Category Archives: Politics


I’ve been on an H.L. Mencken kick lately.  Somehow, the Sardonic Sage of Baltimore sums up my enthusiasm for the mob rule that is the current election process in America.   There’s no point, no winners.. Advertisements

Podcasting: Mike Duncan returns, quietly as ever!

Click me to go to the ITUNES page for REVOLUTIONS

Oh, joy! You may recall a long ago post on my appreciation for the epically long HISTORY OF ROME podcast, by Mr. Mike Duncan.   I appreciated (then and now) Mr. Duncan’s approach to podcasting, his quiet humor, his research and dedication to a simple hour long, weekly format.   I was a faithful THOR (the History of Rome) subscriber as I found the length of one episode to be conducive to stress free commuting– it was essentially the perfect length.  Apparently I’m the last to know, but Mike Duncan has returned to the podwaves (don’t wince, it seems fitting).  His new podcast, REVOLUTIONS, premiered in September 2013 and is now up to 27 episodes.  Late notice, to be sure.  I’m not exactly an authority on the latest and greatest in the podcasting niche.  Still, I’m pleased as punch.  REVOLUTIONS covers “all the great political revolutions of history” and from the episode list I’m seeing, stars with Charles II and is currently moving through the American Revolution.  The French Revolution is next.  I think it’s a great topic and I’m looking forward to listening regularly.

If you’re a past fan of THOR, you’ll want to check out REVOLUTIONS.  If you’re new to Mike Duncan’s podcasts, subscribe to both!

Revolutions Home Page

History of Rome Typepad Site

Now, I have some serious catching up to do, if I’m going to sync up with what has already been recorded.  Thanks for the notice, Duncan!

The Northern Virginia political sign game

Political SIgns

Political Signs in Northern Va.. they dot the landscape this time of year

We have a traditional game for the traditional election season political sign glut that plagues our area every other Autumn.  The challenge is to try to say the names on every  sign as you pass them doing the speed limit– and for really large signs you vamp it a bit, “jazz hands” style. Back when there was one row of signs on the dividing strip, it was hard but doable.  By late October in Virginia, every square inch of space is used with triple and even quadruple rows of signs, making the “game” a inchoate mess to behold.  When you get candidates with polysyllabic or hyphenated names, it can be hilarious. 

Observe exhibit A: Driving on Old Keene Mill Road. (MP4 file from a phone camera, will launch in another window)

What’s good for the Lottian Goose should be good for the Reidian Gander

Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid

Last week, Harry Reid acknowledged making a series of racially derogatory comments about then-Senator Barack Obama during the latter’s campaign for President in 2008.   What those comments were exactly, I have no idea.  I didn’t follow his statements during the Obama campaign.  Something about being articulate and clean if memory serves.

In 2002, then-Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott made a racially controversial comment, and Democrats asked for his resignation.  Harry Reid himself called Lott’s comments “repugnant,” while Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) described them as “disturbing and hurtful.”  Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced: “I can tell you if a Democratic leader said such a thing, they would not be allowed to keep their position.” (emphasis mine)

In short, Senator Harry Reid acknowledged a statement that contained racially charged language.  He is largely being treated with indifference by his own party, while, naturally, the RNC is attempting to make political hay out of his gaffe.  I am not surprised by either action.  The sins of yesteryear are easy to overlook, depending upon whom is in power.

As I watch Dems of all stripes, including AL SHARPTON, leap to Reid’s defense, I’m reminded of what a wise man once said about incidents like this.

“You play how you practice. If you tell ethnic jokes in the backroom, it’s that much easier to say ethnic things publicly. I’ve always practiced how I play.”

That fellow was, of course, Harry Reid himself, ca. 2002. goes political; there goes the neighborhood?

Is nothing sacred?

BGG's Attack Ad on a candidate for the Virginia Gubenatorial Race

BGG's Attack Ad on a candidate for the Virginia Gubenatorial Race

Given that I’ve been feeling a bit cynical about the political process lately in the wake of the debate on Health Reform, I admit I am not in the slightest bit objective when it comes to certain issues. I’m a raging moderate– there, I’ve gone and labeled myself. Politics is a lot of posturing and diatribe and publicity seeking. Case in point, the Congressman from South Carolina who recently shouted “You Lie” at the President during his Health Care address to the joint session– now being lionized by one extreme faction and I’m sure his political donations just took a giant spike. “Oh well, self” I say to myself, “that’s politics..” I think I’m like a lot of people who have separate categories for elements of their life.. politics, professional work, education, spiritualism, hobbies and entertainment. I like them to stay in their neat little mental categories. I don’t like having them mixed all together. It makes me angry.

That’s why I was shocked, to say the least, to see has taken to running political attack advertisements now, like any TV network with an agenda. What is Boardgamegeek, you might ask? Boardgamegeek, or BGG as we game nerds like to call it, is clearinghouse for all information about the hobby of boardgaming that you could possibly think of.. variants, editions, translations, collection management, forums, ‘geeklists’, game trading, and even online boardgames are all possible using BGG. Scott Alden and Derk Solko have been running the site for several years– long enough to see it grow from being just a hobby site to a profitable commercial enterprise for both of them. Longtime readers of this journal probably already have deduced that I might hold this site in high esteem. BGG’s near iconic status with the boardgame hobby might have raised our expectations of objectivity. To be absolutely fair to Mr. Solko and Mr. Alden, perhaps this decision was motivated by a purely commercial motive (it was). Still, if it was an economic choice to run political attack ads, it might prove to be a poorly thought out one. BGG will certainly raise eyebrows from one side or the other, eventually. I have to add my own caveats to this commentary. I hail from the state that the attack ad is aimed at. Perhaps, my profile is set so only people from MY state can see the advertisement– no big surprise there.. This is why I attached a screen shot. However, I do not belong to either the party of the candidate the ad is aimed at, nor the party that (likely) paid for the ad. I am merely expressing my opinion of the matter, which is that I find the choice for a hobby site taking a political stand like this to be disappointing. I don’t come to for political commentary, I come to geek out about boardgames.

Vertical attack ad run by
Vertical attack ad run by

I’m just one customer of course, and BGG has millions of them. Maybe this is just part of the business model that pays for the site. Who am I to judge? It takes a lot of revenue to keep BGG running.  I’m aware that it sounds naive to put a spin on what might be a decision motivated entirely by dollars– in which case, I look forward to seeing BGG run attack ads for the other party, too.  BGG will get twice the revenue, but it will still look bad– I’d rather see NONE of this garbage on BGG.

Immediate Amendment to clarify above rant

Since this blog feeds, I got an almost immediate response from Derk Solko, who was online at the time.  He says:

“Um, where’s the benefit of the doubt..? We run ads from Google Adsense. We can only react to ads that are controversial… Would it be easier to just ask me about this rather than post something like this..?”

After a little research into what Adsense is: Google Adsense works by developing contextually based advertisement banners that get placed somewhere in your website’s layout.  Usually the top and left or right sides.   “Context” is developed by tracking valid clicks, impressions, time on page, etc.  That information is used to display targeted ads on the website and earn from valid clicks or impressions, or from what is being searched on on the website.  The implication, as I had deduced above, is that somehow Adsense knows that I hail from the same state as the campaign with the attack ads– I presume by reading my address somewhere in BGG’s profile information.  I’m… er.. reassured that BGG doesn’t have as much selective control over the process as I thought when I started this post.. but now I’m wondering how Adsense picked up on that I live where I do?

Inaugration Day 2009, the Mall

Park Police photograph of the crowd conditions on the mall for the Obama inauguration.

Click to enlarge.

The bailout now costs more than anything else ever.

There’s not much I like more than a good info graphic. With words like “billions” & “trillions” crowding the headlines lately, this one puts thing in perspective. And that’s not a misrepresentation, either, but a rather conservative look.

read more | digg story

Okay, if you’re impatient, THIS is the juicy information graphic this post pertains to..

George Washington’s Farewell Address for a new millenium


I don’t like quoting something I find on another guy’s blog verbatim, but this post was so well done it really needs repeating– and since it is published under a creative commons license I don’t feel no shame…

XKCD is a web comic that features stick figures interacting with each other, normally. It’s pretty funny stuff, dwelling on science, politics, society, and other whimsical comic fodder. Here’s an example.

The author, Randall Monroe, was in a whimsical mood recently and looked up George Washington’s published farewell address and started reading it. Then he decided to translate it into modern idiomatic phrasing. The result is powerful, clean, and almost spooky in a modern framework. Props to Mr. Monroe, this is a hell of an effort.

A Bastardization of George Washington’s Farewell Address


Elections are coming up, and it’s time to figure out who we wanna give the keys to. I figure it might clear things up if I take a sec to explain why I’m not running.

Now, I care about the future, don’t get me wrong, and thanks for your trust so far. I just think me quitting is a good idea on all counts.

I’ve been president twice now, and I didn’t want to do it either time. I tried to quit the first time, but the country was in trouble and every single person around me begged me to stay on.

I’m glad to say we’re pretty much in the clear now and I can get out of here without getting screamed at or letting things fall apart completely.

I told you when I started what I thought of the job. All I’m gonna say is that I did my best to set up the government right, but the more I do this the more I realize how dumb I am, and so maybe it’s okay if I let someone else take over.

Before I go I’ve gotta thank y’all, for the awards and honors and stuff but more importantly for your supporting my projects to try to make everything right, even if they didn’t always turn out quite as well as I hoped. Remember, it’s hard to tell how things will turn out when people get all fired up, so thanks for sticking by me even when everything was going to hell. Y’all get the credit for anything good that came out of it, and by God you’d better keep taking good care of the Constitution and the lives of the folks who live here. As long as you do, we’ll be a pretty kickass country and the other guys will start noticing us.

I should shut up, but I care about you guys, so there’s some more stuff to cover. I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ve got a few things to say. You know I ain’t biased ’cause all I want is to leave, so you might wanna listen up.

Now, you all love freedom enough that no one thing here is too important.

You’re all happy that the government’s so together and unified on everything (and you should be — it’s why everything’s so good), but it ain’t always gonna be this way. All sorts of folks from both here and elsewhere are gonna try to divide it, make you lose faith in it, so please don’t sell this whole America thing short. Make it your top priority and don’t ever get in a mindset where you can let ANYTHING divide you.

You’ve gotta be Americans before all else. You’re for the most part the same religion and culture, and you’ve got the same goals, and you’ve only got what you do because you all worked together.

But even though this sounds good, when it comes to crunch time it’s easy to forget that in favor of stuff that seems more immediately important than sticking together.

The North and the South, as equals, help each other. The South gets machines and junk from the North, the North gets crops from the South. Also, the South’s got some nice boats which go out and fetch stuff we need from time to time. You’ve got a similar situation with the East and the West. The East supplies the West with what it needs, and the West gets a market for its crap as well as — once we get a navy in gear — protection on the Atlantic side. There’s really no way they could safely do what they’re doing without the folks to the East.

So, we all need each other and we’re all stronger when we’re together. Being a family also means we can get along a little better, unlike certain countries I might name who aren’t so well unified. This makes us stronger and protects our freedom, and if you wanna keep protecting it you’d better get along.

It should be obvious here that we should all try to keep ourselves together. Sure, it’s a big country, and we’re not sure if we can keep it all together, but what the hell? Let’s give it a shot and find out. It’d be stupid to call it off because we’re not sure if it’ll work. Since it’s obvious how much we have to gain from keeping ourselves together, we can safely say that anyone who tries to divide us, anywhere, hates America.

Let’s think about where those splits might come from. The big one is geography. North and South, Atlantic and West, people are gonna try to emphasize the differences. They’re gonna lie about what the other side wants, and they’ll try to make you hate each other when you should all be brothers. You saw just a bit ago how some folks were trying to stir up suspicion out West that we were trying to pull one over on them with the whole Mississippi thing, but you saw how thanks to Congress dealing with Spain and England they got everything they wanted in the end. So maybe they won’t be so quick to talk about jumping ship next time.

Government’s important, and it’s not always easy to stay together. You’ve figured this out, and that’s why you ditched the last idea and came up with this Constitution. We went over it all carefully, big and small, and it’s definitely something we can trust (we can even amend it if necessary!). Give it some credit, and if you disagree, change it — don’t just disobey. Otherwise it just screws things up.

Getting in the way of the law for the sake of power plays similarly screws things up. Playing that game creates groups just looking out for themselves, turning crazy splinter groups into a powerful force. Let this get too bad and you’ll probably have the country tossed back and forth wildly as the various parties with their pet issues fight for power, rather than nice, consensual, unified government.

Parties are probably gonna look like they’re helping with one popular issue or another, so you’re gonna want support them, but I bet the guys in charge of them will just turn out to be power-hungry assholes who want to run everything.

To keep things going nicely, quit fighting with the government and be careful with letting folk amend the Constitution to weaken it. Just, in general, give it all time and see how it works out before being quick to judge. It’s a big country and we can’t keep everyone safe without a little centralization.

I just said that parties are no good, particularly regional ones. But lemme go a step further and say ALL parties are a bad idea.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty much human nature to gather into little factions like this. It’s worst in the freeest countries, and they suffer because of it.

Control goes back and forth between one party and another, and they just get more and more pissed, and we’ve seen that get really bad in the past. But it also leads to terrible, controlling government and general suckage. This gets the people more angry, they get behind one party leader or another, and that guy just takes that support and does whatever he wants, screwing up the country.

I’m not talking about anyone in particular here, but this isn’t necessarially too far off, and it’s always gonna be a threat, so keep an eye out.

This division distracts us, enfeebles the government, it gets everyone riled up with jealousy and false alarms, it pits us against each other, and eventually creates riots and stuff. It also opens the door to other countries getting a hand in our system, since they can reach in through the party structure, and then we just become their puppets.

Now, there’s the idea that the parties are important to defend freedom and put the government in its place. That might even be true sometimes; when you’ve got a real Nazi in charge, you can afford to rally behind a party, but you shouldn’t like it, and you should dump it ASAP. And there’s always gonna be a feeling of opposition to whatever the government is, so be sure you know what you’re doing before getting all partisan, and be very careful to know when to drop it so you don’t just make the problem worse.

Also, make very sure that you keep all your politicians in their place. There’s this tendency to let all the power shift into one office, which inevitably creates tyranny (just look at human nature and how much we love power). If you just divide up the power, and get everyone to watch everyone else, we’ve seen both in the past and right here at home that things will work out pretty well. And if you think the powers aren’t laid out right, just go ahead and amend the Constitution. But be careful, because that’s an easy way to destroy everything. Make sure you’re not switching to something that, no matter how good it is for now, sucks in the long term.

Now, religion and morality are vital here, and it’s silly to say that patriotism could ever be more important than those. Politicians need to be pious and respectful folk; it would take forever to list all the ways that being a good politician is tied to being moral and religious. All you need to do is ask — without religion, how can we trust anyone who swears an oath? And be awfully careful before suggesting that we can be moral without religion. There’s a lot of philosophical junk out there, but the bottom line is we can’t possibly suggest that we can keep our morals as a country without religion.

So, virtue is the root of Government. So anyone who screws with the basis of the government is obviously a bad guy.

Make education of everyone a high priority, because the government will only be as smart as the average people are.

Public credit’s important too. Don’t run up debts during peacetime so you can afford to draw on them when there’s a problem — and then pay them back ASAP. This is the job of the politicians, but the people need to keep them in line. And remember, to pay debts you need cash, and you have to get the cash from somewhere, and there’s no way to do that which people will like. It’s a tough issue with no easy answer, so try to have a good attitude and pay up when necessary.

Try to stay at peace with everyone. Religion and basic decency both say to do this, so it should be a no-brainer. It might even turn out that God arranged it so if we’re nice to everyone, we’re better off in the end. Wouldn’t that be sweet? It sucks, though, that we tend to be jerks sometimes.

It’ll help a lot if you can avoid permanent rivalries and permanent alliances. Just try to get along with everyone when you can. Otherwise, you’re a slave to your policy, which may take you somewhere bad when the situation changes. Constantly being enemies with a particular country makes you stupid and reactive, and can even lead you to war when you really don’t need to. The government gets all involved in this, and one way or another it turns out badly. Permanent alliances are bad too, because they makes you give stuff up when you shouldn’t, cause jealousy, and divide loyalties of your own citizens, often with pretty bad results.

The idea of this kind of alliance should scare any real American because it lets foreign countries meddle with us. And remember, if a weak little nation (us) gets too attached to a big strong nation (anyone else) you know we’ll be stuck in that arrangement forever.

Now, foreign meddling is one of the worst threats around, and you should be constantly paranoid about it. But be careful to be fair and sensible about it, otherwise you’ll get so focused on one country or another that you slip into alliances with other countries. And then, like I said, you turn into tools.

The most important thing about commercial trade is to avoid getting politically tangled. We’ve obviously gotta keep the promises we’ve made, but in the future let’s try not to make new ones.

Europe has a whole lot of issues that don’t mean a thing to us. So they’re gonna be fighting, and we need to make sure not to get involved with the folks on either side. We might make some nasty enemies we don’t need to.

Since we’re out here across the Atlantic, we get to do our own thing. And if we just keep it together for a little while, we might be strong enough to stand up for ourselves. And if we’re tough enough, other countries won’t want to start anything, so the choice of whether to go to war or keep the peace will be up to us.

And why give up this great situation? Why give up our country just so we can live in someone else’s? Seriously — why get involved in Europe’s squabbles?

So, we’ve gotta avoid permanent alliances. We can’t break the promises we’ve already made — the government has to be honest just like anyone — but we don’t need to make more and we don’t need to actively make the current ones longer.

(Now, as long as we’re fighting a defensive war, alliances are okay in emergencies.)

In the same way that we should be politically friendly and stay on good and fair terms with everyone, we should be fair and open financially too. Just let everything go as it will without being biased. Let natural trade routes open up, and don’t try to mess around with the whole thing one way or another. Just keep and enforce the laws on trade and traders, and keep them flexible enough to change as the situation changes — always keeping an eye out for those foreign meddling. Never get used to paying one country or another, and never get used to expecting them to pay you.

I like you all. We’re friends. I’m not gonna hope that you’ll actually remember all this for long, but I can hope that every now and then people will look back on what I said and use it to calm down a crazy political party, remind us not to get tied up with other countries, or to try to expose phoney patriots. That’s the only payment I need — the hope that in return for my looking after you, you’ll look after yourselves.

You can look at my record. In my years in charge I’ve done my best to follow all the ideas laid out in this message.

Oh, and about the war still going on in Europe right now — check out what I said on 4/22/1793. It’s the outline of my principles on the subject, which I have followed as closely as I possibly could.

I gave it a lot of thought, decided that we could stay neutral, and then took reasonable steps to make sure that’s what happened.

You know, if you just look at basic common decency it should be pretty obvious what a good idea neutrality is.

As to the reasons it’s a good idea, you can probably come up with plenty on your own. For me, the main thing has been that we’re a pretty new country, just trying to get settled, and we don’t wanna interrupt that with war right away.

Now, I can’t think of anything I knowingly screwed up over the last eight years. But I’m sure I’ve made mistakes, and I pray that God helps to repair any harm they caused. And I hope that you’re understanding about them. I’ve spent 45 years working really hard for this country, and I hope that you won’t be too hard on my incompetences once I’m gone.

Speaking of being gone, I am really looking forward to this retirement. And I’m especially looking forward to retiring to live in a peaceful, free country of good laws under a good government — a government which is a good reward for our shared hardship, work, and love

Beer banning, say it isn’t so!

Only in America

It’s not the most appealing brand name for a beer, but by God, I’ll fight to the death for them to use it!!!

CBS4) BELCHERTOWN, MA The state of Connecticut is banning sales of a couple holiday beers with Santa on the label.

“Seriously Bad Elf” beer is a British import, that’s distributed by a company in Belchertown, Massachusetts. Its label shows an elf with a slingshot firing Christmas ornaments at Santa’s sleigh.

“Warm Welcome” is another beer distributed by Shelton Brothers. Its label features an image of Santa dropping down a chimney into a fire.

Connecticut state regulations bar alcohol advertising with images, like Santa, that might appeal to children.

The beer’s distributor, Shelton Brothers, has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in fighting the ban.

Dan Shelton says his company had no such problems when it sold Bad Elf and Very Bad Elf in previous years. It sells the beer in 30 other states and none have complained.

“We even had a beer called Santa’s Butt last year,” Shelton said. “They didn’t notice Santa’s Butt, but they notice this one. How can you miss that big red thing? Minors are not going to be looking to buy beer because Santa Claus is on the label.”

“Seriously Bad Elf” goes on sale in Boston next week.

They’ll be coming for our guns next, mark my words.

If you enjoy laughing at dictators..

and I know I do, check out ROCK, PAPER, SADDAM!

click on the picture to procede.

If you enjoy laughing at dictators..

and I know I do, check out ROCK, PAPER, SADDAM!

click on the picture to procede.

Feel safe in your beds tonight!

Just in from Howard

… Whitehouse, that is.

I’ve been dealing with the fine upstanding individuals that examine passports of people entering the US for more than 25 years. A significant number of them are idiots.

Yesterday Lori was at the wheel when we crossed from Ontario into the States at Lewiston. We’d been in Toronto for a week of me shamelessly huckstering my book and Lori starting on her rather more academically challenging book.

It’s a young guard – sorry, official – in a snazzy woolly hat for the Buffalo area winter that apparently starts mid October.

Guard: “What are your nationalities?”

Lori: “I’m American, my husband is British.”

Guard: “Does he speak English?”

Myself: “Quite a bit, actually.” I am trying not to laugh. They don’t like it when you laugh.

Lori: “Ah, Britain is where English comes from.” Her generally very competent straight face is slipping.

I foresee the car being dismantled by minions of Homeland Security, possibly while a busload of terrorists marked ‘Ottawa Al-Qaida’ gets a cursory look over as elite specialists take apart my dirty washing, a big bag of old RAFM gaming figures and about $300 in used books (Canada’s the place to buy second hand books)

Guard (possibly realizing his stupidity): “I have to hear him talk for himself!”

Myself: “Quite correct officer!” I almost salute.

We pass into New York, Lori grumbling, myself wishing I’d been smuggling in some Cuban cigars – the ones you can’t bring in legally, and are thus sold from kiosks a half mile inside Canada, doubtless for the American who wants to smoke ten of them before he reaches the border. I don’t smoke, but I shoulda done it anyway. H

Don’t you feel secure now? Sleep well in your beds, tonight, America!

See you at Fall In, Howard.

Who knew W was such a great singer?


It will never be 9-12 again

A Eulogy for a more Innocent Time

Having watched the national (hell, international) orgy of self-pity, doubt and sorrow that is the 5th anniversary of “The big event” or “the day” or simply “nineleven” nowadays, I can’t help but reflect on how badly we’re departing from reality and engaging in wholesale iconography. Especially with that trite old phrase, “A Hero of 9-11“.

With your kind forbearance, I’ll deliver up some cold reality, in personalized fashion. This happened to me. It’s a long story, not very funny, not laden with cheap heroics, but it is interesting. I promise you that.

Besides, as I get older, I feel the need to write some of this down. I will soon forget parts of it, and the amateur historian in me would consider that a sin.

I am what is called a Beltway Bandit by way of a profession, a techno-slave to the military industrial complex. Not the most exciting existence, but @#$#@ it, they’re educating me and paying my mortgage and feeding my children. I’m going flog that donkey until it stops walking (especially in this economy).

Five years ago, I played occasional mother hen to a couple of servers, breaking up my week into two days at the Pentagon in the Dungeon, my term for the little-seen lower level of the Pentagram. It’s truly hideous, decorated in Cold War 1950s fashion… Mustard yellow wallpaper (highly textured) that is peeling off in places, like that hotel in the movie Barton Fink. Most of the bigger servers are there) and the rest of my time spent in Crystal City, a cluster of office buildings around National Airport. Nowadays, I go over to the Pentagon about once in a blue moon. And that’s the way I like it.

Flash to 9/11/2001. I’ll try to maintain real-time tense here, because many things are happening at the same time in the following paragraphs, and I’m starting to fuzz up slightly about how it all fits together. So I will report what I saw, what I know happened, or what people I know and trust have seen.

I’m on a VRE (Virginia railway Express) train pulling into the station. I fold my paper and toss my coffee cup. I am very late. Harry, the gentleman friend my mother-in-law had taken up with as her beau after my father in law passed away, usually is as punctual as Big Ben. My son, Garrett, is too young for school and Harry and my mother-in-law picked him up to take care of him four days a week. Today of all days possible, Harry has slept in beyond his standard 6AM in the morning, and they don’t get to my house until I am at the point where I could only catch the next to last train from my home station. Since they do this service out of the kindness of their hearts, I say nothing and bundle Garrett into his car seat and drive off to the train station at top speed. I am mildly miffed now, but I will have reason to thank Harry later on today.

As I step off the train, the most significant terrorist action in recorded history has just transpired, and neither I, nor anyone near me, has the slightest inkling of it. The train was slow coming in to the station, but there has been no announcement about it over the Train’s PA system. I have a cell phone with me (my first) but nobody has called about it. Perhaps some of the passengers around me have been called about it, but there is no indication that something truly monumental has occurred (you couldn’t transmit news services over the phone back then like you can now– or at least not cheaply)

By now, Building 1 has been burning for almost an hour. My work colleague, Sweeney, has been annihilated when the plane he was traveling on smashed into Building 2. He was at a big jovial (and lengthy) lunch at Don Pablos South of Crystal City the month before. Ironically, I recall having a debate about the notion of “justice versus vengeance” with another colleague during the lunch, which grew rather heated (cuz I’m such a bleeding heart, you see). I don’t recall if he had anything to add to it. Also: a friend of mine  in Building 1 has been killed almost instantly when Sweeney’s plane hit. All this I am ignorant of at this moment, and wouldn’t learn until days or even weeks later.

Normally I would stop at the little bakery I usually stop at when I go to the Pentagon, buy my usual bigass coffee and sticky bun, and yuck it up for a second with the “barista”. Her son will be graduating from one of those technical ‘academies’ soon and wants a job. I was going to promise to flog his resume for him.

All that is in disarray. My comfortable morning is now quite rushed.

I **should** be poking my head into my client’s offices before heading down to the Dungeon for the morning grind. No time for that now. Julian, a co-worker, is already onsite and showing the corporate flag in a different office. I hardly know Julian at all, but the clients like him. His wife is pregnant. They have been trying to have a baby for months now and she hasn’t found out yet and won’t know for certain for a couple more weeks yet.

It’s **got** to be about 930ish or so.. Maybe later, because the train was slow. I wasn’t looking at my watch, and I have never attempted to synch what I remember up with the published timelines of this event– something tells me I must have delayed a bit, probably to get money out of the bank. Now I’m on a bus that I caught at the Harris building, which is down the street from where my commuter train drops me off. I daydream on the bus a bit, looking at the newspaper. I forget what the headline was for that day.

My friend Mike, in charge of legacy network operations in the dungeon, is staring with sick dread at the live feed from CNN being piped down to the TV monitors. One of the World Trade Center buildings has just been struck by a jet plane, and it is burning from the inside out. Most of the crew from the Dungeon server room are clustered around the TV monitors. Mike is sipping coffee and staring in numb shock as the events enfold over the television.

“What’s up? What’s the matter?”
“Something happen in New York! It’s on the TV!”
“Well, what?”
“A plane crash into de World Trade towers”

(that’s almost a literal translation– the folks that work in server rooms are a colorful bunch)

Julian is sitting down in a small conference room, somewhere on the 5th floor. I can’t recall exactly where. After all these years, I still can’t navigate the Pentagram easily. He has a staff meeting today, with military, civilian govvies and contractors present. No big deal. There’s no way of knowing what was said, but the topic of discussion has to be pretty obvious in retrospect.

For the first time that day, I hear about the major terrorist attacks on the WTC towers from overhearing discussion on the bus. I interrupt, probably rudely, wanting to know if it was an accident. I have many NYC friends– my cousin Danny and his wife, my friend Allan R., etc. and it dawns on me that I ** might ** know people that work in the WTC. What building?? The bus moves around the corner of Eads, passing under route 1. I’m totally shocked by the news.

Down in the server room of the Dungeon, The buzz is already growing on TV that it was a deliberate act… Mike sips his coffee and watch the headlines for a while longer.

It’s now 940ish, as the bus continues up Army-Navy drive. I talk with some of the other people on the bus, the conversational tone is loud and energized. We wonder how or why this could have happened. We’re incredulous and awe-struck. Many of them arrive early enough to have caught a lot of what had transpired on CNN, and they relay to me the sick sense of helplessness as they watched the monitors:

“What was THAT? What the Fuck was that?”
“The plane hit the building..”
“was that a rerun of earlier?”
“No, that wasn’t shown… is this new?”

They are describing how they had just seen THE OTHER plane hit THE OTHER building. It feels so distant, in this bus full of high-tech, sinecured white collar and military commuters, shuttling over to the Pentagon, Yet it easy to sense we are all now very nervous people, with this stuff that is happening far away from here. I feel like my world is crumbling. People being what they are, there is already talk about DC being “hit”.. the White House is evacuating, etc. “Horseshit” thinks I… “We’re small potatoes”

Mike leans back in his chair, with his feet up, not doing much, just watching the story unfold on CNN. The chair is broken. The server room is very quiet, contrasting to the volume on the TV, which is way high. The TV people are having a field day– rumors of attacks on Washington, a plan is hurtling towards the White House (yes, they said that. I saw it later) or the Capital. Unconfirmed statements of another hijacking, maybe two (I don’t remember the exact sequence of what happened– I wasn’t in front of a TV set at the time).

A big, deadly Something is heading our way that is going to change things around here forever, and we don’t have the slightest idea.

I’d like to say I had a grandstand seat for what happened next. In all honesty, I had a crappy seat. We emerge from the tunnel under 395 and proceed up the left hand side of the South Parking lot. At this point, all the security baffles and concrete barriers do not exist. The new bus center hasn’t been built yet. The new visitor center doesn’t exist. At this point, busses go to the bus drop off point on the South Parking side of the Pentagon.

So we were pointed in the right direction, but much of what happened next was blocked by the bulk of the Pentagon itself. I heard this: “LOOOOOK!” then “OH MY GOD!” and “Oh no!”. Since I was sitting on the far edge of the bus, I leaned over quickly to look out the left window. I saw: a big silvery shape descending at a steep angle from direction of Arlington Ridge. It went behind the edge of the Pentagon and a horribly loud BOOOOOOOOOOOOM! sound could be heard immediately afterward.

When the impact happened, it wasn’t like what you’d expect. No Star Trek stuff, nobody hurled from their seats where I was. Mike was leaning back in that broken chair and the loud noise totally startled him, causing him to fall backward, spilling hot joe on his shirtfront and to curse like a sailor… F*CK! What was that? We felt the impact in the parking lot, through the bus frame itself, but not like an earthquake.

Loud sounds aren’t uncommon at the Pentagon. The renovation project, which seems like such a pain in the ass (and would, later, turn out to have saved the lives of several people I know), causes a lot of jackhammering, banging, dropping, cursing, yelling, smashing and such to be audible even down where we are. It’s part of a busy background of noise. Also, the Computer Room that I usually worked in is against the loading dock, and the Pentagon is a very busy building, with lots of loading and unloading noises… bangs, thumps, dumpster lids dropping,

This isn’t like those noises. It is a hugely loud BAAAAAANNNNG-BOOOOOOOOOOOOM, followed by a hissing sound, then lots of secondary smashing noises. The building shudders, but didn’t collapse. Section A collapses, being literally blown into molten magma by all that jet fuel igniting, but I can’t see this. I’m on the other side of the parking lot, and I heard the sound and (as I said) felt a slight impact. Immediately the noise level goes through the roof. I hear it far better outside than I ever could have inside.

The bus stops. Traffic stops. The driver leans out, we are all craning our necks to get a better look but the angle sucks. There’s a giant (and I mean giant!) fireball arcing above the Pentagon. Very quickly indeed. There’s some screaming around me but I tune it out– I felt, for an absurd second, that a nuclear missile had struck. The driver pulls over to the sidewalk. We all exit in fair reasonably orderly fashion, considering the circumstances.

Section A is at this point crashing to the ground and a giant dust and smoke cloud rises up. Julian is crushed almost instantaneously. He will never find out about the baby, not in this world.

I remember hearing a strange alarm going off, one I’ve never heard before, unlike fire drills. People are exiting the Pentagon, but the panic isn’t setting in yet. Even with a huge sound, crash, shake and fire, parts of the building are still very confused and don’t know what’s going on.

Down in the server room, they hear an alarm, then CNN shows the TV announcement that Pentagon had been hit. The folks in the server room realize,.. “hey, this is US… We’re in a burning building!”

“Time to leave, maybe…”

Still, people in the basement are reluctant. There’s a general alarm going off, and they felt the noise and vibration, but nobody knows anything yet. Worse, they don’t know who to call. At this moment, the freight door (which takes up an entire wall) opens up (which is rarely seen unless a big delivery is happening… It’s a huge breach in security). And in pour several of those fat rent-a-cops, brandishing rented authority.


And so Mike and the server crowd calmly walk out the freight door, onto the loading dock, and leave by a side entrance used for deliveries. In his words: This building was like a rock. We felt it shake, and we heard the noise, but the lights stayed on, and the power didn’t even go out. (all this was told to me weeks later)

Outside, I hear Fire engine sirens, dimly at first, then lots and lots and lots of them, and helicopters, and engine sounds. A quick response! Thank God. Someone who can take charge. It’s like hell out here. A giant, and I mean GIANT cloud is funneling straight up from the far side of the building, as tall as the
office buildings in Rosslyn. Helicopters are circling. And coming down Arlington Ridge on Columbia Pike and all directions, a phalanx of volunteer fire departments from all over. Response is damned good. Military Policemen are now armed, with machine guns, moving traffic to a safe zone as far from the flaming side of the building as possible.

We can still see the fireball, although it’s diminishing, it’s hard to ignore. And the smoke cloud is amazing. I was once saw footage of a Paris air show, in years gone by, when a Soviet airplane of some type crashed. There’s only one substance that makes a cloud like that– jet fuel. This cloud made the Russian plane look diminutive.

All around me people are wailing helplessly as we get herded under the tunnel under 395. People are covered with a gritty gray ash that is floating in the air like a powder. I had forgotten about all the gray floatie stuff in the air until I heard Greta Susteren’s account yesterday on CNN’s

Much MUCH later, I talked with someone who was outside when it happened. She saw the plane approach about 30 feet off the ground without wheels down. She saw it hit A wedge and ducked behind a car when the fireball went up. We were oblivious to that, and never saw any bit of the plane after the crash.

Back to me.

I’m dazed now. What do I do now? Numbly we watch the fire. My office at Crystal City is a ways away, but it seems like the thing to do is go there. I must have been looking at the fire for more than an hour, since it feels later in the day now. I trudge over to CC. I hate walking a long way in these shoes.. shit!

I pull into the office… and check in with my boss. They are actually almost overjoyed to see me– one of the nicest compliments I’ve received in a while. I didn’t know, yet, that another friend wouldn’t be walking back from the Pentagon that day, Julian remains unaccounted for. We wouldn’t find out for a day. I call several people I know in New York city, and (thankfully) most of them answer and reassure me they are alive. The phones are not working very well.

Crystal City, which is right next to the airport (National, now Ronald Reagan) is becoming a police zone. Arlington Cops are crowding the bottom of the off ramp to the airport, turning cars away. One of them brandishes an Uzi theatrically.

And the little grey floaties are in the air…

My boss having no objections, I call it a day. The metro line is impossible. The train is not running, so I walk south to Kings Street station in Old Town. My feet hurt now. I take the Yellow line to my mother in laws, and she meets me at Huntington Station to give me a ride home. I finally get through to my wife,
the Lady Hotspur. She’s hysterical with worry and grief, not having heard from me in a while. I apologize. I had been caught up in the moment.

My Mom in Law drops me off with Garrett (my son) and we finally end up home.. Lady Hotspur grabs me and holds me for a long while. Silently, I cry in her shoulder a bit, for the first time that day. It’s good to be home. I find that I’m now very, very, very tired… like I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s probably the after effect of no food, lots of adrenaline, and shock. I go to bed, still smelling vaguely of smoke and aviation fuel. I sleep until the next day, never catching the fall of the twin towers on TV, the aftermath, the commentary, the speeches, the demonstrations. It had been a long day.

The next day I wake up to a call from Captain Aland (now retired) my boss in the Navy. We have a brief conversation.

“(Nizz’s real name), the word is for non-essential employees to stay home.”
“Okay, sir.”
“Consider yourself non-essential today. We’ll pick up the pieces tomorrow.”
“Thank you, sir.”

I take the spawn of MrNizz to the park after breakfast. They, too, have the day off. We go to a giant playground area where they laugh and whoop it up. If they wonder about why dad is wearing dark shades on a day like today, or why his hands are shaking so much, they don’t say anything. They have that kind of wisdom.

Meanwhile, Dad is muttering to himself, again and again.. “Alive. Yessir, Daddy’s alive today…”

So that’s my 9/11 story. It’s still a painful anniversary for me, I don’t talk about it much, not because I personally witnessed horror (not much, anyway), but because of absent friends– in one of the towers, in the Pentagon, and on one of the planes. In the aftermath, I’ve shaken off a resulting depression that manifested itself as migraines and a feeling of lasitude. I couldn’t watch footage for a long while without getting queasy. It’s better now. One thing that doesn’t go away is my contempt for the way we treat this episode.

People who died in the Towers, the Pentagon, and elsewhere weren’t heroes. They were victims. Victims of terrorism, plain and simple. Heroism implies choice. The decision to put yourself, your physical safety, on the line. The firefighters who went in when they knew it could be a death sentence, they were heroes. The Cops, the MPs, even those Rent-a-cops at the Pentagon are heroes. Folks like my brother in law, who has to run a burial unit as a collateral duty in the National Guard, and therefore worked body recovery (bagging and tagging) at the Pentagon (while it was still burning in spots) are heroes. Don’t tell him I said that. The SEAL teams and Rangers and SF guys who went to Afghanistan are heroes. The Grunts who fight terrorists EVERY DAMNED DAY are heroes.

I’m no hero. Nor was Julian, or Mike, or Moose or anybody I knew that died. Given a choice, they’d rather be here drinking a beer and eating Nachos with me at Don Pablos and anybody who complains can shove the heroism bit up their ass. Honor the dead, succor the living. And every one of them would agree with me.

I might add, I didn’t feel any compunction to leap into the flames and save old ladies or infants or anything. There were professionals doing that. I wanted to do something useful, but there wasn’t much to do. So I went home. And that’s the way it was for about 90% of everyone that was there, and that’s the truth.

I’ll never forget that day, of course– I remain on the little hill on the far side of the Pentagon South parking lot, watching hordes of office workers, miltary personnel and service workers streaming across the parking lot at top speed with the smoke and grey floaties behind them. Someday, somehow, 9-12 will come again. Thanks for reading.

Pretty White Women Get Off Scott Free…

bullet rocket

A Dirty Rapist Goes Free

As my previous post might indicate, young Mrs. Lafave disgusts me. In a recent development, she was let off the hook from doing any jail time at all:

Charges dropped in teacher sex case

OCALA, Fla. – Prosecutors are dropping the latest charges against Debra LaFave, the Florida school teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student, WESH-TV, NBC’s Orlando affiliate, reported Tuesday.

The decision came just hours after a judge in Marion County rejected a second plea deal in the case, saying “Quite frankly, if the allegations against the defendant are true, the agreed-upon sentence shocks the conscience of this court.”

In the Marion County case, prosecutors promised the teen’s mother that he would not have to testify. But because Circuit Judge Hale Stancil rejected the second plea deal, the only other option for prosecutors would have been a trial, which would force the boy to take the stand.

Sources told WESH that prosecutors had planned for several weeks to drop the charges against LaFave, who earlier agreed to a plea deal in a second court in a case in which she lost her teacher’s license and was sentenced to three years of house arrest.

The legal standards for the crime of statutory rape are very clear: Ms. Lafave is a rapist. I’m not going to do her a favor and describe her as “mentally ill” or “confused” or “bipolar”. She’s a rapist.

As I’ve already stated, the double standard being displayed here is simply appalling. If this were an ugly MALE rapist… well, you know and I know he would be unlikely to ever see the the light of day again.

Debra LaFave will soon benefit from a ghost written book deal. There is a movie of the week in the works. And likely a Playboy spread. She will still be under house arrest (although it seems likely she could always call out for a pizza delivery boy). I’m angered and sickened by the developments in her case. The boy that is the victim of the rape is only a few years older than my oldest daughter. If something like this happened to her, the perpetuator would have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his short life. But no, LaFave gets to walk off scott free. Our justice system is a laughingstock!