Dec 28, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister

We see by the news that World Leader Gordon Brown, boss politician of Britain, identifies security and the economy as the "major challenges" of 2009, and the world's media are dutifully reporting  it as a profound observation. 

Let's think historically about that, maybe going back to the late stone age. "I tell ya' tribe, we gotta find more nuts and berries next year or we're goinna starve. And it's time to do something about those sabre-tooth tiger attacks."  

True, Prime Minister Brown also said "climate change" is the third "major challenge" for 2009,  but that's just because it's fashionable.

Personally, I think we'd all be better off if the United Nations outlawed these annual  World Leader New Year's speeches about "major challenges."

Dec 24, 2008

Ho ho ho

The absolute last gift is wrapped and in the big box for transport to the action zone, so I'll probably need to stop only once or twice on the way to pick up what I forgot.  I have no idea about what will or won't show up on The McGee Reader before I return. Depends, I suppose, on whether I decide to further overload the vehicle with the macBook and/or how well I get along with the son's MS box.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Dec 23, 2008

Christmas Guilt

On the Christmas when I was  ten I snuck downstairs in the wee hours and found the coveted official Boy Scout sleeping bag AND the official Boy Scout Yucca Pack. I crawled into the bag, used the pack for a pillow and  dozed under the tree, content beyond my fantasies. The family means were quite modest, the BSA gear expensive beyond all reason, and two younger sisters had their own Yule dreams. 

I thanked Mom and Dad.  I wish I'd thanked them more. I never knew what important things they denied themselves, but it was something.

Travis had it right about the teary nostalgia of some Christmas memories. It's the good ones that get to you.  

On My Santa Wish List

Maybe the Old Boy could deliver a copy of Ed Neuman' s "Strictly Speaking" to every journalist, politician,  and flack in the nation. Then perhaps we wouldn't be subjected to so damn many stupid uses of the English language.

Like this morning.  Headlines all over the place about the worsening housing "crisis." 

Near as I can figure, what's happening is that fewer people are going in hock for houses they can't afford, never could afford, and never will be able to afford.  If that's a "crisis" I'll kiss your butt on the quarterdeck and give you an hour to turn out the watch below. 

Dec 22, 2008

Money gurus

My friend came by recently and the conversation turned to the markets. He had come by  a good deal of money  the hard way and over the past few years placed most of it in the financial markets, losing as of last week,  about two-thirds of it. He spread it around in accord with the advice of a "well regarded investment advisor"  who sold him  a "diversified portfolio" of mutual funds.  Which brings us to the point:

These guys don't know one damned bit more about investing than you do. 

Write that on your hand. 

Like used car peddlers, they work for commissions. 

Dec 19, 2008

The B-word

It isn't quite like Carlin's famous seven, but our northern-plains forecasters are reluctant to use bl****ard. Bad for business. 

So we haven't  had an official governmentally approved (B-word) yet this season. The worst I've seen in print is "whiteout," (code for "Drive and Die") due to heavy snow and high wind. That used to be a (B-word). 

But some of us use the word in conditions of carefully guarded privacy,  and that will sometimes raise the question of where it came from.  As a matter of regional pride, Midwest children hereabouts  are taught that it was invented by an Estherville, Iowa, newspaper writer to describe a spring storm in 1870. 

Which ignores a little bit of doggeral of the kind I've always liked -- an evil-repelling chant from  the early 1800s asking Divine protection against "gizzards and blizzards."

It also ignores one  contribution,  among many,  of the shooting sports to the English language. From the Newark (Ohio) Advocate for October 25. 1867: 

“I and Sam loded and fired as fast as we could, and at every broadside the black rascals fell in showers around us….The crow was keerful to keep as high abuv the rest as possible, but every time he’d lite we’d give him a blast. At length, toward evenin, we kind of hived him, and the last of the blackbirds in a big old tree….Now, Sam, sez I, now for big lodes and a simultuous blizzard!….How it did rain blackbirds….”.

It's sad that Estherville has nothing else to be proud of.

EDIT,  Sat. A.M.: Does NWS read this stuff? Or is Smugistan-on-Lake really in for it? Anyway, the dreaded  B-Word is now in our forecast.



Hey Al Gore, I got your ice right here

Yesterday's news held woeful laments for all that recently lost ice and snow  in northern Greenland. Relax Al. I just found it here in Smugistan-on-Lake.

You can have it back for free.  Just pay shipping and handling.

Dec 16, 2008

Speaking of Vermin

Perhaps I already mentioned Bernie Madoff, the former Naz chairman and investing genius accused of somehow managing to make $50 Billion disappear in a Ponzi scheme.

Turns out Bernie was active in politics, too, lavishing some of that $50 Billion on politicians and and K Street bandits. Among them:

"One of the largest recipients of Madoff largess was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who received $39,000 from the family for his two Senate races." (AP) 

Senator Schumer is the virtuous fellow who keeps writing bills to make sure no one has any firearms except the military, the police, and the criminal class.

The Libertarian Travis McGee

In his heart of hearts, McGee wanted to round up all the Florida land developers, hustling politicians,  and associated vermin and pen them up with hungry alligators. As a rational man he knew the impossibility, and so he offers us a libertarian solution -- carving the best one personally can out of a world growing uglier: 

" ...There would would be a time again when I would canoe down the Withlacoochee, adrift in a slow current,  seeing the morning mist rising at the base of the limestone buttes. seeing the sudden heart-stopping dip and wheel of a flight of birds of incredible whiteness."

It's in "Cinnamon Skin," which you shouldn't read first. The way to get acquainted with McGee and Meyer is to start at the beginning "The Deep Blue Goodbye" and enjoy your way through to  the last one, "The Lonely Silver Rain."

Dec 14, 2008

No Obama Kid Left Behind

The wires inform us this morning that Obama's daughters will attend private schools. Nothing wrong with that, but as our new president caterwauls about the glory of public education and the need to escalate money-bombing the NEA-run schools (and he will), it's an interesting fact to keep in mind.

Jeff Cooper and the Europeans

A recent gun show had the usual scads of foreign minor-caliber semi-autos on display. That suggested  another round of browsing for  Jeff Cooper stuff:

"...Europeans retain their preoccupation with the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. This is due primarily to the fact that the Europeans as a group are not interested in stopping power. As one Frenchman once told me, if in Europe you shoot a criminal, he sits down on the curb and bursts into tears. In America he will shoot back and kill you if he can."


Dec 13, 2008

Titivation Report

It's the season for inviting folks over for  pre-Christmas gluttony, so I decided to clean the kitchen. I always do that when I notice  dirt old enough for kindergarten. One thing led to another, and I wound up repainting the whole &)*^*$# room.  White.  It looks pretty good but forced me into a rare New Year's Resolution. I hereby resolve to pay closer attention while frying bacon,  thereby igniting fewer grease fires. 

Dec 12, 2008

Justice and General Motors

So this guy  Bernie  Madoff,  darling of NASD,  admits to stealing more than three times what the car companies and the UAW want to steal from the citizens this week.

Bernie's take was about $50 Billion. New York judges have been known to ship a raggedyass ghetto kid to Attica for 10 years for  swiping a 200-buck teevee set. Whaddya suppose Bernie will draw?

Dec 11, 2008

Fun With Statistics

Let's assume that Gov. Rod will  do a little prison time.

When that happens you will be able state accurately that 2 per cent of the nation's governors in office as of December, 2008, are incarcerated.  At the same time, 1 per cent of all Americans are graybarred for one offense or another.

Thus United States governors, as a class, are twice as criminal as the people they govern.

Passing Mention

 "Call-in-gay" day  limped in and out without much notice.   I hear They are trying to broaden their demographics. Stand by for call-in-fey day.

Dec 9, 2008

For Sale

...One U.S. Senate seat. 

What the Hell. How much worse is a senator bought on the open market than one bought through the usual processes?

I hope none of you libertarian cynics snorts out snide comments about Illinois being the political cradle of one Barrack Obama.

Dec 8, 2008

Priority for High-Level National Action

So help me, I didn't know 20 states had decided to regulate underage consumption of ultra-violet.

"ATLANTA (AP) – State laws meant to keep teens out of indoor tanning booths haven't made a dent, a new study has found, disappointing doctors hoping to reduce deadly skin cancers. The researchers say it's not clear why the laws failed, but pointed to lax enforcement as a factor."

(1) -- These researchers must be reassigned to researching optimum means of pouring piss out of a boot.

(2) -- Enforcement  would be an excellent project for Obama's new civilian security force. 

(3) -- Because the primary offenders are young women, Amendment 4 should be suspended  to permit LEO stop and gape on reasonable suspicion. "Halt! Remove your  garments. Aha, No white strap marks. You're busted, Baby."  If nothing else it would boost local teevee news ratings.


See the USA in your...

Looks like the Detroit Failout will happen,  opening with $15 Billion  for the auto makers in return for letting Obama's Washington  tell them how to build cars.  

"Wouldn't You Really Rather Have a  Moskvitch?" 

Dec 7, 2008

Tora Tora Tora

It is more than a middling-grade movie. Tora means Tiger. Said thrice on the morning of December 7, 67 years ago today, it was the signal that the sneak attack was successful.

Some 2,400 Americans died, some ashore, some entombed in a battle fleet all but destroyed in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. 

Three and one-half years later the final retribution was administered.


Why all  this which, readily conceded, comes from routinely available secondary sources and which,  again admittedly,  cherry picks among the countless  available facts? Because a few weeks ago,  browsing through some old Jeff Cooper writings, I found, from 1993:

"Pearl Harbor Day slipped by without much notice. I daresay a huge number of our population has never heard of Pearl Harbor...".

And I hate it when that happens.

None of it should be forgotten. Not the occasional heroism. Not the chance that hallowed names in American history -- Roosevelt, Marshall, Hull, Stimson, and others -- should be de-hallowed to the extent of their incompetence in the final months of 1941.

And a fair mind might conclude that while the pilloried Admiral Kimmel and General Short did not operate brilliantly, to say the least, their professional sins pale in comparison to those from whom they took their orders. 

A Last Saturday of Peace

PEARL HARBOR -- Fleet intelligence chief Ed layton has only one  pleasant interlude today, his ride in a gig to visit Admiral Pye aboard the battleship California. He hands Pye  the morning dispatch which repeats that Japanese agression in southeast Asia could come at any moment.  A number of intercepted but still coded messages to and from the Japanese consulate in Honolulu are forwarded to Washington for decrypting, translation, and action -- most of which are accomplished sometime after the Honolulu sunrise tomorrow.

WASHINGTON -- Exhaustion has set in at every level of  naval communications and intelligence. Only civilian specialist  Dorothy  Edgers stayed through the early weekend afternoon to translate what has come to be called the "lights message." Somehow, it just seemed significant to her.   She left the translation  with her boss, Lieutenant Commander Alwin D. Kramer, who found the wording imperfect and the punctuation in need of titivating. It is still on his desk Monday morning, Dec. 8. The message details the light system (including bonfires) Japanese spies on Oahu will use to signal attacking aircraft of the status of ships at their moorings and anchorages in Pearl Harbor. 

At the White House, Roosevelt finally agrees to follow through on his scheme to send a personal message to Emperor Hirohito, a piece of prose blending conciliation and veiled threat. He figures Hirohito will  respond by Monday evening, whereupon, if necessary,  a pure threat can be sent to the Imperial Palace.

Across the capital after sundown, almost to a man the power elite disperses to balls and dinner parties, as Wellington danced  before Waterloo. Kramer, with a decoded intercept of the  14-part message from Premier Tojo to his Washington envoys is successful in tracking down  some of the nation's leaders. Some of them eventually join the President in a late-night council.  Or perhaps there was no White House meeting. Some say yes. Some say no. Nothing of the sort is recorded in the official White House records. In any case, no one picks up a  phone to call Hawaii, to tell Kimmel and Short that America has received something like a declaration of war.

KIDO BUTAI -- Admiral Nagumo, now steaming due south,  eases water rationing for his fleet of carriers and escorts. His sea and  sky fighters take the final showers they desire to enter battle in purity.  The word from the Honolulu embassy is good: The battleships are in Pearl, as expected. Aerial reconaissence confirms that nothing worth bombing is in the port of Lahaina. The ultimate   announcement is made to all ships via the flag signals representing Admiral Togo's message to his 1904 fleet before its victory over the Russians in the Tsushima Strait: "The fate of our nation depends on this battle -- all hands will exert themselves to their utmost." The maintenence crews joined the cheers, then began fueling the planes.


Dec 6, 2008

Liberty Call, Honolulu, Friday Dec. 5, 1941

The American Navy at peace borrowed from the unions. A man must have his weekends. When not on an actual voyage it was the custom to get underway Monday morning, play war games in local waters  through Thursday, and return to port  in time for all hands to shine, shower and shave before the first liberty boats began running about 1600 Friday. The married went to their wives, the bachelors to the beaches, the slop chutes,  the delights of Hotel Street. It was about like that on Dec. 5.  War clouds were apparent, but they were thousand of miles to the southwest of Honolulu. Washington said so. 

CincPac Headquarters --  Rear Admiral John Newton sails on the cruiser Chicago to escort the carrier Lexington. The task force is to deliver Marine fighter planes  and pilots to Midway, then scout the northwest approaches to Hawaii. Kimmel knew aircraft should be making these recons.   Washington was telling him he could expect more PBYs one of these days. The situation: All carriers at sea, along with their usual cruiser and destroyer escorts. The big battle wagons and their escorts are  either in the harbor on on their way.

Washington: Navy code breakers were given small cards with the words "higashi no kazi ami.' typed. In English it is "east wind rain." They were to look for that phrase which, naval intelligence believed, was the signal to all Japan's official world interests that U.S. - Japan relations had ruptured beyond repair.  Of itself it was not a declaration of war; it was a declaration of the intent to declare  war or perhaps just start shooting. Junior men in naval communications claim to have received  the "winds" message and  quickly passed it up the line. The senior officers and their political masters deny it ever happened.

Manila: General Douglas MacArthur receives British Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, visiting for a council of war. MacArthur tells his guest he "had every confidence he could defend this place."

The Kido Butai sails with poor visibility under gray skies and encounters Uritsky, a Russian merchantman.  Nagumo is under orders and perfectly willing to  smash and sink any passing ship which could report the existence of his force.  He permits Uritsky to pass unmolested toward her Siberian  destination. The Russian ship makes no report.

Below, in the hanger decks, mechanics make final checks on the Zeros, torpedo planes,  and dive bombers. In the pilot and crews' quarters, lockers are opened. The Emperor's sky warriors check their clean loin cloths and thousand-stitch belts.  One wages war dressed as a gentleman.



Jabberwock. Dec. . 4, 1941


BERLIN -- Japanese  envoys to the Nazis are having a hard time of it. Ribbentrop won't, on his own, promise a declaration of war  on the U.S. if Japan attacks first. Only Hitler can do that, and he's busy at his forward headquarters directing the attack on Moscow.

TOKYO --  The decision is reconfirmed. Despite the lack of a German promise to modify the Tripartite Pact,  the assault on the American fleet is still on. 

HONOLULU --  Radio intercept operators report a massive increase in Japanese naval communications traffic, leading Layton to report to Kimmel his speculation that the "entire Japanese Navy is being prepared for drastic action."  

WASHINGTON --  The cables go out to U.S. naval attaches in Guam, Tokyo, Peiping, Shanghai, and Tientsin to destroy codes and secret material and to report compliance in the clear with the  code word  "Jabberwock."  The fleet at Pearl Harbor is not told of all this.

In the north-central Pacific, the still radio-silent Kido Butai reaches Point C, near the dateline, and hauls right to a southeast course, putting Pearl Harbor dead ahead, 1,000 miles over the bow. 

Dangle it!

"WASHINGTON (AP) - Facing massive job losses, the White House and congressional Democrats are working to provide about $15 billion in loans to prevent Detroit's weakened auto industry from collapsing."

One  can only hope.

Dec 4, 2008

Further Economic Analysis -- Drive 'n' Shoot


As of the time the Mr. Coffee wheezed itself full today, wholesale gasoline needed to decline just 29/100ths of one cent (about the value of a Pelosi promise) to be below $1 per gallon.

And a pound of lead now trades at 45.5 cents. Keep that in mind if you're planning to buy dangerous projectiles any time soon.

Ho Ho Bang Bang


"You  have a credit balance and do not need to make a payment at this time,'" sayeth my Plastic Master.

And how.  Found money. (I over-estimated costs in pre-paying for some election travel.) As a prudent citizen and patriot  I feel compelled to get that money in circulation quickly through a wise investment. 

The most expert financial planners  are advising blue steel and walnut.  A Luddite Special, maybe in  .30-06?


Dec 3, 2008

Honorable Men

The gentlemen of Prime Minister Tojo's war cabinet meet Dec. 3  to begin drafting the 14-part message to Washington. As a matter of honor, it is to be delivered before aircraft of  carrier divisions 1 and 2 begin bombing. Respectable nations do not mount sneak attacks. The final wording makes no mention of  hostilities.

Now just  1,500 miles from Pearl Harbor, Admiral Nagumo and all his sailors curse the weather forecasters,  who had predicted smoother seas, as they steam into the worst storm of the voyage. Refueling will be impossible. On the bright side,  the foul weather will  keep American reconnaissance planes from Midway and the Aleutians far from the striking force.

In Washington,  Captain Safford again risked is career to relay to Pacific commanders that Tokyo had ordered its embassies in the Pacific region  and London to destroy their "Purple" machines --  the encrypt/decrypt devices for the most secret diplomatic traffic.  He was amidst the feud between the Office of Naval Intelligence and  the Office of Naval Communications. The turf battle turned on the issue of who was allowed to say what to fleet commanders. Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner had decreed that only he was allowed to alert fighting units to imminent danger, and he wasn't ready to do that yet. The Safford message was equivocal and without context, and Admiral Kimmel and General Short ended their day with about the same knowledge they possessed over their morning coffee.

London: Churchill continues to badger Roosevelt for an iron-clad pledge of armed asistance if Japan strikes Singapore.  Roosevelt promises  only "aid" in the event of a Jap assault on British or Dutch interests. He does not tell London about his clever little scheme of the three small boats, American flags flying, bouncing around in the Jap-infested waters between the Philippines and  Indo-China. For weeks he and the top policy echelons  have understood that war will  be politically acceptable only if Japan fires the first shot.

In downtown Honolulu, the Japanese consulate begins burning its secret files, and by nightfall the FBI discovers it.  It does not discover that a young attache there is a junior officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy who has for many weeks been blithely plotting American ship movements, including moored warships by name and precise place. He sends these plots to Tokyo via the consular code, which Pearl Harbor naval intelligence has been ordered to ignore.  Washington would tell them what they needed to know.


Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1941

In the  office of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, the intelligence reports and charts mocked the assembled brass. There was still that matter of the Japanese Aircraft carriers. 

"What! You don't know where the carriers are?" demanded Kimmel.

Commander Ed Layton, intelligence boss, said "No."  Intense radio monitoring yielded no trace of the carriers' call signs.

Kimmel asked Layton to just guess where they might be. "Maybe in the home waters, Admiral, but we really just don't know." 

"You mean to say  they could be rounding Diamond Head right now and you wouldn't know it?" 

Layton later admitted how lame his answer was: "I hope they would have been spotted before now."


In Washington, Roosevelt needed a casus belli to move Congress to  give him the war he wanted, or the one he knew he would have to fight sooner or later.   He put his speech writers to work. They were to explain why America should fight even if Japan (remember that southern assault force in the South China Sea)  attacked only British possessions in south Asia -- Malaya, Singapore,  Bruma.

And he dreamed up, or accepted from someone else, a clever little ploy. Charter three small craft. Put American naval officers aboard, crew them with mostly Filipinos, fly the Stars and Stripes, and dangle them in front of the Japanese southern attack fleet. He called it a "defensive information patrol." Admiral Thomas Hart called it bait -- the hopelesss frog on a bass fisherman's hook. But like a good officer, he obeyed his commander-in-chief. 

The Kido Butai, steaming as before, approached the  International Date Line.  Admiral Nagumo looked with satisfaction on a precise list of American men of war moored or at anchor in Pearl Harbor as of November 28. To an aide he said: "I pray that the American fleet remains thus on X-day." 

Dec 2, 2008

Gun fun

The spare mainspring housing is supposed to be on its way. Machining  a couple of grooves to take the shoulder stock will be about an hour of pleasant work.  I will then need  to prepare a brief justifying  a carbine-ized  .45ACP Model 1911 as a  legitimate sporting instrument.  

The working hypothesis is that pissing off  horrified left-wing moonbats is a legitimate sport. 


Ad valorem

Some Des Moines homeless guys built themselves homes. They don't meet the zoning decrees. The city council can't figure out a way to tax them.  Fire up the bulldozers. Plenty of bridges down there.


Dec 1, 2008

I dunno, whadda YOU think?

Monday, Dec. 1, 1941 and the band played on.  Spike Jones. 

Washington, D.C. --  Captain Arthur McCollum, head of the Far East desk for the Office of Naval Intelligence  took the results of his grueling three-day analysis of Japanese intentions to the admirals.  The Japanese are going to war, he told them. Yep, they agreed, but we pretty much knew that already.

And here in an existential moment  Captain McCollum put his career on the line with a question captains  just don't ask admirals:  "Have we told the fleet?"  They frowned and  said yep again, of course we have.

In an odd and ultimately useless  way, they had. All Pacific Ocean brass was alert to the possibility of attack on the Philippines, and the Dutch/Brit colonies  of south  Oceania and southeast Asia. And Kimmel in Hawaii had certainly been advised that the Nips were not playing nice and maybe more materiel would need to be taken from him to reinforce MacArthur in Manilla.

Admiral Stark took the McCollum report and the  admirals' views to the Oval Office where Roosevelt was sitting grumpy at having his Thanksgiving vacation cut short. He listened to his top sailor.  He said "It's all in the lap of the gods."  He called Treasury Secretary  Henry Morgenthau and told him to borrow another $1.5  billion because things "might be worse next week."

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Tojo's cabinet assembled in the Imperial Palace before Divine Emperor Hirohito. They met as a support group, confirming to one another that they had done everything possible for peace, that the November 30 deadline for ending negotiations was certainly fair, that it had passed, and that, therefore, it was just that  they declare carrier divisions 1 and 2 had passed the moral point of no return. 

In Pearl a lot of that good Navy coffee was being drunk around the clock as java-drugged officers and enlisted specialists continued to wonder where those damned carriers were. Kimmel wondered too, and tomorrow, on that subject,  he would embarrass Ed layton, the intelligence office he liked and respected. 

Kido Butai commander Nagumo was feeling better as those lost divisions steamed further eastward.  The  seas had calmed, permitting refueling. The final word from Tokyo was in hand. There would be no recall. His aide, Fujita wrote: "The radio signal for the beginning of hostilities has been received. Hawaii intelligence has begun to arrive, and now  everything is going as hoped for."

Across the world, in besieged London, sat Winston Churchill, increasingly satisfied that American food and arms would  soon be joined  by American blood in the war against Germany -- thanks to Tokyo. How much he knew of actual Japanese tactical intentions is, to this day, debated by serious men.


Personal Apology

I didn't spend a dime Friday, so stock futures are crapping out this morning.  I really must get a social conscience. Amazon?