Monday, August 27, 2007


"Several centuries ago, providing the basic necessities for one's survival was a matter of daily drudgery for most people. But Americans today enjoy conveniences undreamed of by medieval kings. Every day brings some new useful household gadget, or a new software system to increase our productivity, or a breakthrough in biotechnology. So, it is worth asking: Why do Americans have no unique holiday to celebrate the creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who have made all of this wealth possible--the men of the mind?"

- Fredric Hamber of the Ayn Rand Institute

We have the upcoming Labor Day holiday that salutes men-of-muscle, why not a day to commend those who create the places in which these men and women work? How about the brainiacs who create the things that're fabricated in the factories? What about the capitalists who invest in the creator's vision?

While I have minor issues with the Ayn Rand Institute, I wholeheadedly agree with most of their positions regarding the scientists and inventors who create the technology that keeps us schlubs from having to look under rocks for our supper.

Tip o' the battered grey fedora to Chuck Muth

Playing with fire will cook your steaks.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Monday, August 20, 2007

In The Navy: Part I

Some might question the wisdom of what I did. All I can say in my defense is: 1) I was only 17 and knew no better and 2) I was a small-town lad from North Dakota who'd never seen the sea.

What did I do? I hated the idea of the military draft every bit as much then as I do now, and for just about the same reasons. My high school pal Richard Nordrum went to Winnipeg to avoid the draft, and for whatever other reasons remain closely held. He remains there to this day, and by all accounts, does not regret his decision. I, rather than be drafted into the Army, joined the Navy.

There are certain benefits to volunteering rather than being drafted, one of which is a (kind of) choice of work rating, and the training that comes with it. I knew I wanted to work in construction, so my first choice was Equipment Operator in the Seabees. My second choice was Engineman, which is simply a mechanic. Since I was already a frustrated hot rodder (Frustration coming from a chronic lack of money), the thought of becoming a mechanic wasn't the worst possible fate.

I went to Engineman School in Great Lakes, Ill. It was a very good school, and I learned a lot--some of which I apply to this day while working on my own cars.

It was during this period that I made several hitchhiking trips from Waukegan to Grand Forks on weekend liberties.

It was oddly prophetic that in 1962, we had three VietNamese petty officers in our class. I didn't even know what VietNam was, beyond being able to locate it on a map. These fellas, and others that attended other classes, were part of the early aid program that the US was giving to South VietNam in those early months before we entered the war militarily.

The only name I remember of the three guys is Choe Pyong Su, an Engineman 1st Class. He was the elder of the group; around thirty at the time. We all spent some time together, drinking beer and talking about ourselves. They were planning to go back home and kick some commie ass, they said.

I hope they did. I hope they're still alive.

I always thought, and still think that our intervention in VietNam's struggle was none of our (America's) business, but that didn't keep me from picking sides. The US government really did South VietNam dirty by accelerating the war to such a high degree, then walking away. South VietNam got screwed as much by the US government as by the North VietNam dictatorship. A lot of good people died needlessly.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Invisible to Government--Dare to Aspire.....

Hillary Clinton, the leading Democrat candidate for her party's nomination for President, has declared her openness by securing all of her records from the time she was serving in the office of Co-President of the United States, has begun producing tv ads already, with Election Day over fourteen months away. Yet, she still has not, as a candidate for President, ever allowed herself to speak extemporaneously in any venue, in any situation. She managed to win her election to the Senate as a carpetbagger, in New York in a similar way.

I find her inability to just talk to interviewers and to unsorted groups of voters very troubling. I find that she and the other Democrat candidates are afraid to appear and debate on Fox News, the largest cable news station, very troubling. I further find that her inability to remember any of the details of her Whitewater investments, nor into what location the purloined FBI files were stashed, nor who hired the underqualified Security Chief, Craig Livingstone, seems to point out a degree of mental deficiency that ought to be called into question.

There are many problems with the Clinton Presidency and many of them are not with the President himself. Hillary has, even since her college days, been the more radical of the pair, the more socialist, and holds many explicitly Marxist views. Her having recently called for a confiscation of oil company profits ought to send up a warning flag to all productive individuals.

The tv ad I mentioned earlier, which has been airing in Iowa and on Fox news, laments the fact that many of America's impoverished are "invisible" to the federal government--particularly to the current administration. She says this as if it would be a bad thing (if true).

Mrs Clinton: there is a way you can get my vote. I'll want it on paper, signed by you, and witnessed by many. Promise me that I too, can be invisible to the federal government. For life. There are very few things that would please me more.

You see, Mrs Clinton, It's my opinion that the federal government has done nothing positive for me, nor any other American, almost since the signing of the US Constitution. Maybe if I think long enough and hard enough, I'll come up with something, but it won't be easy. What you'll never understand and you and others like you have been working hard to keep other Americans from knowing, is that government's only proper job is to protect the rights of its citizens.

You've sworn to uphold the letter and spirit of the US Constitution, and you and nearly all the other elected officials in the country have criminally ignored your sworn job description for generations.

According to the words and sentiments expressed by Thomas Jefferson and many of his contemporaries, the US federal government should've been dissolved many decades ago--prior to the unConstitutional War Between the States. The way I see it, an informal alliance between the fifty states, with trade and travel treaties (to be occasionally renewed) would serve far more equitably than this hodge-podge fascist mess under which we now are victimized.

Do me a favor. Quit. Clear out your desks, all of you. Get real jobs that actually turn you into productive individuals.

Try it. You'll like it.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan

Stalag California

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Trads Versus The Rads, 2007

The Trads and the Rads were two factions within the Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960's. The Trads were the traditional conservatives (such as they were at that time), and the Rads were libertarians, seeking a smaller, much less intrusive government. While the Rads were fairly numerous and vocal (and much smarter) they were still vastly outnumbered by the Trads. In the end, the Trads were able to purge the Rads, and YAF became a more uniformly conservative organization. I was never a member of YAF, and thus my recollections come from the outside. Perhaps a member of YAF during that time can fill me in.

Sean Hannity, well-known conservative radio and tv commentator, would have definitely been a Trad.

Now, it looks like Hannity (he's not the only one) has taken yet another page from the leftist news media book of selective reporting: if you don't like the news; if you don't think the public should hear it, spike it!

The leftist media tend to fail to report much of the news that say, suggests that individuals are better at defending themselves (if given the opportunity) than the police are at protecting them. Or that the quasi-military police gang that broke into a suburban house and terrorized the family inside, had a bogus warrant and didn't announce themselves before breaking the door down.

They also fail to report many other suggestions and proofs that leftist-promoted hoaxes, such as the wholesale extinctions of plants and animals (caused by man), global warming (caused by man) and the destruction of the environment (caused by capitalism) are lies perpetrated to increase the power of government over the individual.

I'd also like to see daily reports of the many times elected officials and bureaucrats violate the Constitution they've sworn to uphold.

Mr Hannity is learning from these people. Today, on his radio show, He spoke of the three highest Republican Presidential vote-getters at the Iowa Cauci, then he mentioned three candidates that didn't compete in Iowa. At no point did he mention Congressman Ron Paul.

Now, I'm pretty sure Dr Paul is still a candidate, and I'm pretty sure he was either in Iowa, or he was not. In other words, he has to fit into one of those two categories. Yet, Mr Hannity failed to mention his name in his report.

I know that Hannity is opposed to the candidacy of Dr Paul. I'm pretty sure I know the reason why; based on what I know about Hannity. Dr Paul is a Rad. Hannity's not, for example, very familiar with the US Constitution, whereas Dr Paul follows the Constitution verbatim, as it was written. Hannity tends to pick and choose according to what the more influential members of the Republican Party seem to like. For example, he's totally down with the so-called Homeland Security Act and the Patriot Act.

Hannity ignores the fact that these laws violate the Bill of Rights in a host of ways. I couldn't even begin to list the many ways these laws violate both the Constitution and natural law. Suffice it to say that legal due process is pretty much rendered a shambles by these so-called laws and that the rights that are affirmed and guaranteed by the document are now to be allowed only at the government's convenience.

Of this, Hannity enthusiastically approves. He also approves of the much older War on Drugs, by means of which the Constitution is rendered sterile and irrelevant, and dlegal due process is largely ignored.

Hannity claims to be opposed to military conscription, but he will flip-flop on this if the Republican Party members in office begin calling it necessary. He loves to tell of the many times he's disagreed with President Bush, but in every case he fails to put any barb in his criticism.

In addition, it might be noted that his interview style varies severely depending 'pon whether he's in agreement with the interviewee, or not. When he talks to Rudy Giuliani, it's always politeness, softball questions and they end up singing Kumbaya together. On the other hand, when he interviews Robert F Kennedy, Jr, the extreme leftist environmental wack-job, it quickly becomes a shout-fest, with Hannity accusing Kennedy of all manner of vile leftist debauchery (much of which is true, but irrelevant to the topic under discussion). He calls Kennedy a liberal, as if that seals the discussion (which, of course, Kennedy is most emphatically not. Thomas Jefferson was a liberal. I've read Thomas Jefferson, and Mr Kennedy, you're no Thomas Jefferson--to paraphrase Lloyd Bentson.)

In the end, you find out very little about what Mr Hannity's interviewees actually think about the relevant issues. Not good.

With friends like these, who needs enemas?

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Just Fiddlin' Around

My wife Debbie's been relearning the violin for the past year or so. She was (and still is) enamored of violinist Andre Rieu, as well as the waltzes of Johann Strauss. Thus, she was using such works as The Blue Danube and The Emperor's Waltz for practice.

Recently, she's made friends with a Scottish fiddler. Seems this friend has invited her to a session of the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles. She's now a member, and practicing Scottish fiddling with this group. It's actually kind of cool stuff.

There's a pretty big difference in style between classical violin playing and fiddling. Debbie's trying to make the transition, and having some success in the early stages. She's been asked to join the group in a concert at the Seaside Scottish Highland Games in Ventura this fall. Debbie's game, but unsure whether she'll be good enough by October. "'S ok," says she. "You can play chords this first time."

It promises to be a lot of fun. Perhaps I'll try my hand at tossin' the caber.

....The right to keep and bear claymores shall not be infringed.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Every Auto Dealership Should Have One Good Mechanic

I've worked in gas stations a few times in my youth, back in the days when many gas stations had service bays and did some light mechanical work. I managed one of these gas stations for a couple of years. In addition to pumping gas, we also did light mechanical work, such as oil changes, belts and hoses, selling and repairing tires and replacing bulbs, wipers, etc.

Over the years, I've had occasion to buy two or three new cars (mostly, I buy older cars, because they're simpler, and I can do a lot of the necessary work myself, which I like to do), and thus have had a few opportunities to use the dealer's shop for warranty work.

I now own a 1957 Chevy. A couple of weeks ago, a leak developed in the lower radiator hose. I also had an ailing starter, which I'd been putting off fixing because of a lack of time to do so. The leaking hose had to be fixed right away, and I still didn't have time to do it.

I took the car over to Rydell Chevrolet, in Van Nuys. They loved the car; several of the service advisers told me tales of similar cars they or their parents owned many years ago. The next day, I got a call from the service adviser. A "technician" replaced the starter, but the "technician" who was to replace the radiator hose couldn't do it because the car has a non-stock engine and a custom-made radiator.

I told the adviser that all the "technician" has to do is take the old hose off and compare it by eyeball to the new hoses they have in stock. One of them will fit. Well, it seems that "service technicians" don't work that way. They requisition parts by means of their computer. The computer only shows the stock hose for the car.

Back at home, and backed against the wall, I took the old hose off myself. It took maybe twenty minutes (there are access issues). I took the hose to my neighborhood Kragen and explained the situation. The clerk immediately took me to the aisle in which dozens of radiator hoses were hanging from pegs. In less than five minutes of looking, I found a hose that would work.

Back home, I had to cut the hose to length and, because of the access difficulties, it took me about half an hour to install the hose and refill the radiator with coolant. Ready to go, and for a mere thirteen dollars. I'm sure that a good mechanic, with a far better set of tools than I, could've done the whole thing, including the starter, in less than an hour.

So, I guess I really did have time to do the work.

The current assembly line-style auto service technician schools might turn out good technicians, but it takes an ability to think on one's feet to make a good mechanic. Every auto shop should have one good mechanic.

Darwin got it backwards.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Making Female Dogs Illegal

I used to think the local officeholders in El Pueblo de Los Angeles were world-class idiots; the worst on Earth. This story from the New York Times, via Drudge, makes me realize LA isn't unique in its dysfunctional local government.

The New York City Council is contemplating making the word "bitch" illegal. City Councilmoron Darlene Mealy introduced the measure, saying it creates “a paradigm of shame and indignity” for all women. The dumb bitch didn't even print the word out in the language of the measure, referring to it as "the b-word." We'll just have to take the Times' word that "bitch" is actually the word that's being banned. Meanwhile, "bastard" remains a legal slur.

As one might expect, New Yorkers are roundly laughing the legislation off as funny, not to mention stupid and unenforceable (actually, sometimes they do mention it, in even more colorful terms).

Also included in the measure, is a ban on the word "ho." New York's children are going to bed in tears, realizing that Santa Claus will no longer be able to visit the city each Christmas. Perhaps Ms Mealy will have to ban the word "Grinch," as well.

Meanwhile, one must observe that, nowhere in the Times article, is Amendment the First, to the US Constitution mentioned. This measure is so clearly a violation of said Amendment, that both the Councilmoron and the Times writer, Michael M Grynbaum, must find their iq's in the lower double digits. Mr Grynbaum apparently hasn't yet had time to hobnob with the attorneys of ACLU, to whose members the First Amendment is the only Amendment.

I fear for the health of the Republic.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Friday, August 03, 2007

Water Under Troubled Bridges

We've all been hearing and reading about the tragedy in the Mini-Apple. It's been covered, perhaps a bit too much, by all the media. A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune story on the recovery efforts and the investigation of the incident can be found here.

One of the early findings was that the bridge has been deemed "deficient" and in need of structural repair for some time. In fact, bridge inspectors around the country have said that there are hundreds of bridges around the various states that are in similar condition; some worse. Almost none have scheduled repairs to alleviate the situation. In the case of the fallen bridge, as I'm given to understand, crews were working on repaving the deck, but none were working on the bridge's structural strength.

Transportation officials and politicians from the various states are clambering over each other to get to the microphone to say there is no danger in America's bridges. A (fortunately) fairly small number of individuals in Minneapolis and St Paul hospitals might have a differing opinion.

I'm in this business. I've done testing on soils, concrete and other materials on several Stalag California bridges. They are (most of them, presumably) in fine shape when they first opened to traffic. Many of them are currently being strengthened to withstand more powerful earthquakes on the urban freeways. This after several bridges collapsed during earthquakes in recent years.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, more likely) most states never have earthquakes, or rarely. Looks like highway departments in these states, and the politicians who vote them funds, have decided that once a bridge is built, they're done.

Bridges deteriorate, just as do roads, buildings and utility systems. The day that a bridge is found to be substandard, repairs should be scheduled.

Politicians get their accolades when public works are opened and dedicated. Maintenance isn't sexy. In a world of finite resources, it gets a politician a lot more face time in front of their constituents when they "give away something new," than it does just to keep it in good repair.

Washington parasites are now talking about guaranteeing health care for all children (never mind the parents' responsibility) while ignoring the maintenance of the nation's infrastructure.

While watching a news program on MSNBC this afternoon, I happened to see a writer by the name of Nick Coleman of the Star Tribune who claims that the problem is not high enough taxes. I'll have to assume that he, as an honorable man, gives the state of Minnesota what he sees as a fair share of his salary, even if it's substantially more than the State requires.

What needs to happen is that the infrastructure should be privatized. Utilities should own and be solely responsible for their generators, power lines, etc. Water utilities should own and be solely responsible for their reservoirs, distribution systems, and all the attendant equipment.
Highways, roads and streets should be privately owned, either by entrepreneurs or by business or homeowners associations, who should be solely responsible for them.

You see where this is (finally) going.

Customers would know whom to hold responsible if the maintenance of the various utilities is substandard. They will vote with their wallets and with their feet. A town with unmaintained streets or poor utilities will be known as a ghost town.

As I've said many times before, the answer is always "privatize."

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fastest Thumb in the West

Back in my hitchhiking days, as related in this earlier entry, mainly in the early 1960's before the hippies ruined it, I used to be able to outrun the Greyhounds on my thumb. I did so many times. Often, my rides came from truckers who wanted a conversation to help pass the time. Sometimes I'd ride in a truck all night long, talking with the driver about roads, cities, past adventures and even politics. He'd often spring for breakfast to boot, even though I'd try to talk him out of it. 'Twas I who owed him, and sometimes I'd manage to talk him into letting me take the tab.

Once, when hitching from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukegan, Illinois to Grand Forks in winter, I was dropped off at about midnight in the outskirts of Bemidji, Minnesota (Curling capital of the United States). It was cold. Very cold, and still. The air was so cold it couldn't move. I was in Navy blues (wool) with just a peacoat. I knew that if I didn't get a ride soon, I'd have to find shelter or I'd freeze.

There was very little traffic.

I kept my eyes on a nearby building, a meeting hall of some sort. It was all lit up. The plan was to go over there if I got dangerously cold. Or, if the lights started going out.

After about an hour, I knew I couldn't last much longer. Did I mention it was cold?

A truck appeared and I shifted to make sure I was in his headlights. He stopped!

Man, did that warm cab feel good! I thawed. Soon, I could move my knees and elbows without hearing the creaking of my joints.

There were two drivers in the truck--one in the coffin and one driving. They were Canadians. Because of the relative quality of American highways, Canadians often opted to use them instead of braving the northern highways, even with the additional miles. These guys were coming from somewhere near Ottawa and headed for Winnipeg.

The driver said he thought I might be in trouble. I told him I was about to start knocking on doors.

The guy in the back joined in, and we talked about Canada. I was kind of interested in Canada, because Grand Forks is only 75 miles from Winnipeg and I'd go up there once in a while. They had some great coffee houses there, in which there was poetry reading and folk singers. I never could understand beatnik poetry (I think I was too rational to get it), but I liked the folk music of the time. The Kingston Trio were among my favorites, and this one coffee house had a copycat trio.

I digress.

In the end, the guys said that I could visit Canada as much as I want, but I should stay in the US. They stopped at a truck stop in Crookston, where they were turning north. After a break and a hot cup, I bid the guys thanks and farewell, and they drove off as the first glow of morning appeared in the east.

Crookston is only about 15 miles from Grand Forks, and I got a ride pretty quickly. I hit the streets of town at about 8am Saturday, according to the First National Bank's time/temperature clock. The clock also flashed 30 degrees below zero (F).

Later, the tv declared that it had been 56 below in Bemidji overnight.

Little wonder that Babe is a blue ox!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California