Three Drops of Angry Ink

Three Drops of Angry Ink

Isn’t it tempting to add “…on the right, David Lee Beowulf”? Tempting, but it wouldn’t necessarily be correct. To be sure, a lot of what I have to say comes with a Right-Wing “spin” but I’m hardly a poster child for the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Which, of course, will generally be ignored by those on the left and completely understood by those already on the right, being a conservative (moi, ‘natch – I’ve always been this way, I’m not a “neo-con,” doggone it!) by no means attaches my signature to every so-called right-wing cause. For example, I like heavy metal music, okay? But I do not support Al Gore’s wife’s arch-conservative organization known as the Parents Music Resource Center. (The sound you just heard was of one hand clapping.) I do, however agree with National Review founder William F. Buckley’s opinion that drugs should be legalized and the so-called War on Drugs should be completely called off.

(A digression on timeliness: sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. There’s no shortage of commentary fodder in the news and there’s no shortage of decent commentary, either. I like to get essays out after I’ve read what both sides are saying – also, since there’s nothing new under the sun, maybe I don’t feel like saying what’s been said.)

Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve been thinking about…

The Dis-Honorable Charles Rangel

The Honorable Mr. Charles Rangel (D, NY) introduced legislation into Congress last month calling for a draft.

That is, a Democratic congressman, one from New York City, a black man, too, wants to draft young citizens into the military.

I don’t think I’ve been clear, Mr. Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War (that’s the one “M.A.S.H” takes place in), who wears the “bleeding-heart liberal” badge proudly, wants to bring back the draft.

Why? According to Mr. Rangel’s essay published in the New York Times the Sunday prior to his introducing said legislation, a national draft would deaden the “cavalier attitude” the Federal Government (i.e. “W”) has displayed towards sending our military into areas of armed conflict. That is, since everyone’s sons and daughters will be at risk, we’ll think twice about attacking this or that country.

The blogosphere thoroughly “Fisked” Rep. Rangel over this, though not entirely necessary since introducing such legislation is tantamount to committing political suicide. The man did a lot of work for his rivals, as, good grief, this dude wants to bring back the draft? Not even Reagan did that! (Don’t forget: the Republican Nixon Administration ended the draft and Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter was in office when Selective Service Registration became law.)

No American, left or right, can honestly agree with Rangel’s asinine position. First of all, a draft isn’t needed; our military has no difficulty fighting and winning wars right now. And if you want to talk about cavalierly sending troops off to battle, it was during the Clinton Administration’s turn that our military deployed to (and stayed in) more than 60 countries. Not only that, but, gee, Clinton had eight years to end the war on drugs, why didn’t he? Nevertheless, Bill Clinton, for however much he “loathed” the military, had confidence in its overall excellence and knew how to use it well. Not only that, but soldier morale was and is at a tremendous high, and as for “readiness” our military hasn’t been more ready. Ask your pals in the military (if you have any) what they think: remember they are going to fight, not you; ask ’em if they think they -on a personal level – are ready, are trained, and will not fail. Then let me ask you this, dear reader: have you ever been on a sports team with players (maybe you, even) who’ve said “we suck” before a game? Did you win despite that?

I believe, like many others – and quite a few on the “left” – that Rangel committed a tactical blunder at best and is a fool at worst. In the last several weeks, many news and commentary outlets including the Progressive Policy Institute and U.S.A. Today and some very interesting groups have and are dismantling Rangel’s pro-draft arguments. African-americans are under-represented or over-represented in the military? No. Rich white folks are under-represented? No. Etc., etc. A good, solid, objective (even!) search of the web, or better yet your library, will reveal so much info on the history and evolution of the US military with respect to race and wealth and gender that anyone who can read at a sixth grade level should easily demolish those false points. (For example: what kind of person gets into West Point? Or Annapolis? Hint: they’re not poor or stupid. Or, reflect on this: what kind of person typically serves successfully in the military? Hint: you’ve got to be a pretty good athlete for starters; it’s impossible to keep a good man down in the Army, etc. Look for yourselves, sheepeople!)

The arguments against a draft are legion and can be found easily on the web (try a search using the terms “heinlein” and “draft” for example) as are, I’m sure, the arguments against a draft for purely selfish, yellow-belly hippie chickenshit reasons. As far as I am concerned, both are right. I turned 18 in 1981 and I legally registered with Selective Service – at the Post Office- without any prodding (I wanted to register, I was a bad ass – but I didn’t join, hmmm, why not, Dave? Damn good question, wish I did join, but, alas, even though I had to register, I have four big pieces of metal keeping my left hip together; I’m 4-F), and so for the last twenty-two years I have lived with the prospect of being drafted were a draft to be instituted. (Of course, after age 37, the military will not take you, so I’m off the hook…) Strangely, I didn’t get drafted, not even in the Gulf War. Odd… I guess there were plenty of soldiers available… Let me see a show of hands of how many “young people” would proudly serve if drafted? How about how many would flee the country? What about those who would do everything possible to get out of it (assuming the possibility of deferment would exist)? OK, how many of those would join the National Guard? (Remember: Guard units are deployable and always have been.) You’re all assholes, except the Guard joiners. Regardless, Charles Rangel’s draft would probably make sure “whitey” couldn’t get out of it this time…

Anyway, let the man speak it in his own words.

According to Rangel, “I believe that if those calling for war knew their children were more likely to be required to serve – and to be placed in harm’s way – there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq…”

Shit, Chuck, maybe if the government forced everyone, upon reaching age eighteen, into “service” for two years there would be more caution and a greater willingness to not be in this country when one turned 18, you stupid shit-for-brains. In the recent past only fringe elements (mostly groups to the right of the John Birch Society) in the US were calling for “service” requirements prior to being able claim citizenship. Since when did Rangel become the voice for the Twenty-First Century Hitler Youth?

The only reason blockhead Rangel (that’s what he is) wants to reinstate the draft is so “Bush” will get the blame for all those youngsters coming home in body bags. What an asshole. Where was Rangel when Clinton sent just about every National Guard unit in the country to Kosovo? These were adults of all ages, people with jobs and families, who were all-of-a-sudden ripped from their homes and livelihoods to do what? Be a police force to crazy people halfway around the world? Where the hell was Rangel? He voted “Voted NO on disallowing the invasion of Kosovo.” that is, he “…[voted no] on an amendment to the ‘Kosovo and Southwest Asia Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act’ which would prohibit the use of funds for any invasion of Yugoslavia with U.S. ground forces except in time of war.” In other words, he had no issue with Congress spending money on invading Yugoslavia – a round-the-bend way of saying, “I’m behind Bill on this one, fire away! I don’t give a shit about Yugoslavian civilians!”

What a prick. This is the man who is willing, nay, who WANTS to sacrifice you and your children for political gain. In Charles Rangel’s America, everyone is going to be property of the country, the only way out is to “serve” – there is no choice, no future without slavery. No thank you. If you vote for a Democrat, ask yourself if they support Charles Rangel’s draft. This could be your last chance…

Lord, Protect Us From the Project Managers

Ink Nineteen Magazine is intimately related to the United States’ space program, or more specifically, to NASA. As the brainchild of Florida Institute of Technology (“Florida Tech” or “FIT” – the latter is more familial to me) students (not to mention a few non-student DJs from the school’s radio station WFIT), Ink Nineteen featured (and still features) writings on a wide variety of subjects by engineering and science professionals and students. Florida Tech’s main campus is situated in the City of Melbourne, Brevard County, Florida. As informed readers should realize, the Kennedy Space Center is located in Brevard County, roughly (depending on how one drives) 40 minutes north of Melbourne, i.e. Ink Nineteen central.

Florida Tech is a fully ABET-accredited university that grants bachelor’s through doctoral degrees. Florida Tech is one of the few American universities with a fully accredited Ocean Engineering program (<cut on U of F>not just coastal engineering </cut on U of F>) as well as the more traditional engineering disciplines like Civil, Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical, etc. FIT also has a fine, ABET-accredited Aerospace Engineering program. Engineering and science graduates from Florida Tech may be found at the forefront of the world’s science envelope; indeed, we work in the private and public sectors, in academia, in the military, and you might find a strange number of the world’s airline workers holding degrees from FIT (they’re jokingly called “propheads” – call ’em that, they like it…).

Brevard County, since it’s the home of Cape Canaveral, hosts so much high technology and appurtenant firms that it’s even caught the attention of Noam Chomsky. The military-space-coastal-industrial complex owns this part of Central Florida. Brevard also has its share of idiots, clowns, public enemies, morons, fools, and just plain worthless people.

At one time in history, a lot of rock and roll and appurtenant (that’s a great word, really appropriate…) music came through Brevard, since it’s a hop away from Orlando and $everal grand could be pulled in on an off-night after a big one in O-town.

Digression is kind of my trademark, since there’s always a tornado in my brain, so I’ll digress now, though its importance will easily be discerned. I read a book about one-man American Monty Python’s Flying Circus Ernie Kovacs a couple of months ago and here’s what he said about television when “challenged” on his position that television should provide intelligent entertainment for intelligent people – something diametrically opposed to by the sponsors:

“We can arrange it so scripts don’t have to be written. We can drop a coin in the slot or pull a lever and have a script fall out that the surveys tell us the “morons” who are our surgeons, judges, and priests should like. We can bring on the newscasts with magic-lantern slides and cartooned drawings of milk strikes so the twelve-year old idiots who pilot planes, pull teeth and build houses can understand… After the nuclear fissionists finish a long day at the lab they can watch two housewives break balloons with spatulas to win a refrigerator…”

Kovacs’ point should be pretty clear: he recognized that, hey, there might be someone in the viewing audience with some brains. After all, we can’t all be TV stars, some of us might be astronauts. (I say – but: the money is in entertainment, ‘coz the brains aren’t.)

Back to the point… Ink Nineteen Magazine came out of an environment that fit Ernie Kovacs’ vision: pretty darn smart people doing important work who happen to like rock and roll and everything in between. Even more to the point: in Ink Nineteen you, the reader, are getting opinion pieces, reviews, and interviews from people who by day happen to be engaged in, well in several cases, genuine rocket science. Back when things started, I was a graduate engineering student at FIT, Publisher Ian Koss was finishing his Computer Science degree and his wife was a professor of Computer Science. On the same note, not too few of the DJs playing, oh, Killdozer, were engineering and science students – or they were working as professional engineers and scientists on the Cape, at KSC or (here’s that word again) an appurtenant area/industry. I should also note that every NASA launch, from shuttles to rockets to whatever was clearly visible from our front yards, the FIT campus, the beach… …speaking of which, everyone out there who found tiles from Challenger turned them in, right?

With that lengthy intro out of the way and a firm establishment of Ink Nineteen’s credibility concerning technology issues, I’d like to address yesterday morning’s (I’m writing this on the afternoon of 2 February 2003) tragedy. I don’t like using the word “tragedy” unless it’s applied to Shakespeare, but the loss of Columbia was tragic…

The biographies of the seven astronauts have, appropriately, been making the rounds of all the papers and web-based news. I found, in all of them, exactly what I’d expected to find: these folks had, all their lives, wanted to be astronauts. They worked hard to reach a goal, knowing that they might never get picked for a chance at for-real astronaut duty. What kind of person becomes an astronaut? Well, being in the Air Force or Navy seems to help. It looks like you at least have to make Lieutenant Colonel (Air Force) or Commander (Navy). It helps to be a fighter pilot, too. It doesn’t hurt to have an M.D. or a Ph.D., either. How many of those do you know? Me, David Lee Beowulf, I know, personally one person who is going to pilot the shuttle – or its successor vehicle – in about ten years (he’s a USAF Captain((P) – yet?) and has the Ph.D. – AND he’s written for Ink Nineteen in the past). I know more than ten folks who work at the Cape on/in the shuttle and, now that I think about it, some of them also have a positive Ink Nineteen connection.

I am confident that you, dear reader, would agree with me that astronaut material is pretty rare. Considering that the money isn’t in being an astronaut, they deserve a awful lot of credit for not using their considerable brain talents on Wall Street or Hollywood. The world lost seven of its best and brightest and there aren’t plenty more where they came from; they aren’t a dime a dozen, either.

OK, since I’m finishing this essay on the 1st of March, this about sums it up:

Who is to blame? In 1996, NASA turned over space shuttle flight operations to the United Space Alliance, a private firm owned by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. Under pressure from the Clinton administration and Congress to cut costs, NASA had gradually shifted many responsibilities to the private sector.

• •

United Space is now considered the prime contractor for the space shuttle program and manages about a third of the program’s budget. In addition to its role as part of United Space, Bethesda-based Lockheed also provides many crucial functions, including construction of the external tank that feeds liquid propellant to the shuttle’s three main engines. It also develops the electronic systems that perform navigation, guidance and flight control for the space program and manages data collection, said spokesman Tom Jurkowsky.

• •

While NASA managers have described their contractor oversight as adequate, NASA’s Office of Inspector General disagreed. “The lack of systematic and well-documented contract surveillance is a particular area of concern,” the inspector general said in a report last June.

Blah, blah, blah. It’s the same thing in all the stories, bottom line: someone in the NASA management hierarchy is a dick. Find that person, call him a dick, and let’s get on with our lives. You know what? That’s what they’re going to do, nothing more. Part of project management is being good to yourself and that means always having someone to blame. A successful project manager has his hands in everything but his fingerprints on nothing. And that is what I’ve seen in the stories, interviews, teleconferences, e-mail transcripts, everything.

The project manager gets paid more money than a technical engineer because the work is horrible and they are the someone as in “someone has to do it.” Imagine a job where you have no control over anything except “the money” yet you are expected to be the “customer interface.” You get zero respect from those who actually make things (they don’t deserve any) yet you’re expected to know what everyone is doing. Your success depends on how well you can make yourself look concerning money being spent, schedules being met, Congressmen being calmed down and how pretty you look. The successful project manager is an excellent bullshit artist (that is an important skill, people) and looks physically good (another important skill). This doesn’t mean they’re experienced or knowledgeable in a technical field (it’s kind of expected, though) it means they are good at delivering something and making that something look as good or better than it really is, everything is a success, always declare victory. The project manager is important, don’t get me wrong, but they’re dangerous, always. No one wanted Columbia to break up, no one wanted the mission to fail, but someone with the ability to do something didn’t – maybe.

To finish, let me give you this to ponder on: the project manager is the person who leaves as early as he can because he would rather be at home with his family or doing something else other than being at his claustrophobic cubicle, dealing with the daily crap, interrupting the engineers and trying to look busy. Contrast this with the technical engineer who would rather be at work, doing that work more than anything else. The former is in charge of the latter at NASA, welcome to their world.

Protest and Survive! Protest and Survive!

I couldn’t avoid the anti-war protests – even though we know that the Ashcroftian USAKGB has “gutted the Constitution” and “stifled dissent” and “rounded up and shot all dissidents.” Strange how the US Secret Police missed the millions of protesters last week. They couldn’t have been more obvious, I mean, there were signs all over the place advertising the place, time, speakers, etc. Hell, they even applied with cops for a permit! Boy, if that wasn’t a dead giveaway… They even broadcast the speeches on the radio! I wonder where the thought police were? Strange.

Meanwhile, in the real world of the USA that is still the USA I grew up in (though YOU may have grown up in a USA that didn’t exist – one, for example, where “this is going on your permanent record” wasn’t joked about) free speech is alive and well. Pro-war and anti-war voices can be heard, though in New York City, it’s mostly anti-war, but there’s a lot of good discussion to be found on both sides.

Though the first order of business is to recognize that even though the US has been physically attacked by a foreign power, the anti-war crowd is not anti-war. I challenge anyone – other than perhaps Noam Chompsky, even him, then – to honestly prove that a war on terrorists (real terrorists as in Abu Nidal, not as in “the USA is the biggest terrorist nation” BS) is a bad thing. Each and every one of the anti-war protesters and those who couldn’t make it to the protests for whatever reasons really likes life in these United States. Some, like the Wobblies, don’t like it, but screw them, today’s college student engaging in the protests is tomorrow’s college graduate who will have a job and discover (if they haven’t already) how nice it is to live here. Avoiding a digression, the point is these protests were anti-George W. Bush only. The protesters don’t give a rat’s ass about “the children” – Iraqi or American. They don’t care about “a war for oil” (it is?) or “bodybags” (theirs, good) or globalization (it’s bad? how? I don’t think TV producers are complaining) or the politically disenfranchised in the US (prostitutes? who, exactly?) or violating some international treaty or procedures (the UN seems to be in charge, and everything that’s being done is a result of a UN resolution that Iraq signed – unless the newspapers are making something up) or anything else. (Lately it seems that the “anti-war” movement sees in the US a goal of world domination, that isn’t true, but it would be a good thing; let me see a show of hands amongst you who would prefer, say, Algeria, running the planet.) What they really care about is vocalizing a rabid, seething, almost supernatural hatred of George W. Bush. And that’s all the protests are about. As I mentioned above in the thread on Charles “Dickhead” Rangel, where were these (other than Nat Henthoff) protestors during the Clinton Administration’s military actions? Where were they when Madeline Albright showed up in North Korea, drinking champaign with Kim Jong Il? They were anywhere except in the organized anti-war movement (with the exception of dedicated Z magazine readers). Why? Well, for several reasons, one being that the economy was great (and might be now, assuming you sold your stocks at the right time and were frugal with the money, saved for a rainy day, fired your boss and worked from home, made money on the internet, learned HTML, etc. You didn’t? Bummer). Secondly, being pro-Clinton meant supporting his administration no matter what. Don’t tell me it didn’t because you know who you are and you know I’m right. The importance of keeping a unified front won out over anything else, like, for example, ending the War on Drugs – something that Clinton could have and should have done. There was also the threat of those evil Republicans doing something like bringing back feudalism and that was more important than bombing Yugoslavia into the stone age – without a U.N. Resolution no less!.

I recognized this hysterical hatred of George W. Bush early on, and while I don’t agree with it, I understand it and expect it. The “right” – a lot of times myself included – pooped out a lot of hysterical, conspiratorial tripe about Bill Clinton and his cadre. Some of it was true (at least in my case I included sources, web links and the like) – like the looming threat of national gun control laws, the establishment of a National Police Force (see Bill and Al’s book Putting People First– it’s there), the establishment of Fleetwood Mac as the National Rock Act, and a bunch of other crap. In Bush’s case, well, he and his father are kind of boring people, uninspiring, dull, etc. I don’t feel a tug at my heartstrings for them (Ronald Reagan, yes – oh shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about, I do, so grow up) so I’m not moved passionately towards defending them. I voted for them both, but there wasn’t a gush of “wow!” when I pulled the lever in their favors.

So I don’t rabidly defend Bush like some people I know (they’re slightly pathetic, too, being pro-feudalism and such) but there is an awful lot I do, in fact, like about his administration. I like most of the people he’s got in the right places (Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, et al). So you don’t? Fine, it’s a free country. Frankly, I don’t listen to the rabid Bush defenders because they are boring and have no right to gloat as often times they are WRONG – but not for the reasons you anti-Bushies would expect.

The rabid pro-Bushies argue things like the irrelevance of the United Nations, they bad mouth France too much, they’re too laissez faire – to the point of Hooverism, they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground concerning good uses of science, medicine, lots of other things – unless it has to do with their immediate commercial potential, and they’re dicks. Besides, declaring that winning by a single vote that “the mandate was clear” worked for Bill Clinton, and him alone. It won’t, should not and will not work for “W.” In Bush’s defense, he has been restrained and has been stepping lightly (he hasn’t? Hmmm, I must not be watching the right TV newscasts) – it’s his “fans” who aren’t.

OK, so there are all these protests and such. I listened to Bishop Desmond Tutu and others. War bad, peace good. Can’t go against that.

Am I for a war with Iraq? No. I am for playing chess with Iraq. I am, however, for wiping North Korea off the globe, no prisoners, nada, God will sort them out.

With that being said, I think that the right questions to ask, say, your neighbor, regard the amount of money being spent, and at the ready for spending on, a war with Iraq vs. the condition of your public schools and the starvation wages paid to teachers. Then ask yourself, and your friends, why the private citizens of the USA spend an awful lot of money, every week, on bad movies compared to the annual operating budget for your public schools. And remind yourselves that Ray Romano gets $800,000 for each episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” That’s a lot of money for someone whose product is a half-hour of marginal entertainment, isn’t it? How much does your local public library need to operate for an entire year? Did you know that Catherine Zeta-Jones has publicly stated that $1.5 million isn’t a lot of money. I guess not – at least to the Hollywood-Industrialist-Military Movie Complex.

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