Wednesday, March 29, 2006

".....Not a Single Incidence of Patriot Act Abuse...."

Thanks to Radley Balko, the Agitator, for pointing out this abuse of the evil Patriot Act.

It seems that, in Virginia, four pro-US Iraqi Kurds are being persecuted by being prosecuted (under the provisions of the Patriot Act) for having sent some funds to charitable organizations in the old country, without a license. A license??!!? Since when do you have to have a license to give money to charity? Answer: since the Patriot Act.

Perhaps some of the jack-booted Patriot Act thugs ought to read the words on the obverse of every US FR note: "This Note Is Legal Tender For All Debts, Public And Private."

These unfortunate victims of a government gone mad have had their homes raided, their money seized, their applications for citizenship cancelled, and they face deportation. As usual, the MSM are hiding under the couch, or busy interviewing vapid high school truants in LA.

Now, I ask you.....Who are the terrorists?

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Collective Guilty Conscience

I guess I'm a little stuck on the movie V For Vendetta. I liked it. I plan to see it again. And again.

Although the movie is set in near-future Britain, the parallels here in the United States are hard to ignore. President Bush's administration seems hell-bent on putting an end to any and all privacy here, and in spending to (and beyond) the point that the next administration will find it very easy to justify a reactionary tax increase.

Note that, while the miniscule tax cut he pushed through was welcome, it was nowhere near big enough, and it was accompanied by less well-known tax increases not often acknowledged. Increases in fees, etc. It ought also to have been accompanied by cuts in spending, and wasn't--GWB's spending eclipses that of any previous administration. We only occasionally hear a faint mention of making those meager tax cuts permanent, and hardly ever hear mention of spending restraint. And, dammit, my car needs a new muffler.

Meanwhile, the insidious "Patriot Act," aka the Ripping the Bill of Rights to Shreds Act, has been renewed, guaranteeing that whatever rights GWB fails to destroy, his Democrat successor will have plenty of time to finish off.

Back to the subject, I've noticed that nearly all libertarians I've read like V. Libertarian reviews are full of positive comment and show agreement with the movie's view of the direction the world is heading. On the other hand, reviewers of conservative bent, every one, despise the film and, in some cases without having seen it, make their attacks focus on the terroristic element of the bombings and the assassinations.

The individual I particularly remember in this regard is Michael Medved, who apparently saw only terrorism in the movie--as did Sean Hannity.

As one of America's dumbest living politicians exclaimed, They "played on our fears!"

Why would conservatives so roundly condemn a work of art that so clearly favors a return to freedom and a hatred of tyranny? Could it be a reaction to the niggling complaints of what little is left of their consciences? Might they be remembering, with a sense of denial and embarrassment, that conservatism once, not long ago, claimed to champion capitalism and individual rights--however inconsistently? Does this movie point out a conflict that they're loathe to face?

The movie implied that America warred and spent itself into receivership, leaving us at the mercy of our not-so-benevolent allies. Not really much of a stretch, as things look from the here and now. GWB's excesses will hand a very difficult set of problems to the next administration. And the next administration will take it out on us.

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Have Faith, and Hand Over Your Wallet

I just sent a letter to the opinion/editorial editor of the Orange County Register in response to a letter from a "Republican" California State Assemblyman who has submitted a bill to create a department which assigns state grants to charitable organizations, both religious and secular. Possibilities (certainties?) of corruption are endless. Need I even state that it's utter insanity that funds be confiscated from productive individuals to give to charitable organizations, even those of which they may not approve? In a rational society, this thief would be hanged.

March 26, 2006


The thing that Assemblyman Leslie forgets when he proposes the establishment of an “Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, (AB2704)” is that he’s proposing doing it with my money, and of course, that of every other Californian, rich or poor.

The first thing that’ll happen will be the staffing of the office with way too many high-salaried civil servants. This will come out of my pocket. Then, these civil servants will hand millions of Californians’ hard-earned dollars to “charities,” many of whom won’t be carefully checked, and many of whom will steal or waste these funds. News stories abound, telling tales of poor accounting practices and lost or stolen grant money.

If Mr. Leslie, indeed is a Republican, which seems like a stretch, he’d favor lowering the level of California’s state tax bite so that each Californian is able to keep and control more of his earnings. We can then, among other things, donate effectively to charitable organizations we check out and deem worthy ourselves.

So, Mr. Leslie, I ask you. How much confiscation of our earnings is enough? How long will California’s War on Productivity last? How many productive individuals must leave California before you guys’ll get the point? When everyone’s on the dole, who’s going to pay your bloated salary?

Thank you,
*Col. Hogan*


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ice Skating in Vicksburg

For many years, in my travels, I've always carried my skates with me. Even back in the 1970's and '80's, when I did a fair bit of motorcycle touring, I always had them with me, even given the limited space in a motorcycle saddlebag. Any time I had any time, or could make time, I'd look up the local ice rink and go skate there.

Since the mid-'80's, I've had much less time available for travelling, but I still make every effort to find a rink and skate in every city in which I happen to find myself, with a little time.

The best ice 'pon which I've skated? I think the name was Ice Palace, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1982. The worst ice? A small, undersized rink about a quarter-mile from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The rink, and the building in which it was housed, made way for yet another resort hotel several years ago.

The very nicest skating experience I've had has been reprised several times. The rink, called the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, in Santa Rosa, California, belongs to the estate of Charles Schultz (Peanuts). It also has the best in-rink restaurant (the Warm Puppy) I've ever experienced. Take note, Ice Scribe! Several times, I've gone up to Santa Rosa with my primary focus 'pon a skate at Redwood Empire.

I've skated at the rink in Paramount, California, in which Frank Zamboni developed his first ice resurfacer. A very nice rink, oversized to accomodate speed skaters.

In 1994, I was sent to study soil permeability and shear strength at the US Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I brought my skates. I asked where was the nearest ice rink. Ice rink? What's an Ice rink? Don't you mean an iced drink? I ended up gambling aboard one of the faux river boat casinos on Ol' Muddy.

One thing I hope to do, is visit New York in winter, so I can skate at Rockefeller Center. So far, every trip I've made to New York has been in summer.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Monday, March 20, 2006

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

I saw Serenity, loved it. I've seen dozens and dozens of movies with positive messages of freedom with strong, uncompromising heroes and heroines over a life of enjoyment of movies of many types. This is why I tend to like action movies. I can sit back, relax and observe a straightforward view of an individual trying (and usually succeeding) to make his part of the universe a better place. Some of these stories are explicitly pro-freedom and others address a single injustice of some sort.

Gladiator, for example, was one man's battle against a failing government, though the story had very limited political significance except to illustrate the extent to which a mad dictator will go to enforce his will.

The Last of the Mohicans (the more recent release), was one man's struggle to live his life independently, in the midst of a war between two oppressive governments, in which efforts are made to draw him into a military battle.

V For Vendetta is a man's battle against an oppressive government that destroyed tens of thousands of lives during its drive to solidify its hold on the individuals who lived within its boundaries. A grave injustice was done to this individual, along with his fellow victims, for which he plans to destroy the oppressive regime.

Along the way, he saves the life, then falls into a tragic love with a young, heroine. To add much more would be to spoil the event, should any of you decide to see it. Suffice it to say that the story begins with Guy Fawkes, and appears to bring the story into being in a fictional future world. Fictional, but not unbelieveable....

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Addendum: Since this isn't a review, but merely a recommendation, I'd suggest you read Scott Bieser's apt review of V for Vendetta here. I've just seen the movie once (so far) and was far too emotionally wrapped up in the story to give a good assessment. I find Scott's comments match my thoughts quite closely.

They've killed Freedom! Those Bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hitler's Intellectual Heirs Live in Calabasas

There's a great fear across the City of Calabasas. It is the fear that someone, somewhere across that vast metropolitan area, someone might be enjoying himself.

I smoked cigarettes (and occasionally, cigars) for about twenty-two of the years between 1960 and 1992. I quit for the final time in '92 because I thought I was getting too old to abuse myself like that anymore, and it was getting expensive.

I still like the notion of smoking and kind of enjoy watching someone smoking, if they're enjoying it.

I never believed, nor will I ever believe, that "second-hand smoke" is as harmful as actually smoking--as it's put forth by the anti-smoking nazis and pipelined through the news media. Too many variables: Second hand smoke in a closed room? In a car? No ventilation? Yeah, that would be a problem if one is in such a place with several smokers for several years, but there's no chance that the occasional whiff one might catch in the open air of a sidewalk restaurant is going to be an issue in the milieu of deisel, gasoline, coal and wood smoke fumes that we breathe every day.

So the city of Calabasas has made smoking illegal everywhere within the city limits. Exceptions? Private dwellings. In a car with the windows rolled up. Designated smoking areas scattered about the city, like they do at Disneyland (Disneyland is private property).

The City of Calabasas has this decreed that, even though you might nominally, own your home, automobile or place of business, the City of Calbasas is going to control what you do there--just as various other jack-booted government agencies control how various other private places of business deal with themselves and their clientele.

Adolf says, "My work here is done."

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,
Col. Hogan

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An Impromptu Diplomatic Coup at a Pub

There's an interesting restaurant near where we live, called The Old Ship. They had a costume contest there on Halloween night, I won first prize for my homemade Hagrid (Harry Potter). The prize was a $40 gift certificate.

Tonight was the night we finally decided to cash in the prize.

Debbie had fish & chips and I had bangers and mash. The food was, as usual, not spicy at all (I like spicy foods) but was very good. While we ate, we noticed that a fairly large group of men seemed to be really enjoying themselves in the pub. They were singing the kind of songs to which just about everyone knows the lyrics. They were singing loudly and with a great deal of enthusiasm. They were having fun!

As we finished dinner, I commented to Debbie, "We should thank those guys for the entertainment."

So, we did.

And found ourselves in a three-hour conversation.

Seems three of the men were from London. They were here to attend the funeral of their brother, who had recently passed away. All the other members of the group were local friends and co-workers of the deceased. They had been drinking, reminiscing about the deeased, and celebrating his life. Many of these men were leaving as Debbie and I finished dinner, so as we made our way to the pub, there were only six men left, including the three brothers.

When we thanked the remaining group for the, actually pretty good, singing, we were suddenly members of the group.

We introduced ourselves to the first of the three brothers, who explained the situation: that they were celebrating the life of their brother. Both Debbie and I were taken aback by this news. Neither of us expected it.

We chatted about the US, England, football, rugby and even curling. We compared Margaret Thatcher with GW Bush, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton-Rodham. We discussed tourist sites in both England and the US, with a bit of discussion about Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Then, one of the party, a New Zealander, set up a "communal dinner" with three big orders of fish and chips.

The fifth member of the group (not including Debbie and I)was a Scot. When I asked the meaning behind Guy Fawkes Day, the English guys explained that it was the celebration of the failure of Fawkes to blow up Parliament. The Scottish guy (two-and-a-half sheets to the wind, at this point) argued that in Scotland, the holiday was a celebration of the attempt, and a lamentation of his failure.

I think that puts me in the Scottish camp (Ar, ar!)

We ate the food (Debbie and I ate very little, just having finished our own dinner) drank our drinks, including several toasts to the deceased and to many other things, and parted friends, having exchanged email addresses during the course of things.

You know, you just never know where and when you'll meet new friends!


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Get a Cold, Go to Prison

An article by John Berlau here informs of Legislative mission creep in the "Patriot Act," seems to indicate a melding of the falsely-named "War of Terror" with the equally nefarious, and equally falsely named "War on Drugs." Many of us know, but few of us care, and even fewer of us know what to do with the information that non-prescription cold medications contain chemicals that can be used to make crystal meth.

At government prompting, we've been hearing for many months from the mainstream news and conservative punditry, in one of a very few instances in which they agree, stories about the evils of crystal meth. Stories of wrecked lives, mayhem and losing weight.

Thus, we are prepared for yet another assault on our rights: the right to purchase relief from the symptoms of the common cold. Rumor has it that airline passengers will now be strip searched for Sudafed.

The Berlau article warns of pending legislation, but this article tells us that, once again, the future is now, and that George Orwell only had the year wrong. The fascist-inspired US Congress has smuggled anti-drug legislation into the evil Patriot Act. Not only will we have to buy cold medication the same way we used to have to buy condoms, but we'll have to sign for it. Our name then goes into the "Potential Crystal Meth Manufacturers Data Base."

Dear friends, I find that not particularly comforting.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"There Aren't Enough Prisons!"

A young woman, drunk, was wandering about the streets of New York City at 4AM. A bouncer, working for the pub in which the woman did much of her drinking, allegedly followed her, accosted her, tortured, raped and killed her, then hid her body. Her body was found a few days later.

We subsequently learn that the bouncer was a felon, an ex-con out on parole. According to local law and parole rules, a) the pub owner should have done a background check prior to hiring the man and, after learning of his background, should not have hired him at all, and b) the man's parole officer should have, in his capacity of observing the behavior of this man, had him arrested and returned to prison as soon as he learned of his parole violation.

This entry has more to do with the nation's prisons and penal systems than it does with this particular crime (the man in question has yet to be tried for the woman's murder), than it does with this particular crime, but it's my opinion that the pub owner(s) and the parole officer should share personal responsibility for the damage they caused. The felon, should be returned to prison for his parole vionlations and if convicted of the woman's murder, should remain there, without amenities, for the rest of his life.

A degree of blame belongs to the government and police agencies of the United States for promoting the disastrous notion that it's unnecessary and undesirable (and illegal) for individuals to have and use weapons of self defense. Had this young woman been carrying a firearm and been competent in its use, there's a very good chance she'd be alive today. In no instance would she be any worse off! Because I regard drinking beyond the point of self control stupid to the point of being comparable to suicide, I'm not prepared to deal with the notion of a "drunk chick with a gun."

Were Americans in general aware that a large percentage of the American public are armed and capable of self defense, there'd be much less of this sort of thing attempted. An armed society is a polite society.

By way of finally getting to the real point of this entry, one of the news shows reveals (as has been said many times by many individuals) that the reason these admittedly very dangerous convicts are paroled so cavalierly is that there's a shortage of prison space.

There are a number of problems with this. We can briefly examine a fraction of these problems.

The prisons are full of innocent individuals whose most serious shortcoming is that they happen to have been involved in the use, possession and/or sale of illegal substances--mostly drugs. Many of these laws have mandatory minimum sentences that have no relation to the severity of their damage to any individual or group. Thus, the sentences of these convicts often take precedence of the sentences of murderers, thieves and arsonists, etc, which usually have no minimum sentences, or more flexible ones. Thus, the innocent pot farmer must remain in prison for the full X years while the real criminal often gets an early out, sometimes (often) to continue his/her reign of destruction.

The first solution: put an immediate end to this huge, immoral, unConstitutional War on the Bill of Rights, often called (by the disingenuous) "the War on Drugs." Let all those poor saps out of prison today (those who didn't commit real crimes as part of their life in the world of drugs) and repeal all of the unConstitutional laws against the right to own things and the right to ingest things in accordance with the judgement of each individual. This should make quite a bit of space for criminals who have actually harmed people.

The second solution: build more prisons. The big problem with that is that prisons cost a lot of money. And they do, if they're built the ridiculous way prisons have been built. Prisons should be privatized and run on a for-profit basis. Prisoners should work, not only to supply labor for the construction of the prisons themselves, but to do any kind of productive work to a) pay their own keep in the prison, b) provide restitution to their victims, and c) to learn a trade that can be used to begin a career after their imprisonment ends.

The goal of prison ought to be primarily restitution, not punishment. When the convict makes his victim whole, as nearly as is possible, his sentence is over (obviously, the rules must be different in the case of a death, in which no restitution is possible). The murderer should never see the light of day again. As for those who pay (literally) their debt to their victim(s), his incarceration should end that day. His own property should be returned to him--including his gun, if he owned one. An ex-con has the right to defend himself, too! He should be released back into society with no further prejudice, as long as he keeps his nose clean.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yet Another in a Long List of Gas-Guzzlers

For the past couple of years, I've been driving Col. Hogan II, and occasionally, the Bomber. The Bomber always needed work and was costing me more money than was comfortable. Col. Hogan II has always needed cosmetic work, but always ran well and was both fun and comfortable.

Neither of them gets very good gas mileage.

About a month ago, I sold the Bomber. This week, Col. Hogan II goes up for sale. Why, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask. I'll tell you anyway.

I just bought a new guzzler. Since one of my favorite pastimes is driving--I even enjoy driving in heavy traffic, although I often mutter when I see someone reading while driving, or talking on a phone instead of driving, etc.

Debbie and I took the Amtrak up to Thousand Oaks Saturday morning and picked the car up, then drove it home. It was a thoroughly enjoyable drive. We also went for a drive up to LA yesterday--another very pleasurable outing.

I like this car pretty much the way it is, but there are a few things I plan to do to make it mine own--what car buff has no such plans?

Now, if they can just start drilling for all that cheap oil off the California coast......

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Golden Age of Hitchhiking

My dad, in his youth, spent a year or so of his life riding the rails. It was the tail-end of the Great Depression, and many men wandered the country looking for greener pastures. Some were looking for adventure. Unfortunately, he never got around to telling me the details of the places he'd been and the things he'd done, so the episode will remain lost.

Later, as I edged into manhood, I had my own needs for adventure and experience. My childhood friends and I did a great number of things that I look back fondly upon. Many of these were things that would make today's overprotective parents blanch into a permanent verklemptitude, and probably wouldn't please my own more realistic parents very much, but they seemed to me like the thing to do at the time.

Having observed the soldiers and other migratory individuals thumbing their way through town to places that just had to be more interesting and more fun that Grand Forks, North Dakota, their mode of travel piqued my interest.

I tried my thumb going back and forth across town several times. Just about everyone who gave me a ride knew me or knew my dad. "Do your folks know you're dong this?" I thumbed my way to Crookston a couple of times and to Fargo.

I didn't do a lot of hitchhiking while in high school, because I had a car, a job and a girlfriend. Most of my time was accounted for.

While I was in the Navy, things were different. I couldn't afford a car, and had no place to keep it. I had a lot of free weekends. I was stationed, initially, at the training center in Waukegan, Illinois. I came up with the crazy idea to hitchhike from Waukegan to Grand Forks on the occasional weekend. It worked well. I'd get off base at about three pm and get to Grand Forks early Saturday morning. Sleep a little, run around with the guys, have a date, sleep in Sunday, start back by early afternoon, be back on base in time to catch three to six hours of shut-eye before Monday reveille.

I did that several times during the year-and-a-half I was there. I usually outran the buses.

I was transferred, after my engineman training, to an aircraft carrier in Mayport, near Jacksonville, Florida. During my time there (when we weren't at sea) I hitchhiked to New Orleans several times (a girl), to Miami several times (another girl) to Grand Forks three times, and from New York City to Grand Forks once.

I rode with many cross-country independent truck drivers, vacationing couples (usually the guy had been in the Navy himself), travelling businessmen, and the occasional drunk.

I got picked up by a lonely girl in Iowa once. I stopped to visit every time I went through there, after that. I rode with a drunk guy who crashed his car into big rig. He was killed in the crash; I suffered a broken ankle.

I ate in truckstops and diners all over the East, in a wood-burning Ozark diner, cafes in the bayoux of Louisiana, Mom & Pop diners, and many, many Denny's-style places. The ex-military guys would often pick up the tab, which was really cool.

I saw the southern cities and towns with the white side and the "colored" side. I saw the gas stations and restaurants that had "white only" bathrooms and drinking fountains. I was never turned out of a black-owned business (I was too naive to know that I wasn't supposed to be there) although most white-owned businesses either didn't serve blacks or had a special entrance in the back. I'd never seen anything like it.

I was rained on, snowed on and once spent a couple of hours on the highway in Bemidji, Minnesota when the temperature was 56 below zero. A Canadian trucker picked me upon his way to Winnipeg.

I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world. I met and talked to hundreds of very interesting, generous individuals. I spent time in towns and cities I'd only fly over today. America was a much freer, and less homogenous society (or assemblage of societies) back then. Things could be found in one part of the country that were really not found elsewhere. Sometimes, the local dialect was very hard to understand. Sometimes, local customs were very different from those to which I was accustomed.

Those days are gone, never to return. Nor should they, I guess. We were freer then, and able to do many things that are no longer possible.

You can't hitchhike anymore.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California