apple tree that shouldn’t even be there. You see, the front and one side of the perimeter of my lot is lined with Crape Myrtle trees—13 of them to be exact. And right in the middle of the sequence, there is one little apple tree. It’s as if, early on, one of the Crape Myrtles died and they replaced it with an apple tree by mistake.

Oh, and due to some overhanging branches of a nearby oak tree, it leans heavily southward toward the street in search of sunlight. In past years (typically dry and hot) the tree has only produced a handful of golf-ball-sized apples. But this year… great land-o’-Goshen . . . we’ve got apples the size of babies’ heads. apple-tree-1.jpg

Click on the above picture and you’ll see that, instead of rudely dropping the fruit to the ground in a snit (Fine! Take it then!), the tree appears to be gently lowering it to the ground so to not bruise the little darlings. And it is so proud of its record productivity, it seems on the verge of taking a bow. Or a bough.

They’re starting to drop off now so I think they’re ripe. In fact, I know they are. I picked one up off the grass and took a bite this afternoon. Sweet. Yet tart. Swart! More Granny Smith-y than Golden Delicious-esque. But quite tasty. And all the more gratifying because it’s the produce of my little plot of land.

Free food. You gotta love that. And Mrs. Blather said something about an apple crisp in my future. Gotta love that, too.

Historical Ignorance as the Nation's Birthday Approaches

Bill Bennett (a living national treasure, in my opinion), has an important essay up over at NRO Online regarding the appalling failure of our education establishment to teach real American history.

 Here’s a tidbit:

McCullough is right, and it is a double tragedy: a) our children no longer know their country’s history and b) the story they do not know is the greatest political story ever told. It is not our children’s fault. Our country’s adults are expected to instill a love of country in its children, but the greatness and purpose of that country are mocked by the chattering classes: Newspaper columns and television reports drip with a constant cynicism about America while doubts about her motives on the world stage are the coin of the realm. Too many commentators are too ready to believe the worst about our leaders and our country, and our children’s history books — and even some of the teachers — close off any remaining possibility of helping children learn about their country.

Read the whole thing here.

Is It 1972 All Over Again?

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love the way browsing a 35-year-old news magazine or chatting with a nonagenarian can be a sort of trip in a time machine.

Another way to take such a trip is to visit the Reel Radio web site (subscription required) where you’ll find hundreds of hours of radio airchecks recorded in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Airchecks are the recordings DJs and/or radio stations made of what they broadcast over the air.

If, like me, you went to sleep each night in the early seventies listening to John “Records” Landecker on faraway WLS in Chicago, or Phil Jay on WHB in Kansas City, well, then you can imagine what a rush of nostalgia it is to listen to a couple of hours of the voices, music, commercials and news that came out of your bedside AM clock radio 35 years in the past.

I mention it because I was listening to an aircheck of WLS’ Larry Lujack from April 17, 1972 recently. What really caught my ear was the break for Paul Harvey News and Comment. It was classic Paul Harvey filled with items with lede lines like:

“LBJ’s heart acting up again. . .”

And: 

“Aboard Apollo 16, a red warning light. . .” 

And then there was this item, which I have transcribed in full. (hear Harvey’s signature delivery and cadence as you read):

“No more bombers over Haiphong or Hanoi. . .for now. President Nixon has suspended these attacks on far North Vietnam to see if the North Vietnamese will suspend their attacks in South Vietnam, but they haven’t yet.

“Indeed the last word from the Reds in Paris was that their offensive in South Vietnam will continue unabated. Our State Secretary Rogers says we will prevent a takeover. . .says we will not use American ground troops; will not use nuclear weapons; but will do whatever else we have to to stop ‘em.  

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . .the Fulbright Committee, has voted to cut off all money for the war in Indo-China as of the end of this year. But Defense Secretary Laird will tell the Senators today, that they are thus encouraging the enemy to hang on.” 

Do you know, as Harvey would say, “the rest of the story?”

Indulge me a short history review. . . By the Spring of 1972, most U.S. troops had already been withdrawn from South Vietnam. The pro-American government there was prepared to continue fighting the Communist invaders from North Vietnam but were heavily dependent upon continued U.S. air support and bombing to succeed. In fact they were succeeding. The Viet Cong had thrown everything they had and the kitchen sink into an invasion of the South at Easter-time the previous month. But with the assistance of U.S. bombing support, the offensive had been stopped in it tracks, and the work of pushing the Viet Cong back across the work had bravely begun. This is the setting for the Paul Harvey news item cited above.

See any parallels to today?

Of course, following the Fulbright Committee’s recommendation (cited in the Paul Harvey excerpt), the Congress ultimately did indeed vote to cut off all funding to the military effort to support the government of South Vietnam. This essentially turned an emerging victory (or at least a Korea-type stalemate) into a defeat. Years of protests, biased news media coverage, and general weariness had turned the public against the war. Even many Republicans were going wobbly (Sen. Richard Lugar, call your office.) And just as Defense Secretary Laird had warned, such votes and posturing merely encouraged the North Vietnamese to hang on and keep pressing.

The result? As many as a million South Vietnamese died or were sent to “reeducation camps.” Hundreds of thousands of others fled the country or died trying. And the sacrifices of more than 50,000 American servicemen were rendered for naught.

So will we see a repeat in 2008? Some Congressional Democrats are already pressuring Speaker Pelosi to call for a complete cutoff of funds for the war in Iraq. They even cite the Fulbright Committe as a model for the action.

If it all follows the 1972 pattern, the results will likely be even more tragic, both for the people of Iraq and the long-term interests of our nation.

“Good day.”

I Am a Poor, Wayfaring Whiner

As the last few posts will attest, there’s been a bit of travel happening recently.

The most recent trip was supposed to be a quick 24-hour junket to visit a new client in Richmond, Virginia. Very simple really. Out Monday evening, home by dinnertime Tuesday evening. (Cue the devils of weather, FAA regs, and airline union rules throwing back their heads and letting forth a collective “bwaaah ha ha ha!”)

Our outbound trip to Richmond was supposed to leave DFW at 6:45 pm and arrive a little before 10 pm. Checking the flight and gate status an hour before I was planning to head for the airport showed the departure had been delayed an hour. And then another. Stormy weather in various nodes of American Airlines’ vast hub-and-spoke network was starting to cause the system to unravel.

In a momentary triumph of hope over experience, I headed for the airport. Our flight was not canceled but continued to be repeatedly delayed in 45-minute increments throughout the night. Our estimated arrival time went progressively from midnight to, when we finally departed, a little after three in the morning.

We checked into our hotel rooms a little before 4 am and set the alarms to get us up and to our clients offices by 9.

Well, hopefully the flight home would be less dysfunctional. (“bwaaah ha ha ha!”)

Allow me to compress the story arc for the hardy few who are still reading at this point. . .  Our flight home was canceled. The next available flight would be at 1:15 pm the next day. Bags were retrieved. A rental car was re-rented. Hotel rooms were re-booked. And since we were running on about three hours of sleep, bedtimes were early.

Day 2: More whine compression . . . Our flight home was repeatedly delayed. Our original arrival time of about 3:30 pm central time turned into 9:30 after hours of holding, diverting to Shreveport, refueling, taking off, more holding. Total time of hindquarters married to aircraft seat: 7 hours.

This is the point in the story in which your protagonist, full of self pity and pathetic self-absorption is supposed to get it all put into perspective through a chance meeting with a stranger. And he does.

Luggage retrieved, we climbed on the shuttle bus to take us from Terminal A, where we landed, to Terminal C, where my car was parked. (Cue more grumbling and I-can’t-catch-a-break-itude). As I flopped down on the bus seat, a young man in an Air Force uniform boarded and took a seat beside me. He didn’t look old enough to be out of high school.

“Hi. How you doin’?” I asked him.

“Oh. . .” he hesitated for a while, weighing word choices. “Not very good.”

He went on to explain that he had been trying to get home to New England for two days and had been trapped in the same DFW hub morass that had been causing us problems. He thought he was going to get home last night, but his flight was canceled. They didn’t have anything to offer him today but stand by status. He hadn’t slept in more than 30 hours. And he was in the middle of having to ping-pong between terminals in hopes of securing a flight. He was hoping the USO facility at the airport would have a spare bed so he could finally get a little sleep.

My perspective on my situation duly re-calibrated, I wrote my name and mobile number on my boarding pass. I handed it to him and said, “Listen, I live about 15 minutes from the airport. If you can’t find a bed tonight, call me. We’d be honored to have you take one of ours.”

He thanked me very graciously. Then I caught the eye of a craggy, silver-haired gentleman across the bus aisle who had been following our conversation. His eyes moistened and he said, “Thank you for doing that. I wanted to offer but I don’t live nearby.” 

“Korean War vet,” I thought, judging by the age.

I said, “I’m happy to offer. A guy serving our country ought not be without a place to sleep when he’s trying to get home. I really appreciate what these guys are doing.” There were amens and nods around the bus.

The young airman, whose name I learned was Jessie, said, “Thank you for saying that sir. I’ve learned that not everybody feels that way.”

I felt a rush of anger at the thought that he or any other serviceman had had to encounter anything but gratitude and honor from our citizenry. I told him:

“Well, they are a small minority. They just tend to have very big mouths.”

As I stepped off the bus I said, “I’m serious. Don’t sleep in a chair tonight.” He nodded and thanked me again. My phone didn’t ring so I’m hoping the USO facility had room for him and that he is able to get home today.

For him and the tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel leaving home or trying to get there today, I give you glimpse of a time in which young men like Jessie didn’t have to wonder if a stranger on a bus was for him or against him:

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Update: Got a voicemail this morning from that young airman letting me know he did get a bed at the USO and that he really appreciated the offer of hospitality. I really hope he made it home today.

Now I'm in Austin

We went into to downtown Austin at dusk tonight for the nightly running of the bats. We joined thousands of people who stood on the Congress Street Bridge in downtown Austin and on the banks of the Colorado River to watch more than 1.5 million bats pour out from underneath the bridge that has become the largest urban bat habitat in the world.

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Pretty cool, actually.

Global Warming Scarmongery

I’m convinced that future generations will view the current feverish hype about global warming very much like we view the witch trial hysteria that gripped Salem, Massachussetts back in 1692.

We view the Salem trials as both ridiculous and tragic. Regarding this current madness—the presence of Al Gore as a self-appointed savior of the world automatically covers  the ridiculous side of that equation. And the fact that public schools all over the nation have been given the “An Inconvenient Truth” curriculum to frighten and indoctrinate an entire generation of impressionable young children qualifies as full-on tragedy.

A few months ago I laid out a “Not-So-Concise Guide to Global Warming Scaremongery” in my other blog.

Now, before the brainwashing materials have even been fully distributed to the nations children, the much-touted “scientific consensus” on global warming has already begun to look remakably un-consensus-y. Take, for example the article Drudge was shouting about yesterday.  

It is an article by a very credible scientist/professor type person in Canada. Here’s a tidbit:

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada.

The real scientific consensus that is just beginning to emerge is that it is the cycles of the sun, not people-produced greenhouse gases, that is driving the earth’s cycles of warming and cooling.

Immigration. Again.

There are far too many powerful groups in Washington with an interest in seeing the country flooded with dirt cheap labor from South of the border for the Immigration “reform” bill to be allowed to die a dignified death.

1. The Democrat party leaders correctly see the flood as a party-building exercise. It’s a way to shift the electoral balance in their favor for generations to come, even if it does screw the Unions, blue collar workers in general, and the working poor — all groups they claim to champion.

2. Multinational and trans-national corporations which largely don’t give a rip about American cultural identity, or national security for that matter, are also deploying their considerable influence in both political parties.

3. And then there’s the President, whose compassionate-conservativism, on this issue, is all the first element and none of the second.

 Thus, that charging bull elephant I mentioned in a previous post is about to take another run at congressional approval.

I like David Frum’s recent take on this:

I for one am absolutely open to considering an amnesty plan at any date after the FIFTH anniversary of the completion of border control measures, including an effective employment verification system.

It’s not unlike what I said on this post, i.e., “Let’s secure the borders and then schedule a time to chat about our current illegals in, say, four or five years.”

It Must Be Sweeps Week

. . . because The History Channel is running “The History of Sex” again. And as I write, it’s sister channel, History International, is airing “Sex in War: Sex in Vietnam.”

A couple of times each year History Channel puts aside it’s overviews of the Peloponnesian War and rehashes of the Titanic’s sinking (all of which I like, by the way) and tries to sex things up a little bit for a ratings boost.

I guess it’s that time again.