Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Auld Lang Syne

In every aviation squadron in which The Flying Curmudgeon ever served, there was a daily Log Book, of which the Squadron Duty Officer was required to maintain.

In this Command Log Book, would go information pertaining to visitors, significant events, (both positive and negative), and anything else that the Commanding Officer, (in the person of his representative - the Squadron Duty Officer), deemed worthy of being recorded for posterity.

This Log Book would become a binding, legal document, and had to be maintained and preserved as such.

At the beginning of every new year, the first entry into the Log Book would be made in prose form, with the appropriate time/date stamp of 0001, January 01, (whatever the new year happened to be).

In keeping with this tradition, The Flying Curmudgeon submits the following:

0001, 01 January, 2008:

"Twenty, plus one, have gone with the wind,
Since The Flying Curmudgeon, first picked up his pen,
On a night such as this, in a place far away,
A lonely hangar, he trod, alongside the bay.

'Inspiration,' he thought, the young officer sought,
How to summon the Muse, for a poem, be wrought?
A singular vigil, did dwell, in that cavernous shell,
His footsteps and he, the only ones who could tell.

For his solitary task, TFC would endeavor,
A New Year's Eve poem, for the Log Book, so clever.
This tradition, so old, how would it unfold?
With pen in his hand, the young Bard did behold,

The old year, '86, its final moments, would wane,
12 months, gone so fast, filled with pleasure and pain.
It began, oh so tragic, gone was Challenger's magic,
With one terrible blast, our nation was heartsick.

Seven souls, all so brave, for their country, they gave,
Their lives, cut too short, but their mission would pave,
The way into Space, they would want it, you know,
From their horrible deaths, some meaning might grow.

The height of the Cold War, the Russian Bear, he did threaten,
The security of our country, and that of our brethren.
Ronaldus Maximus, RIP, stood firm in the gap,
Forced Ivan to blink, and the war was a wrap.

As quick as that blink, from our Slavic "friend,"
The next time TFC would pick up his pen,
Seven years, go and come, anon and anon,
Like sand through the fingers, life is here...then it's gone.

The Cold War was over, Ron had bid us farewell,
The Persian Gulf War, in the past was, as well.
The "Man from Hope" had achieved, some said, "Deceived,"
His way to the White House, with Hillary, cleaved?

A new war beginning, though not all would know,
How far or how long, to what lengths they would go.
From its roots in Iran, the revolution expanding,
Our efforts defending Muslims in Bosnia, notwithstanding,

Like a cancer, would spread, Islamo-fascism, Red
Flowed the blood of the innocents, their eyes filled with dread.
Instead of fighting the war, he saw as a bore,
Bill Clinton would choose to ignore... and ignore,

The growing threat of Jihad, its tentacles spreading,
Throughout the globe, as he sat, a "Lewinsky," was getting?
(Sorry about that, dear readers, sometimes he can't help it)
TFC saw the shot, there was no danger, so, took it.

With apologies to Tom Cruise, those were the days,
Before Scientology, sadly, did craze,
The young "Maverick," his fame, nearly as high,
As the victory rolls he did in the sky.

When, along with Val Kilmer, together, defeated,
Their "Communist" opponents, "Fox-2," both repeated.
As the Bard does digress, it's all quite pathetic,
How once high-flying Tom, now, peripatetic,

Danced a "jig" on the couch, Katie Holmes, for his bride,
Career on the wane, no longer a hero - Goose having just died,
Collaboration with Redford, another U.S.A. bashing,
Box-office bomb... was that the audience laughing?

Back to the poem, TFC must return,
To wrap up this lyrical ode - to adjourn.
21 years have passed, all too quickly, for sure,
Since that night long ago, when prose was the cure,

For a long, lonely watch, his duty apparent,
Another year come and gone... now, back to the present.
As we say "Good-bye" to '07, "Hello" to '08,
There are a few things, important to state,

With the promise of renewal, that comes every year,
As you sit watching football, eating chips, drinking beer,
Don't forget, loyal reader, while you enjoy your HDTV,
A young serviceman, (or woman), stands watch in a Humvee,

Or a ship, or an aircraft, on "Alert 5," in case they're needed,
In harm's way, do they serve, their country's call, it was heeded.
So let's ring out the old, and ring in the new,
God bless our military. God bless America, too."

Happy New Year.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bill Clinton MADE Rush? PUUUHHLEEEEEZ!!!!

Taking over the aircraft's controls, the instructor pilot presses the intercom button.

"I've got it, Jones. Let's see that approach one more time. Just remember not to chase the needles once you're inside the Marker."

"Roger, Lieutenant."

While the student sets up his navigation radios for another ILS Runway 18 Instrument Approach, the instructor flies the published Missed Approach Procedure - flying a predetermined course and altitude away from the airport.



"In close, small, easy corrections are all it takes. Nothing big, okay Jones?" The pilot levels the aircraft at 3,000 feet, flying the runway heading of 180 degrees magnetic.

After switching to the Approach frequency, the instructor keys the UHF mike.



The student finishes his approach setup.

"All right, Lieutenant. I'm ready for the aircraft, now."

With that, the instructor hands the controls back to the student.

"You've got the controls."

"Roger, sir, I've got the controls."


The student pushes the throttles forward, pitches the aircraft up for the climb, and starts to turn the aircraft toward the new heading. Checking his watch, the instructor punches the navigation radio select button for "ADF." Hearing the distinctive thumping of the baseline in the opening bars of Back to Ohio, he stifles a slight smile.

"Right on time."

The year is 1990 and The Flying Curmudgeon is a military instructor pilot. Like most other days, TFC is teaching a student pilot the basics of Radio Instrument Navigation, that is, how to fly his aircraft without the benefit of being able to see outside - a requirement for all military (and commercial) pilots.

Frequently, when there was a lull in a training flight between 12:00 and 3:00, TFC would tune his ADF Nav radio to the AM band, and listen to Rush Limbaugh's program.

(With the repeal of the "Fairness Doctrine" the previous year, on 1 August, 1988, Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio program premiered on over 300 radio stations. As the loyal readers of TheFlyingCurmudgeon surely are aware, the "Fairness Doctrine" held that radio stations had to provide free air time for responses to controversial opinions that they broadcast. This policy made a show like Rush's impossible prior to the doctrine's repeal.)

It was TFC's father that first introduced him to Rush and, initially, he wasn't sure he liked the show or not. What Rush was saying was so bold, so innovative, and so close to TFC's own deeply held convictions, that it was a bit shocking to hear.

No one else was saying the things Rush said.

For the most part, nowhere else in the "mainstream media," either print or broadcast, could a conservative viewpoint be found. With their traditional leftward bent and their monopoly on the dissemination of ideas, (except for the rare conservative organ like National Review), the mainstream media needed a little "Fairness Doctrine" applied to them.

Along came Rush Limbaugh. As Rush used to frequently remind his audience: "I AM equal time."

Before Rush was syndicated, there was nobody else saying the kinds of things he did. And boy, the way he said them...

"Dadalump-dadalump-dadalump-dadalump (Andy Williams begins singing)...'Born free as the wind free as the grass grows...Born free to follow your heart...Live free...(sounds of rifle fire)...and beauty surrounds you...(sounds of screaming)...The world still astounds you...(more rifle fire)...Each look at a star...(more screaming)...' That's right, folks, its time for another Animal Rights Update..."

Or it could be Paul Anka singing: "You're having my baby...what a lovely way of saying how much you love me..." in order to introduce an Abortion Rights Update. This song REALLY used to tweak our friends on the left.

How Rush loves to tweak the Left.

With this kind of humor and wit, and his unashamed support for conservative principles, it did not take long before The Flying Curmudgeon was a loyal Dittohead.

And TFC was not alone.

Rush's audience share continued to grow, geometrically, until today, he is on over 600 radio stations throughout the country, (as well as Armed Forces radio, which BTW, did not occur without a fight, TFC would add - something for another post perhaps?), and has a weekly listening audience on the order of 20 million.

No one else in radio even comes close to that number.

Thanks to Rush leading the way, however, there are now a number of conservative radio and television programs out there and this fact continues to drive the Left crazy. Their monopoly is gone forever, and they know it. Which is why there have been recent attempts to revisit the Fairness Doctrine.

(Okay, Mr. The Flying Curmudgeon, what's your point?)

The point is, OF COURSE, Rush is an entertainer. If he weren't, nobody would listen to his show.

To his loyal listeners, however, and to those that tirelessly seek to undermine his influence, he is so much more. (Can you say "Dingy Harry?")

But the idea that Bill Clinton MADE Rush?


Rush was well on his way to "MegaStar" status while Bill was still "busy" back in Arkansas, entertaining young female speeders in the Governor's Mansion.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from The Flying Curmudgeon

The sickly sweet smell was everywhere. It penetrated the soldiers' nostrils and clothing. It saturated the food they ate.

There was no escaping it.

In the moon-scape which was "No-Man's Land," bodies were everywhere. As it would mean imminent death to anyone brave (or foolish) enough to stick his head above the trench-line, there the bodies lay...

...and rotted.

The young British soldier stared through the periscope. He could see the body of the German he had killed the morning before, the branches of the dead man's camouflage illuminated by the sun setting at his back. It was a close call - he had caught the German trying to sneak into their trench just before sunrise, hoping to catch them asleep.

The overcast layer that had cast a pall of darkness the night before had suddenly broken, the last of the full moon revealing him crawling across the desolation.

If the Tommie had not been alert, it could have been him lying dead, instead of the Kraut. A well-placed round from his model 1913 Enfield ended the German's life.

For a moment, he felt a twinge of regret.

Did this dead soldier have a family back home? Was there a wife or girlfriend waiting, caressing a picture of her beloved as he proudly posed in his uniform? Could his parents have imagined such a lonely death for their son?

("Frohe Weihnacten, Mein Leibling," she says with a sigh. Giving the picture a kiss, she places it back on the mantle. "Merry Christmas, My Darling.")

"Sorry, Fraulein, your Liebling won't be coming home any time soon," the British soldier said aloud. "Better find another."

It was Christmas Eve, 1914.

The fighting had raged on the Western Front for months. After the heady, initial days of the German thrusts towards Paris that autumn, the slaughter at the Marne and at Ypres had ended any notion of romance or glory both sides had foolishly entertained, in the wake of Ferdinand's assassination the prior summer.

Now it was about killing, pure and simple. Good men thrown into the meat grinder, as generals measured their "success" in yards, or at times, even inches.

(The "War to End All Wars" would rage for four more years until at the "11th hour" of the "11th day" of the "11th month," it finally would come to an end.)

After trying to grab a few hours of sleep - no one ever really slept, it was too cold and miserably wet for that down in the trenches - here he was again, back on watch.

The last of the sun's rays were disappearing behind him when he noticed some movement across the wasteland in the German lines.

"Blimey, what the devil is Jerry up to now?"

He studied the Germans through the periscope for a minute or so, unsure of what he was seeing.

Stepping away from the eye-piece, he shook his head and rubbed his eyes, making sure he wasn't seeing things. He looked through the periscope once more.

"I don't believe it. It looks like the bloody Germans are putting up bloody Christmas lights."

At that moment, he began to hear it. Softly at first, within a minute or two, the melody was unmistakable.

"Stille nacht...heilege Nacht..."

A couple of white flags, attached to broken pipes appeared above the German lines, and one by one, the Germans started to climb out of their trench. They tentatively made their way towards the British lines, the crudely assembled flags of truce leading the way.

For his part, the British soldier, joined by a few of his mates, cautiously crawled out of his trench and met the young Germans in the middle of No Man's Land.

So began the fabled Christmas Truce of 1914.

For a brief, surreal period, the slaughter came to an end, that night so long ago, and into the next day - Christmas Day. The young British and German soldiers helped bury each others' dead, exchanged gifts, and even engaged in a few improptu soccer matches. In one, the Germans beat their British rivals 3-2.

In most places along the line, the truce held throughout the day.

Captain J.C. Dunn, the Medical Officer of the Royal Welch Fusiliers related how the fighting restarted at his section of the front:

"At 0830 (the next morning, the 26th) I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with 'Merry Christmas' on it, and I climbed on the parapet. He [the Germans] put up a sheet with 'Thank You' on it, and the German Captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots in the air, and the War was on again."

Though these accounts may seem unbelievable, they are not without historic precedent. During the American Civil War, rebel and Yankee soldiers would routinely trade tobacco for coffee, and other items they could not otherwise obtain.

There are other accounts of similar incidents during the Second World War.

The movie A Midnight Clear was based on a such an incident from France in 1944.

These accounts speak to the vagaries and ultimately, the tragedy of war.

Young men, their lives before them, have at times been compelled to kill each other, rather than live in peace and brotherhood.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, TFC prays for the day in which our Lord finally establishes His peace among nations, and it is no longer necessary for men to kill each other.

Merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Age 60 Rule - RIP

The Flying Curmudgeon is a bit behind on his posting.

As they say, content is king on the internet. However, with his schedule, TFC has decided not to sacrifice quality for quantity. That being the case, The Flying Curmudgeon will not post just for the sake of posting. He hopes that those "loyal readers," (all three of them?) will appreciate his desire to only contribute quality posts to the blogosphere.

If this means, from time to time, there might be a gap between posts, so be it...

In case the loyal readers of TheFlyingCurmudgeon haven't noticed, the federal government has officially done away with the Age 60 Mandatory Retirement rule for U.S. airline pilots.

It will not be retroactive.

Congratulations to all those pilots who were sweating out their birthdays. TFC extends his condolences to all those friends who just missed the cut-off.

By the time TFC reaches 60, he hopes to be a part-time airline pilot and a full-time author/screenwriter, and adjunct junior-college professor of history/musician.

A man has to have goals, hasn't he?


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yes, Taze Me, Bro!

These days, being an airline pilot can be a lot like working in a discount department store.

Huh? What could being an airline pilot and working in a discount department store possibly have in common?

Glad you asked that question.

K-mart. Wal-Mart. Target. Take your pick. With few differences, they provide a certain level of product and a certain level of service. They're not Macy's and they're not Neiman-Marcus.

When one goes to a discount department store, the expectations are generally where they should be - low. The beauty of discount department stores is their egalitarian nature.

Though the average K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target shopper tends to be lower to middle-class, these stores, especially the mega-versions like Sam's Club, BJ's, and Costco, have something to offer folks across the socio-economic spectrum.

For a time when the The Flying Curmudgeon was in college, he worked as a cashier at the local K-Mart. (Sam Walton had yet to penetrate the market.) Ringing up the sales from yet another "Blue-Light Special," TFC could have been doing research for a Masters thesis in sociology. He came into contact with poor people, rich people, and everyone in between.

One day, a rather large woman, trailing her conversely diminuitive husband, approached TFC's register. With a large, sweeping motion and a loud "THUD," this woman deposited something on his counter that previously, The Flying Curmudgeon did not know even existed.

It was a brassiere.

It was a large brassiere - a HUGE brassiere. This bra was so large, two regulation NBA basketballs would have fit inside the cups, with room to spare.

To the 19-year-old future TFC, this came as quite a shock. He had no idea they made bras that large. Upon seeing this lacy, delicate contraption, of such gargantuan proportions - deposited so loudly by this rotund woman onto the checkout counter, her skinny little husband at her side - The Flying Curmudgeon was overcome with a tidal wave of laughter.

In a matter of seconds, the guffawing took on a life of its own and TFC was soon howling uncontrollably.

Mr. and Mrs. "LARGE BRASSIERE" did not share TFC's sense of the ironic, and they stood there - glaring - their faces frozen in expressionless masks of pique.

TFC's boss also didn't share his sense of humor. The Flying Curmudgeon was quickly sent home for the day, his boss apologizing profusely to the offended couple.

Okay. What does any of this have to do with being an airline pilot?

In the three decades since deregulation, much of the domestic flying in the United States has taken on the feel of shopping in a discount department store.

With ever-shrinking margins, the airlines are constantly looking at ways to cut costs and to boost revenue. Some carriers have taken to charging extra for sevices that used to be complimentary. Tried to get an exit-row seat lately? Depending on which airline you fly, it'll cost you.

If this keeps up, air travelers might want to ensure they have an adequate supply of quarters, before starting towards the aircraft's lavatory.

As he walks through airport terminals, and greets passengers as they board, one thing is also becoming increasingly clear to The Flying Curmudgeon - decades of permissive parenting has created a couple generations of kids like the one in the video above.

More than once over the years, TFC has come close to denying boarding to a family with disruptive teens. Earlier this year, a family was asked to leave an AirTran flight because they couldn't control their daughter.

The Flying Curmudgeon is going to go out on a limb and suggest that Mr. "Don't Taze Me, Bro!" in the video above probably never had his butt worn out as a child.

A good spanking when he was nine or ten would have spared Mr. Andrew Meyer the later jolting he received at the hands of the University of Florida campus police. In the airline incident above, a couple of well-aimed swats to the butt cheeks would have spared the Kuleszas, the airline, and their fellow passengers a lot of trouble.

Their little darling would have been no worse for the wear.

How is it, after thousands of years of recorded human history, because 50 years ago one misguided doctor (Benjamin Spock) told us to, we tossed out a system that worked?

Like so many other baby boomers, the elder Mr. and Mrs. Meyer, and the Kuleszas obviously "...don't believe in spanking..."

For the Meyers, the result is the words of their son, of whom they must be so very proud, forever immortalized into a bumper sticker slogan: "Don't Taze Me, Bro!"

The Kuleszas will have the privilege of dealing with "Little Elly," when she is a teenager.

God help them.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Muslims Behaving Badly? It's Deja Vu', All Over Again

The "Peaceful Religion of Islam" shows its true colors once again.

Funny how it's okay if a suicide bomber is named "Muhammad," but not a Teddy Bear.

This sad affair is just one more in a long litany of Muslims behaving badly.

Below is a partial list from the recent past:

- 9/11. 'Nuf said.

- attack on Moscow theater in 2002.

Although the terrorists' primary aim was to drive the Russians out of Chechnya, their links to Al-Qaeda and the larger, world-wide Islamic jihad are clear.,8599,383909,00.html

- attack on school in Beslan in 2004.

Same as above. It sure is a brave man who shoots a child in the back.

- Madrid train bombings, 3/11/2004. This was discussed in an earlier post. (See "King Juan Carlos to Hugo..." back in November.)

- beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, Kenneth Bigley, and others.

- USAID executive Lawrence Foley murdered in Jordan in 2002.
(Check out the Al-Qaeda links.)

Before joining USAID, Mr. Foley had been with the Peace Corps for more than thirty years and had worked in Bolivia, Peru, India, and Zimbabwe. If any organization embodies the best of America, it is USAID.

Were there Sudanese troops in Indonesia after the Tsunami in 2004? No?

That's right, they were too busy in Dharfur exterminating Christians. Like so many other natural disasters around the world, the United States took the lead in the relief effort, and USAID continues to help the region rebuild.

- murder of American missionary Bonnie Penner Witherall, slain in Sidon, Lebanon in 2002.

The Flying Curmudgeon would have a brief connection to this last incident a few years ago, when Gary Witherall, the murdered woman's husband, came to speak at TFC's church. The striking thing about this man was the utter lack of rancor or ill will he showed towards his wife's murderers.

In spite of his horrific loss, Mr. Witherall had a peace about him that could only be described as "Christ-like." Although his wife died serving the families of the men who killed her, Gary could only pity them.


When trying to describe those that would commit such horrendous acts, the words "vicious," "bloodthirsty," "merciless," "cruel," and "inhuman" come to mind.

To those, The Flying Curmudgeon would add "rude," "ill-mannered," "boorish," and "ungrateful."

What a bunch of ungrateful bastards these Islamic fanatics are.

After all we have done for these people around the world, this is how they thank us - by sawing the heads off, shooting, and blowing up defenseless Americans, and others who have supported us.

For the better part of 3 years, from 1991-1994, TFC flew missions in support of NATO operations during the civil war in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Our sole purpose for being there was to protect Bosnian Muslims from the genocidal "ethnic cleansing" being perpetrated against them by Bosnian Serb para-military groups, and their sponsors in Belgrade.

(Ironically, you can't tell a Bosnian Muslim from a Bosnian Serb by looking at them. Many of both groups have blonde hair and blue eyes. The primary difference is in their alphabet. The Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet, like their Slavic brothers in Russia - the Muslims use the Latin alphabet, like us. Why are there blonde-haired, blue-eyed Muslims in the former Yugoslavia? That is something for a later post.)

It is hard to fathom the depths of hatred that can motivate someone to cut the ears and nose off a 14-year-old because he refuses to rape his own mother. How does one castrate a 6-year-old?

These are the kinds of atrocities that TFC and his colleagues were attempting to prevent. Were we completely successful? No, we weren't. The name Srebrenica comes to mind.

However, this massacre occurred while United Nations forces, and NOT U.S. forces stood by and did nothing. Somehow that part seems to be forgotten.

(BTW, ever notice how many massacres occur while soldiers in those ubiquitous blue helmets stand idly by? Remember the slaughter in Rwanda? How about Somalia, Sudan, the Congo, Chad, East Timor, South Lebanon, etc? TFC could go on. Isn't it time to consign this corrupt, inept, worthless, U.S.-hating organization to the trash-heap of history?)

To be completely fair, TFC has to point out that atrocities in Bosnia were committed by all sides during this vicious conflict.

Nevertheless, once Slobodan Milosevic was no longer in power in Belgrade, the primary catalyst for much of the ethnic cleansing was gone.

It's ironic that the very people we have tried to help over the years repay us with death and destruction.

When was the last time a Serb flew an airplane full of people into the side of a building?


Friday, December 7, 2007

Why They Fight

December 7th, 1941. The date which has lived in infamy.

Fast forward 66 years, and the United States finds itself again at war.

The enemy may be different, but in their own way, no less dangerous.

As we observe the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and honor those who died there, it is important also to remember all those others who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Throughout our nation's 231 year history, young men (and women) have heeded their nation's call, donned its uniform, and risked life and limb to defend our right to live our lives in freedom and liberty.

From Lexington and Concord to Valley Forge and Yorktown. From Antietam and Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and the Wilderness, to Belleau Wood and the Western Front.

Bataan, Iwo Jima, Normandy and Bastogne. Pork Chop Hill and Khe Sanh. Fallujah and Baghdad.

At all of these places, and more, with strange names many of them barely knew, our young men and women in uniform have suffered and died, to preserve our way of life.

Two words - freedom and liberty. Simple words, yet they mean so much, and so many have given their lives to defend them. So many still risk everything to obtain them.

With all of our problems, the United States remains a beacon of freedom and liberty to the rest of the world.

And like their fathers and grandfathers before them, today's service members continue to risk their lives to defend our way of life.

Some of these military members are touring the country telling their fellow Americans why they serve and why they fight.

In contrast to the steady drumbeat of negative press these last 4 years, the positive, eyewitness accounts of these young Iraqi veterans are a refreshing change. These young men and women should make all Americans proud, and dispel the notion that our military members do not serve willingly nor know what they are fighting for.

They know, and they believe in their mission.

It's time to put aside the partisan in-fighting and give our service members the support they deserve.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shades of Politics Past

Did anyone happen to catch this on MSNBC the other day?

The utter lack of respect that Erin Burnett displays for a man who continues to keep her safe from terrorists is mind boggling.

Think it's a coincidence we haven't been hit again? Think again.

Unlike Bill Clinton, who treated terrorism as a law enforcement problem, after 9/11 George W. Bush recognized Al-Qaeda and the islamo-fascists for the global threat they were (and are). He realized the primary focus of his Presidency would be the fight against global terrorism, and he has acted accordingly.

In the six years since the attacks of 9/11, the United States has been quietly (and not so quietly), killing and capturing a lot of people who have needed killing and capturing. Consequently, Al-Qaeda's ability to conduct operations world-wide has been severely compromised.

Nevertheless, our adversaries remain exceedingly dangerous. They have demonstrated the patience and ability to bide their time, until the opportunity to strike presents itself. While they wait, we have to be ever vigilant, and we have to "get it right" every time. The terrorists only have to "get it right" once, in order to conduct a successful attack against us.

If Hillary is elected, get ready for a return to the old approach to fighting terrorism.

In case you've forgotten, Bill Clinton was too busy with "personal" matters to be bothered with something as trivial as fighting terrorism. Don't believe it? Check out this book by someone who was there.

Americans of all political stripes need to understand something - this war is a clash of cultures and will not be over in our lifetimes. Islamic radicals want to destroy Western civilization, take us back to the 7th century, and reinstate the Islamic Caliphate. They don't care whether we are Conservatives or Liberals, Democrats or Republicans. To them, the only thing that matters is we are infidels. As such, we are only worthy of death.

One of TFC's fellow pilots was a Marine battalion commanding officer during the first few years of the war. (He has since retired.) When he returned from Iraq, he told TFC that whenever they would capture one of the terrorists, he would tell them, "You Americans don't understand, if I don't kill you, my son will kill you. If my son doesn't kill you, my grandson will kill you."

The bad guys understand the generational nature of this conflict. We need to as well. Our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on this understanding.

In the video above, it's plain to see Ms. Burnett lacks this understanding. Also, like so many of her colleagues in the mainstream media, she smugly believes she is the smartest person in the room. It is this attitude which helps to explain the animus of the left towards George W. Bush. They truly believe he is an imbecile, (in spite of his Harvard MBA), and they are incapable of understanding those of us in "flyover country" who continue to support him.

Does TFC agree with everything George Bush has done during his Presidency? Of course not.

Immigration. The Prescription Drug entitlement. The failure to veto numerous spending bills. (It chagrins TFC greatly to admit this - under Bush, the federal budget has increased even more than under Bill Clinton.) The fact that two border patrol agents continue to languish in federal prison. In all of these, the Bush adminstration has been a tremendous disappointment.

These domestic issues notwithstanding, in regards to the most important issue of our day - the fight against global terrorism - President Bush has performed admirably. It really is just this simple - the War on Terror trumps every other issue. If we are all dead, nothing else matters.

In regards to the conduct of the War in Iraq, certainly mistakes have been made. One of the earliest mistakes was disbanding the Iraqi army after the fall of Baghdad. The 100,000 trained, fighting-age men who were sent home, along with former Baathists and Fedayeen Sadaam members, formed the backbone of the early insurgency.

As for the canard that Sadaam did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction, as a former military intelligence officer and Middle East analyst, TFC is here to tell you he did have WMDs.

Don't believe it? Just ask the Kurds or the Iranians.

Where did they all go?

There is credible evidence to suggest that during the lead-up to the war, the Iraqis moved them to Syria.

Whether Sadaam did or did not have WMDs, in the decade after Gulf War I politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as both sides of "the aisle," believed he did. He certainly acted like he had these weapons. If he didn't, all Sadaam had to do was let the inspectors in, and he would still be living in luxury, instead of taking the "eternal, celestial dirt nap," in his tribal cemetery in Tikrit.

Even the most ardent Bush opponents are now forced to admit, the "Surge" is working.

There is something strangely familar, (and somewhat amusing) about all this. Like those who opposed Ronald Reagan, and then sought to take credit for the end of the Cold War, the spin by some on the left evokes a certain sense of deja vu'.

As for Ms. Burnett's characterization of the President, there is some historical precedent for this sort of thing.

When Abraham Lincoln took office, there were many people that, putting it mildly, did not think him worthy of the task. Among his chief tormentors was a man who, upon meeting Lincoln for the first time, referred to him as a "long-armed ape."

Edwin M. Stanton, who would become Lincoln's mercurial Secretary of War, did not hide his initial disdain for the future president. He took great pleasure in belittling the gangly, unsophisticated country lawyer.

Lincoln, for his part, overlooked these many vicious slights and, in 1862 appointed Stanton to head his War Department. Over the next 3 years, Stanton grew to love and admire Lincoln greatly. The night that Lincoln was shot, Stanton maintained a vigil alongside his deathbed. When the President finally expired, Stanton uttered the famous phrase, "Now he belongs to the ages."

History will judge George W. Bush and his Presidency.

Like Lincoln's critics before, when the books are finally written, TFC suspects "W's" critics will be shown to have been a bunch of "monkey's uncles."


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Word Up! Snoop Dogg in the Blog!

Whatever happened to Motown?

The Supremes. The Temptations. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Gladys Knight and the Pips. Marvin Gaye. The Jacksons - BEFORE Michael got all "weirded-out." (When he tried to buy The Elephant Man's bones, it was all over.) The Commodores. Earth, Wind, and Fire.

They're all gone.

They've been replaced by - Snoop Doggy Dogg, er, Snoop Dogg; Sean "Diddy," nee "P Diddy," nee "Puffy," nee "Puff Daddy" Combs; Da "Brat; " Marshall "M&M" Mathers; Ludacris; Ol' Dirty Bastard; Ghostface Killah; the Wutang Clan, etc.

Speaking of Gladys Knight and the Pips. Wouldn't that be a great job, being one of the Pips?

What exactly IS a "Pip," anyway?

Moving right along.

Artists like Frankie Valli, Elvis, Bad Finger, The Grass Roots; rock bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, Styxx; folk singers like Arlo Guthrie, Neil Diamond, Seals and Croft; and yes, even groups like The Carpenters. (What can The Flying Curmudgeon say? Richard wrote some beautiful songs, and Karen had a voice like an angel - she is probably serenading God right now.) Along with others, these artists, together with Motown's stable of tremendously talented writers, singers, and performers, provided the sound track for TFC's formative years.

They just don't write music like they used to.

Sure, there are some exceptions.

Though TFC doesn't care much for his music, Prince, or, "The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince," or "The-Symbol-for-a-Man-and-a-Woman-Combined-That-You-Can't-Pronounce," or simply, "The Artist," is a talented fellow.

Some of the "Old School" rappers, like Grand Master Flash, and The Sugar Hill Gang, had some talent. Cameo had a catchy tune with Word Up!

(One question - what's up with that red jock-strap/cup thing?)

What we blasted out of those tiny, AM radios was far superior to much of what passes for music today - even when heard through the finest Bose sound system currently available.

And much of what is heard today isn't even original. If it weren't for "sampling," most of today's "artists" would have nothing.

The Flying Curmudgeon has a theory about this. It's all Rick James' fault.

Rick, God rest his soul, was a very talented writer and musician. Unfortunately, he was in "the slammer" when MC Hammer, (hey, that rhymes!) heavily "sampled" Super Freak when Hammer recorded U Can't Touch This.

Had ole Rick been able to sue MC Hammer for copyright infringement, he could have nipped all of this in the bud. Instead, the genie has been let out of the bottle. Now, anyone with an old record player and a microphone, along with a heavy dose of chutzpah, can be an "artist," and be showered with praise and accolades at the MTV music awards.

In the humble opinion of TFC, when it comes to most rap "music," the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes, but no one has the courage to call him naked. Besides, everyone is getting rich from it.

Maybe The Flying Curmudgeon is just getting old. After all, one of Michael's first hits without his brothers was a song about a boy and his pet rat.

(In that context, maybe trying to buy The Elephant Man's bones doesn't really seem all that strange.)

All the same, The Flying Curmudgeon will leave Snoop, Nelly and the rest of the boyz to all the homies and wannabes out there, pop in a Marvin Gaye CD, and remember Motown the way it used to be.

Word to your mother.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good Night to The Greatest Generation

It's been a busy week since The Flying Curmudgeon last posted.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Can Christmas already be staring us in the face? They're going crazy with Yuletide bargains down at the local Super Wal-Mart.

TFC thinks Charlie Brown was on to something when he thought Christmas had become too commercialized. How many years has it been since Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! came out? 35? 40?

Too many, that's for sure.

(While you're out there hitting the malls, fighting for a parking space while you go broke saving money, don't forget to give some thought to The Reason for the season. :-) )

TFC's got to hand it to the folks last week, however. On Wednesday evening, The Flying Curmudgeon had a plane-load of passengers who were trying to get up to an airport in the Northeast.

Unfortunately, the fog had rolled in late in the afternoon, and when this particular airport gets fog, frequently "that's all she wrote," for the rest of the night. The poor people, who had been stuck at the airport (TFC right along with them) all afternoon, had no sooner sat down on the aircraft when Air Traffic Control put out an updated weather report, indicating the weather was below this particular airport's lowest, legal instrument approach landing minimums.

Everyone had to deplane and be rescheduled on other flights the next morning. A lucky few were able to get booked to airports in adjacent states and rent cars.

To those folks who responded with dignity and understanding in less than ideal circumstances, "Thank you," from The Flying Curmudgeon.

Now - on to the purpose of this post...

A family friend died recently, unbeknownst to TFC, until he got back from his trip last week.

This man was named Andy. Andy was 83 years old.

If you had seen him walking down the street, if you had bothered to notice him at all, you would have probably only noticed an elderly gentleman - walking with a slight limp.

Andy suffered from the typical afflictions of old age - arthritis, circulatory issues, etc. He had had a stroke at some point, if memory serves.

But his mind was still sharp. A retired businessman, he was single and enjoyed visiting with his many friends and family. One of those friends was The Flying Curmudgeon's bro-in-law, who happens to be a General Practicioner.

One day several years ago, Andy went to see the doctor at the local, walk-up Family Practice clinic. Complaining about some pain, the doc took some X-rays of Andy and was surprised when he saw some unusual objects in the film. When Andy was asked about the objects, he merely shrugged and said, "Oh, those. They're courtesy of the Imperial Japanese Marines."

The "objects" were fragments of shrapnel that Andy had carried around since he was a 19-year-old Marine in the first wave at Tarawa - on 20 November, 1943.

The doctor was TFC's brother-in-law, and he and Andy became fast friends. How could you not like someone as unassuming as Andy? He rarely spoke of his experience at Tarawa. If asked, he would simply respond that he had done his duty.

Andy was typical of The Greatest Generation. Their values forged in the crucible of the Great Depression, they all did their duty. When they came home, they rarely spoke of the horror they had witnessed.

Along with his fellow Marines, Andy braved the withering fire of the defending Japanese Imperial Marines. Stepping out of that AMTRAC on the lagoon-side of the coral reef, he must have been terrified watching the machine-gun bullets ripping the water in front of him. Still, he and his fellow Marines got out of their landing-craft and began to head for the beach, crossing that long expanse of waist-deep water, knowing full well that most of them would not make it.

In three days of ferocious fighting, the Marines at Tarawa suffered over 3,000 casualties, with more than 800 killed. Of the nearly 4,800-man Japanese garrison, less than 200 survived the battle.

In addition to its tactical value in the greater campaign for the Gilberts and Marshall islands, the invasion of Tarawa provided many lessons-learned to war-time planners.

These lessons helped to ensure victory at places like Kwajalein, Pelelieu, Iwo Jima, Tinian - ultimately, the War in the Pacific.

Andy is gone, now.

He joins a growing number of World War II veterans, at a rate of 1,000/day.

The Flying Curmudgeon is honored whenever he has one of these gentlemen (and ladies) on his aircraft.

The next time you see an elderly gentleman struggling to get somewhere, ask him if he is a veteran. If he is, help him to his car, or into the store. (You should do this anyway.) Give him a pat on the back and thank him for his service.

Thank you for your service, Andy. Rest in Peace.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh No, It's Mr. Creosote!

The video in the following link is gross, disgusting, disturbed, not-meant-for-delicate eyes, and is outrageously funny. It contains material that some might consider offensive.

The Flying Curmudgeon disavows all responsibility for those readers that are offended by mature or outrageous humor. Click at your own risk:

The above clip is from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." Like all of the British comedy team's frequently bizarre films, it delved into many subjects - some taboo, some outrageous, and some just downright funny.

Cleese and Company had to have been on some kind of drug (or drugs) when they wrote this film. How else to explain the bizzare half-man/half-elephant creature?

Nevertheless, the brilliance of Monty Python was their ability to use humor to deal with controversial subjects, as with the topic of gluttony/obesity, in the above clip.

Also out of the UK, comes the story of a woman being denied an entry visa from the government of New Zealand because she is too fat.

According to the Kiwi's, allowing fat people to immigrate will put an undue strain on the nation's health care system. In the above link, a spokesperson for a New Zealand organization known as "Fight the Obesity Epidemic," stated the country's health system can not afford to deal with overweight immigrants, as there is "...significant health cost associated with (these individuals)..."

Don't you just love the Kiwis? What's not to love about a country that is even more "down under" than Australia? Kiwis make Aussies seem tame - they're like Aussies, only on steroids. In a country where sheep outnumber humans, they don't have time for nonsense.

(BTW, for those readers planning a trip, here's a link to some interesting info on New Zealand's tourist attractions:)

Anyway, let's face it, folks.

The Western World is fat and getting fatter. And we are "spreading," as it were, our influence around the globe.

In the U.S., according to recent statistics, 34% of all Americans are "overweight," that is, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9. 30.5% are classified as obese, or having a BMI of 30.0 or higher.

That's nearly "two-thirds" of all Americans who are either overweight or obese. Pretty scary stuff, if you think about it.

We are victims of our own affluence.

Back when The Flying Curmudgeon was an Officer Candidate, he had an instructor we'll call "Major S." Major S had a unique way of putting things. When one of his charges complained about not having enough time to do something, Major S would launch into his "168-Hours-in-a-Week" speech.

As in: "You know what your problem is, Ladies? (He would be addressing a room full of college-aged males.) You don't know how to party right. There are 168 hours in a week, okay? How many hours a day are you in class? Three to four? All right. You need to study about an hour, for each hour in class. That's another three to four. You need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, right? Worst case, that's 16 hours. That leaves eight hours a day, times five days - that gives you 40 extra hours a week, plus weekends."

"Ladies, you don't know how to party right."

Another speech he was famous for was his "Fat Poor People" speech.

It went something like this: "We have a phenomenon in this country called 'Fat Poor People.' You go around the world and everyone else's poor people are skinny. Not in this country - our poor people are fat. We must be doing something wrong."

We loved Major S.

He was a man who, as a young officer candidate himself, dropped out of college and enlisted, because he was afraid, in 1966, he would miss the Vietnam War. (He later finished school and returned to Vietnam for a second tour - leading a special forces platoon.)

That was 25 years ago.

In the quarter century since, our "Fat Poor People" haven't gotten any skinnier, and they are all riding around on commercial aircraft.

Believe it or not, as Americans have become heavier, so have the rise in fuel costs for U.S. air carriers.

With oil hovering around $100/barrel, it's only a matter of time until the airlines start passing the costs along to their customers.

Something to think about before grabbing that extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy at the holiday dinner table this year.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Sasquatch at 30,000 Feet

"Good evening, folks, welcome aboard. Good evening, good evening, welcome aboard."

On a recent trip, The Flying Curmudgeon was standing at the entrance to the cockpit, greeting passengers as they boarded the aircraft from the jetway.

It was the usual mix.

Families off on vacation, businessmen hurrying home, hoping to make it to their sons' baseball games, commuting pilots, etc.

As the passengers filed aboard, the flight attendants were making their standard announcements about "...finding your assigned seat and stepping out of the aisle..." when HE appeared.

It was Sasquatch.

He looked a bit different from the famous photo, traipsing along the edge of that Northern lake, years before.

(In the photo, the irritated look on his face seemed to say, "Great, the jig's up. I can see it now. First, I'll be on 'Unsolved Mysteries,' probably make a movie about me. They'll come begging me to endorse their favorite beer or snacks. I won't get a moment's peace. Why can't these people just leave me alone?")

As he was coming down the jetway, he looked different, like he had lost some weight, a bit older perhaps - the hair going grey.

All of his hair, including the hair on his back, which was as thick as the front.

He was wearing a tank top. Muscle shirt. Wife beater - you know the kind. Bermuda shorts and flip flops. Sasquatch-sized, probably purchased at one of those specialty stores: "Sasquatches: Big 'n' Tall."

"Good evening, Mr. Sasquatch. welcome aboard. Where are you off to tonight?"

He mumbled something about a meeting with his agent and shuffled to his seat. First class, of course.

Since it was obvious he did not want to talk, TFC left it at that and returned to the cockpit, a single thought running through his mind.

"When did people stop dressing up before getting on an airplane?"

Years before, right after the famous picture was taken, Sasquatch would have been wearing a suit and tie to go see his agent.

Today, the only people who seem to dress up when they go flying anymore are business-people. For everyone else, it's "come as you are."

The Flying Curmudgeon has seen it all.

Bathing suits, pajamas, "Gangstas" with their pants so low, their New York Yankees jerseys barely cover their unmentionables.

It was not always like this.

One of the earliest recollections TFC has is going to the airport to pick up his grandparents...

Pressing his face against the chain-link fence, the small boy sees the lumbering, four-engine turboprop make its turn onto final.

The landing gear is lowered and as the aircraft grows larger, the hum of the engines grows louder, as well.

It's the late 1960s, and the Lockheed "Electra," the mainstay of many domestic airlines during the "Coffee, Tea, or Me" era, begins its "flare," and touches down with a "SCREEEECH," the tires adding to the rubber layered onto the concrete
, by countless other landings.

The massive propellers shift rapidly into reverse - "Beta," the pilots call it - with a loud "WOOOSSHH!" In a second or two, the aircraft is at taxi speed.

Taxiing clear of the runway, the marshaller standing on the parking ramp signals "Over Here," to the pilot with his two orange wands.

Between the perimeter fence where the boy strains to watch, and the aircraft taxiing into the ramp, there is a beehive of activity, as the ground crew prepares to receive the aircraft and its payload of passengers and cargo.

The aircraft creeps forward, as the marshaller begins to raise the wands by his sides. Slowly, he brings them together in an orange "X" over his head and the aircraft comes to a stop.

The airstairs are placed against the forward, left side of the aircraft, as the propellers wind down. Like many airports in the 1960s, there are no jetways here.

As the rest of the ground crew opens the cargo doors, and the fuel truck moves into position on the opposite side, the "stewardess" opens the main cabin door, one of those Jackie Kennedy-style "pill-box" hats on her head.

The passengers begin to deplane and the little boy waits. While each person descends, he studies them until finally, he sees his grandparents at the top of the airstairs and waves. They are dressed in their Sunday finest...

Back to the future.

Going to the airport to pick up relatives is one of TFC's earliest recollections of aviation. In addition to playing with his father's flight helmets, these early trips to the airport began a lifetime love affair with flying for The Flying Curmudgeon.

In the old days, commercial air travel was not as common as it is today. It was expensive and not something average Americans engaged in on a regular basis. For most Americans, flying was something special - a rare treat - and they dressed accordingly.

In the 30 years since "Deregulation," however, commercial air travel has become common-place, something within reach of people from every socioeconomic strata. For many people, the novelty has worn off, it's just not that big a deal anymore. Flying is just another way of getting from Points "A" to "B, " and they also dress accordingly.

In this, Deregulation has achieved its purpose.

Americans of all income levels are now able to travel, go on vacations, visit friends and family, see our nation's natural wonders.

Visit the beach.

The Flying Curmudgeon derives a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction from being a part of this.

Just one thing - save the "wife beaters" for when you actually get there.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

King Juan Carlos to Hugo: "Por Que' No Te Callas?"

Loosely translated from the Spanish, it means, "Shut your pie hole!"

At the annual Ibero-American summit meeting in Santiago, Chile last week, Venezuela's leftist President had a "there-he-goes-again" moment, by repeatedly referring to the former Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, as a "fascist." Apparently, King Juan Carlos of Spain had finally had enough and he told Chavez, in as many words, to "shut up.",8599,1682967,00.html?imw=Y

If ever someone needed to shut his pie hole, it's the President of Venezuela.

In remarks before the United Nations in September of last year, Chavez referred to President Bush as "The Devil," and spoke of the smell of "sulfur," at the rostrum where Bush had spoken the day before.

Fancying himself the western hemisphere's natural successor to Fidel Castro, since assuming power in 1999, Chavez has destroyed the remnants of Venezuela's democratic institutions, and has worked tirelessly to move Venezuela firmly into the Cuban dictator's camp.

No thanks to James Earl Carter Jr.

Twice, in 2000 and 2004, the ex-U.S. President helpfully certified dubious election results in the South American nation, helping to bestow legitimacy upon Chavez and to solidify his grasp on power.

In an editorial written in February 2005, U.S. News and World Report publisher Mortimer Zuckerman laid out the steps Chavez was taking to silence his opposition and strengthen his ties with Cuba, since Carter's meddling the previous September.

The last two years have seen more of the same.

In addition to his close friendship with Castro, Chavez has formed alliances with Iran, China, and the marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As for King Juan Carlos, if there is any mandatario in the Spanish-speaking world, with the moral authority to deliver this long-overdue rejoinder, it is the Spanish monarch. The handpicked successor to Spain's late fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, shortly after assuming the thrown in 1975 following Franco's death, Juan Carlos quickly instituted long-awaited democratic reforms.

In June of 1977, Spain held its first elections since the end of the Spanish Civil War.

In 1981, in a desperate attempt to preserve the old order, members of the Guardia Civil attempted to overthrow the fledgling monarchy. It was Juan Carlos himself who convinced the plotters to give up.

Sitting next to the King when he delivered his rebuke was Spain's current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - a socialist. No stranger to the evils of fascism, Zapatero's grandfather was executed by a Falangist firing squad during the Spanish Civil War.

Ordinarily, The Flying Curmudgeon would be hard-pressed to find anything positive to say about Zapatero. It was Zapatero who, upon becoming PM, made one of his first official acts the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq, shortly after the Madrid train bombings of 11 March 2004.

(As the bombings occurred a mere three days prior to the elections, they seemed to have had the effect that the Islamo-fascists had been looking for.)

His socialist bona fides nothwithstanding, apparently Zapatero is a believer in the old adage: "Politics End at the Water's Edge." Zapatero came to Aznar's defense, reminding Chavez that, in spite of political differences he might have with Aznar, he (Aznar) was freely elected by the Spanish people.

(Politicians in the U.S. could learn something from Zapatero in this regard.)

It was during Zapatero's defense of the former Spanish PM, which Chavez repeatedly attempted to interrupt, that Juan Carlos delivered his rebuke.

In case loyal readers of TFC are unaware, the U.S. receives close to one-ninth of its petroleum imports from Venezuela, which constitute about one-third of Venezuela's annual GDP.

Much of this money goes to fund Chavez's many "reforms," as he effectively buys the support of Venezuela's poor, through his Revolucion Bolivariano.

In effect, we are paying for all this.

Think about that the next time you are tempted to pull in to a Citgo station to fill up.


Life in the 21st Century

After a brief hiatus in order to upgrade laptops, The Flying Curmudgeon is back on-line.

It is truly amazing how much we have come to rely on technology.

As mentioned in an earlier post, TFC could not do his airline captain's job as efficiently without a cellphone. After being without a laptop for a couple of days, it really drove home how much we have come to rely on all of our "gadgets."

Oh, to have bought Microsoft back in the early Eighties.

Back when TFC was an undergrad, a computer was a behemoth Mainframe at the lab on campus. Running a program meant carrying a stack of cards and waiting in line for your turn.

Who could have imagined how far we would come in only a couple of decades?

Is there any part of life that has not been touched by technology?

Imagine what the next two decades will bring.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wal-Mart Hell

The Flying Curmudgeon is back from Wal-Mart Hell.

Wal-Mart - that modern-day monument to free enterprise and conspicuous consumption.

Wal-Mart - the 21st Century engine that helps keep the U.S. economy humming, in spite of $3.00/gallon gasoline, the threat posed by Al-Qaeda terrorists and wannabes, the collapse of the real estate market.

After getting back from a trip late last night, TFC had to make the weekly, obligatory trek to "Bargain-Shoppers Purgatory" today.

A trip to the dentist, a visit with the local gastro-enterologist -to have one of those long, flexible rubber things, with a camera stuck on the end, shoved up the nether regions - the periodic run to the neighborhood Super Wal-Mart. All of them, right up there on top of "The Flying Curmudgeon's Top Ten List of Favorite Things to Do" in his spare time.

It's not that TFC has anything against Wal-Mart, in principle.

Sam Walton's legacy has put the American Dream within reach of Americans and illegal immigrants alike. The prices are cheap, the selections are reasonable, and the service is, well - it's Wal-Mart, okay?

What more could one want?

Okay, TFC admits it. It does seem a little odd to complain about a store one frequents on a relatively frequent basis. It's just that shopping at Wal-Mart is like watching a train wreck - you know you shouldn't, you just can't help yourself.

What is it about Wal-Mart that makes it so unpleasant?

The Flying Curmudgeon has been all over the cell-phone issue in an earlier post. It's more than that.

Is it the "Demolition Derby" out in the parking lot, dodging the teenagers in their "rice-burners," Snoop Dogg thumping out of the speakers so loudly your fillings shake? Or is it the people who wait in their vehicles, blocking traffic for 10 minutes, waiting for the perfect space up front, rather than park a little farther away, like their doctors advised.

You know who you are.

Why not take your physician's advice and park a little farther out? The exercise will do you some good and you won't be creating a bottleneck right at the entrance. Oh, and by the way, skip the electric scooter once you get inside.

Who designed the parking lots anyway? The Marquis de Sade's great-great-grandson? Surely, Wal-Mart could have done a better job planning the entry and exit points.

Do you remember the old one about the guy who dies, and goes to Hell?

He is met by the Devil and shown a hallway, with three doors. The Devil says, "Okay, take a look at what's behind each door, and decide in which room you want to spend Eternity."

Behind the first door, there are people standing around naked, in a driving snowstorm, shivering violently with the cold.

Behind the second, people are in the desert, it's 105-degrees out, and they are dressed for the ski-slopes. They are sweating profusely.

Behind the third door, a group of people are sitting around in chairs, cow manure up to their knees, and they are drinking coffee. The man says to the Devil, "Well, I guess I could get used to the smell, this one's not so bad. I'll take room number 3."

A few minutes later, the man is sitting in his chair, sipping his coffee when a demon comes in and announces, "Okay, everyone, the coffee break's over. Everyone back on their heads."

Sometimes Wal-Mart seems like the room behind door number 3.


Friday, November 9, 2007

From Kill Devil Hills to the Edge of Space

The icy gusts from the Nor-Easter churning off-shore lashed the dunes, kicking sand into the brothers' faces, as they guided their fragile craft onto the 60-foot rail.

The line of black clouds cast an ominous pall over the frigid scene, ice forming in puddles left by a driving rain the night before.

Their hands froze in the bitter air, as they completed their task. Finally, the odd-looking machine was in position.

With the flip of a coin, three days earlier, the older brother had won the honor of making the first attempt.

It was unsuccessful.

Now, it was the younger's turn. His diary describes what happened next:

"After running the engine and propellers a few minutes to get them in working order, I got on the machine at 10:35 for the first trial. The wind, according to our anemometers at this time, was blowing a little over 20 miles (corrected) 27 miles according to the Government anemometer at Kitty Hawk. On slipping the rope the machine started off increasing in speed to probably 7 or 8 miles. The machine lifted from the truck just as it was entering on the fourth rail. Mr. Daniels took a picture just as it left the tracks."

Orville Wright had flown into history.

The 17th of next month will be the 104th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers' famous first flight. If you've never been to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, The Flying Curmudgeon highly recommends a visit.

TFC recalls a trip made with his family as a child, and how desolate and beautiful the location seemed even then. How much more so it must have seemed to the Wright Brothers when they first gazed upon it in 1900?

Searching for a place to put their experiments in "heavier-than-air" flight to the test, they found it at Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills. With its consistent winds, soft sand, and remote location, the brothers had found the perfect place to continue their tests away from prying eyes.

Now, a little more than 100 years later, The Flying Curmudgeon sometimes wonders if they could fathom how far we have come from such humble beginnings.

From that first, twelve-second flight, Man has pushed the very boundaries of space, and accomplished feats of aviation that Orville and Wilbur could only dream of.

Standing on that beach, watching his little brother struggle into the air, could Wilbur have imagined a Boeing 747 taking off to fly half-way around the world, an F-15 effortlessly breaking the sound barrier, or the Space Shuttle riding piggyback into orbit, on a giant ball of flame?

Could he have imagined the next generation of commercial air travel, when passengers fly at hypersonic speeds, at the edge of space?

If he could have, The Flying Curmudgeon believes he would have wanted to be at the controls.

Orville would have flipped him for it.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Let The Good Times Roll - Again?

It's been a banner decade for the Clintons and their pals in China.

Since leaving office six-and-a-half years ago, the Ex-Co-Presidents have gone from impeachment and indictment, at the hands of the "Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy," with the attendant legal bills mounting into the millions, to lucrative speaking and senatorial careers, a rather flush bank account, and Hillary on the verge of being crowned her party's 2008 Presidential Nominee.

On the other side of the International Dateline, the Asian Chapter of "Friends of Bill" continue to press the advantage that millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions, funnelled to DNC coffers in the late 1990s, afford them.

In a short ten year span, the Chinese have made some tremendous scientific and technological leaps, culminating in the successful launches of two, manned space flights, in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

(The Flying Curmudgeon CERTAINLY takes Bernie Schwartz at his word, that this had absolutely NOTHNG to do with his company's helping the Chinese with their "Long March" rockets' prior, nasty habit of exploding shortly after launch. Don't you?)

Combined with the highly classified information gleaned as a result of the EP-3E "Spy" plane incident of April 2001, the helpful assistance of Schwartz's Loral Space, along with Hughes Aircraft, our "Strategic Partners" have had quite the intelligence windfall during the same period.

Not to worry, right?

Well, sure, unless one considers that the same technology it took to place an astronaut into orbit, can be used to stage a MIRVed, nuclear-tipped, ICBM over the Pole.

But, so what? What's the big deal? The Chinese are our friends, right? (At least that's what the Clintonistas would have us believe, anyway.)

Again, it depends.

If the words of a ranking general of the People's Liberation Army are to be taken seriously, we might want to think twice before letting the Chinese tour our sensitive nuclear labs anymore.

(On second thought, why would they need to? The damage has pretty much already been done.)

TFC is not holding his breath for Tim Russert to ask, at the next Democratic debate: "Gov. Richardson, does the term 'W-88' mean anything to you?"

As much as The Flying Curmudgeon appreciates the folks at Fox News, why do they consistently treat this man with such deference, even before he became Governor of New Mexico? On more than one occasion, as Clinton's Secretary of Energy, he "let the fox into the henhouse," so to speak.

And while TFC is on this particular tangent, why does Sandy "The Burglar" Berger continue to get a pass after stuffing "codeword"-level documents down his shorts at the National Archives? Sent there by Bill Clinton prior to his (Clinton's) testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Berger, like so many F.O.B.s before him, dutifully "fell on his sword" and pled guilty.

Can you say "Webb Hubbell?" Can you say "Omerta'?"

Berger's punishment, however, amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

The Flying Curmudgeon seems to recall signing some sort of a "non-disclosure" agreement, prior to HIS being cleared for "codeword"-level documents, the violation of which called for severe punishment, of the "making-little-rocks-out-of-big-rocks-at-Leavenworth, Kansas" variety.

As the former National Security Advisor, Berger surely must have signed a similar agreement.

Fast forward nine years and the Clintons are at it again.

According to the LA Times, there is another Clinton fundraising scandal involving indigent, Asian immigrants. (Shades of the Buddhist Temple?),0,4231217.story?coll=la-home-center

And why shouldn't the Clintons be at it again? Nothing happened to them the last time. Who's going to call them on it? The Drive-bys?

Get real.

After the '96 Campaign scandals, FBI Director Louis Freeh likened the number of witnesses who either fled the country, or took the 5th Amendment to something he witnessed only when he was prosecuting the Mafia.

And as for these latest scandals, the "Smartest Woman in America" is counting on the average American voter either being too stupid to notice, too caught up in reality television to notice, or simply having "scandal overload," and just dismissing it all as more Republican "scandal-mongering."

Having listened the last several years to the steady drumbeat of Bush-bashing by the Democrats and their willing accomplices in the "Mainstream Media," this last one is the scenario she is most likely to be counting on.

Remember, no matter what happens, if it's bad, it's ALWAYS Bush's fault.

Come to think of it, however, when it comes to the Clintons, there just might be something to this "scandal overload" business. At times, you really can't tell a player without a program, can you?

Susan who? Jorge who? Mark who?

Don't be surprised if, upon gaining the nomination, Hillary's campaign slogan becomes: "Let The Good Times Roll - Again!"

To that, the only thing The Flying Curmudgeon can say is - God help us - here WE go again.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Breaking the Code

It was half-way through the mission, sitting in the right seat, 30,000 feet up when it hit him, that awful feeling of urgency.

"Man, I knew I shouldn't have eaten Italian last night. I have GOT to go," he thought to himself.

Turning to the Aircraft Commander, he said, "Boss, take the aircraft, will ya? I've got to see a man about a dog."

Taking the controls, the aircraft's pilot said, "I've got it, new guy. Just make sure you don't break the code."

"Break the code, what's that?"

A bemused look spread across the pilot's face.

"You know - break the code - drop the boys off at the pool, give birth to a fighter jock, take a dump, whatever. Didn't anyone teach you about breaking the code during training?"

Pilots can be so very colorful.

He continued.

"If you break the code, you'll stink up the airplane. Our lav doesn't flush, got it? Break the code, new guy, and you get to buy the crew a case of beer when we get back to base. Oh, and one more thing? You get to carry off all the bags of sh** when everyone else follows your lead."

"You're kidding, right?" the new guy replied in disbelief. "There's no "code."

The pilot just turned in disgust.

As the new guy was leaving the cockpit, headed for the aircraft's lavatory, the pilot said after him, "Okay, whatever you say. Just don't tell me later that I didn't warn you."

He handed the new guy a garbage bag and some paper.

"Here, you'll need this."

Leaving the cockpit, the new guy made his way towards the rear of the aircraft and the lavatory. As he headed towards the lav, he passed the rest of the airplane's crew seated at their stations. Spying the bag in his hand, they turned to each other, pointed at him and smiled.

"What are they grinning at?" he wondered.

Shrugging it off, the new guy entered the lav and closed the door after him.

Just as he was finishing his business, he heard the pilot come on the airplane"s Public Address System.

"Attention, this is your Captain speaking. Lieutenant New Guy is buying the first round when we get back to base."

Through the door came the raucous sound of applause, accompanied by hooting and laughing.

The new guy opened the door and stepped out of the lavatory. There was a line of men starting to form at the door.

"My turn, now. Thanks, Lieutenant," the first one in line said to New Guy with a grin. "I'll have something for you in just a few minutes."

The rest of the line chimed in, "Us too. Oh, and Lieutenant? We drink Budweiser."

Everyone burst out laughing.

Lieutenant New Guy slinked back towards the cockpit, a disgusting task and the cost of a case of beer now awaiting him at mission's end.

Lieutenant New Guy would later become The Flying Curmudgeon.

When The Flying Curmudgeon was a pilot in the military, he flew long-range aircraft. As such, he spent a lot of time stuck in a tube with a lot of other people.

It was not unusual for Yours Truly to fly 10 or 12 hour missions, along with 20 or 30 other crew members, depending on the mission.

When one spends that much time stuck in a tube with that many people, one gets to know those other folks a lot better than one wants to, if you know what TFC means.

The same thing can be said about commercial aircraft.

Apparently, there are some folks that feel they haven't gotten the most out of their travel dollar if they don't race into the lavatory as soon as they board and leave a "calling card" for the rest of their fellow passengers to "enjoy."

The funny part is, when they have finished their "business" and proudly step out in front of God and country, they seem perfectly oblivious to what everyone else is experiencing.

At that moment, everyone knows exactly who the offender is.

Often, this occurs after a long delay at the gate. As such, the culprit's fellow passengers are painfully aware he could have spared them the entire malodorous experience, had he done his "business" back in the terminal restroom.

And this is not the exclusive territory of men.

The Flying Curmudgeon has witnessed some of the most attractive, petite females step out of the lavatory after committing this offense.

Unlike the aircraft TFC was flying in the military, commercial aircraft are equipped with flushing toilets. How can The Flying Curmudgeon put this next part delicately? Flushing doesn't always completely eliminate the evidence, okay?

When you've got to go, you've got to go. Let's face it.

However, take some advice from The Flying Curmudgeon. If at all possible, leave the aircraft lavs for #1, or for joining The Mile High Club.

Your fellow passengers will thank you.


P.S. - if you've got to, take a tip from TFC - line the bowl with paper first.

To Live and Die in LA

Good luck to Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers!


Friday, November 2, 2007

In Memoriam - Paul Tibbets

As the silver wings of the B-29 bit into the air early that fateful August morning, much of Japan already lay in ruins.

In a single raid earlier that year, roughly 100,000 people had died, when Tokyo was bombed during the evening and early morning hours of 9/10 March 1945.

In what was arguably the largest raid of the entire war, some 300 B-29's dropped a half-million M-69 incendiary devices on the city. When the bombing stopped, 16 square miles of the city was destroyed.

Still the war raged on.

To President Truman and his advisors, the horrific battles fought the previous year over this tiny oasis called Tinian- roughly the size of Manhattan, and for its sister Saipan to the north - were bloody harbingers of what lay ahead.

With each successive battle in the island-hopping campaign, Japanese resistance stiffened.

In 35 days of fighting at Iwo Jima the previous February/March, 6,821 Marines were killed - ten percent of the invasion force of 70,000. Of the nearly 21,000 man Japanese garrison, only 216 had been taken prisoner.

During the battle for Okinawa, from April to June '45, the U.S. suffered over 72,000 casualties, 12,500 of which were either killed or missing. The Japanese lost 66,000 during the bloody campaign.

Based on these earlier battles, the projections for U.S. casualties during an invasion of Japan itself, planned for early 1946, were even more staggering.

U.S. war planners estimated over a million casualties would be required for the final assault. Japanese casualties were potentially 10 times that number.

It was the desire to avoid this astronomical loss of life that led President Truman to make the fateful decision that now had Col. Tibbets and his crew winging towards their date with history.

After meeting in Potsdam on July 26th, Truman, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and others representing the Allied Powers, issued the Potsdam Declaration. This document demanded the immediate and unconditional surrender of Japan, or they would face "...prompt and utter destruction."

Two days later the Japanese government rejected the Declaration and the die was cast.

This particular morning, the 6th of August, as the Super Fortress lifted off into the blackness, it was not a load of napalm in its belly. A single, 9,700 lb. bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," forced the aircraft to use up most of the 8,500 foot coral-and-steel runway.

Christened the "Enola Gay," after his mother, Tibbets turned the aircraft towards its target, the city of Hiroshima, 1,700 miles to the north.

Chosen for its strategic value - Hiroshima was an industrial city and the home of a large army depot - it was surrounded by hills, which was believed would magnify the blast effect.

After some six hours in the air, at 8:15 a.m. local time, "Little Boy" began its freefall from Enola Gay's bomb bay. A minute later, at an altitude of 2,000 feet above ground level, the bomb exploded, killing some 70,000 people with the initial blast. By the end of the year, another 50,000 to 70,000 would be dead due to burns, radiation sickness and other ailments.

After word of the bombing spread, President Truman issued another warning, saying of the Japanese government, "If they do not accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which has never been seen on this earth."

It would take the dropping of a second bomb, on the city of Nagasaki three days later, for the Japanese government to finally capitulate.

Tibbets retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General in 1966.

Asked in later years if he had any regrets, Tibbets replied, "I never lost any sleep over it."

Though the destruction wrought by these two bombings was indeed terrible, the decision to use the bombs most certainly shortened the war, and prevented countless additional deaths on both sides.

Rest in Peace, General Tibbets. You did your duty.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Seems like I am home less and less these days.

Contrary to popular belief, the life of an airline pilot is not as glamorous as it once was. I frequently spend fours days out of seven living out of a suitcase, shuttling between one airport hotel to another.

I'm not complaining, mind you, just stating a fact.

The vaunted contracts of the pre-9/11 industry are a thing of the past. Though the airlines are beginning to pull out of their long slump, (most are even hiring, after years of layoffs), it will be a long time before wages and working conditions approach pre-9/11 levels again -if ever.

As I was spending some quality time with my sons the other night watching Boston wrap up the fourth game of the World Series, I was reminded of an earlier Series. The legacy of that Series impacts Major League Baseball (and other sports) to this day.

Does anyone remember the movie Eight Men Out?

Starring John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, D.B. Sweeney, David Srathairn, (recently starring in Good Night, and Good Luck), and a near All-Star cast of others, it told the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox scandal.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of its release.

If you haven't seen it, The Flying Curmudgeon highly recommends renting it, or it may be purchased through

As the astute reader of The Flying Curmudgeon surely knows, in collusion with local mobsters and gamblers, the White Sox agreed to "throw" the Series, in an effort to get back at their penny-pinching owner Charles Comiskey (Clifton James).

As it turned out, for all their trouble, most of the conspirators wound up getting stiffed by their mob co-conspirators.

Imagine that. No honor amongst thieves.

With the exception of Buck Weaver (Cusack) and "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, (Sweeney), (if Weaver and Jacksons' testimony is to be believed), the entire team decided to put personal gain ahead of the integrity of the sport.

According to Weaver and Jackson, at the last minute they decided to break with the scheme, and played the rest of the Series straight, nearly coming back from a 3-1 deficit, in spite of their teammates' efforts to the contrary.

Though they were found Not Guilty at trial, the commissioner of Baseball at the time, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, (don't you just LOVE that name?) banned the entire team from the sport for life, including Weaver and Jackson.

For the rest of HIS life, Buck Weaver tried to clear his name.

This case set the legal precedent that, to this day, keeps Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame.

Okay, so what? Why is The Flying Curmudgeon bringing this up now?

Glad you asked that question.

Over the last several years, there have been numerous incidents involving professional athletes representing a variety of sports: the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal from this summer, the Ray Lewis incident a few years back, the steroid scandal involving Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and others, the (fill-in-the-blank-with-an-NFL-football-player's name) felony case of assault/battery from the last ten years or so, the Kobe Bryant affair.

The Flying Curmudgeon has had a number of these individuals on his aircraft over the years.

Lewis is not nearly as big in real life as he appears on television. Old school linebackers were MONSTERS.

Remember Ray Nietzchke, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus? They all seemed huge to TFC when he was a kid.

Without pads on, Lewis seems kind of ordinary, though admittedly, he has blazing speed.

Vick has a little brother named Marcus that could be his twin - in appearance, as well as in the common sense department.

After a night in Atlanta of post-Super Bowl partying a few years back, two men lay dead from knife wounds in the street outside a Buckhead nightclub. Ray Lewis and two of his "homies" from Miami, Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, were implicated in the deaths.

After much back and forth between the defense and the prosecution, Lewis was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.

My how times have changed.

Unlike the precedent set by Judge Landis, not only did Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner at the time let Lewis return to football, the following year Lewis helped his team, the Baltimore Ravens, go on to win the Super Bowl and was named Most Valuable Player.

Though Lewis testified he had seen his friends brandishing knives the day before, and that he saw Oakley kicking one of the victims while someone else held him down, even Oakley and Sweeting were eventually found Not Guilty.

Amazing. Two people lay dead and nobody went to jail.

Kind of reminiscent of another double murder involving a former professional football player, don't you think?

Now, TFC is not suggesting Lewis struck the blows that killed those poor men, one Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. However, he was certainly an accessory after the fact. From all reports, he encouraged a number of witnesses not to cooperate with authorities.

Without the testimony of eyewitnesses, along with some prosecutorial missteps, the jury was unable to find any of the defendants culpable for the killings.

Lewis' case is merely one of the more serious examples of sports figures involved in unseemly circumstances in recent years.

The list goes on and on. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this sad litany.

For every Ray Lewis, there is an Emmit Smith. For every Jason Giambi, there is a Derek Jeter.

The Flying Curmudgeon would say most professional athletes try to live up to their responsibilities as role models. Whether they want to be or not, (Charles Barkley), when you are paid millions of dollars a year to play a game, you ARE a role model.

In addition to players, like Smith and Jeter, there have been some notables on the sidelines and in dugouts, as well.

Tom Landry, in his trademark fedora, for a generation defined the word "gentleman" as the head coach of Dallas. Dick Vermeil always struck TFC as being a class act. Tony Dungee is a tremendous human being.

And now, after 12 years and 4 World Series titles, Joe Torre is out as Yankees manager. Few men in baseball, either on or off the field, have defined class like Joe Torre.

In 1971, while playing for St. Louis, Torre won the Batting Title and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player.

TFC can still remember his older brother's picture of Torre hanging on his bedroom wall.

A versatile player, during his career Torre wound up playing more than 500 games - as a catcher, at first base, and at third.

In 1977, he retired as a player and became manager of the New York Mets, but was unable to find much success at Shea, and the Amazin's weren't so amazing, finishing last place in his first three seasons.

Finding more success in Atlanta, he led the Braves to a division title in his first season as their manager in 1982. The good times in Hotlanta didn't last, however. After being fired, Torre went back to his beloved St. Louis, replacing Whitey Herzog in 1990.

After posting three winning seasons, the next two were disappointing and he was let go in '95.

The following year would be Torre's year.

In 1996, he replaced Buck Showalter as Yankees manager and in his first season led the Bronx Bombers to a World Series championship, his first trip to the fall classic in his entire career.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Three straight World Series victories ('98-'00), seven straight division titles (through 2004), while juggling a roster of baseball's biggest names (and egos) and dealing with the mercurial George Steinbrenner.

There are few personalities that have made a more positive impact on baseball, and set a better example for our nation's youth, than Joseph Paul Torre.

From The Flying Curmudgeon, thanks for the memories, Joe.

Hopefully, he won't go too far away. You won't, will you Joe?

Say it ain't so.