Thursday, September 15, 2005

Open Letter to Republicans


Why did you vote against forming an impartial, independent commission to find out the truth about what went wrong with Hurricane Katrina? Why do you put your party over your country? Would you rather have America unprepared for a future chemical, biological or nuclear attack from Al Qaeda? If we don't know why we were unprepared today, we will surely be unprepared tomorrow.

An investigation run by the Congress itself, an investigation where the investigating committee will be made up of a majority of Republican congressmen, a partisan investigation of one of the largest disasters in American history will not hunt.

I want the truth, you and your party want a whitewash. Quit playing politics with our lives.

Kenneth M. Hatch

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Impeach Bush Now

Has there ever been a worse Administration than Shrub’s? Will the U.S. recover or is this the end of the American Experiment? I wish I knew the answer to the last question I believe I know the answer to the first.

During the 2000 campaign I was somewhat indifferent as to the out come…I knew the States would be better off if Gore won in the short term but if Bush won it would not be the end of the world. I figured he couldn’t do too much damage and with the expected down turn in the economy maybe the Republicans would for once be blamed for their sins.

When I fuck I fuck up big time…at every turn Shrub has been a disaster. If someone tried to come up with policy decisions to ruin the economy, the armed services, our foreign policy, the environment, or any area of government they could not top this group of goofs. There are only two possible answers to why that is so. Either this is the dumbest most incompetent bunch of idiots ever to have power in the United States or the really scary one is they know what they are doing and they are on a mission to destroy the United States. Whichever answer is correct we must act now to remove them from power before they can do more damage. I join in with Brad DeLong in calling for “Impeach Bush Now”.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More GIV

Today was good day in class. The more I learn about the Gulfstream the more impressed I am with the capabilities of the airplane. The avionics are most impressive and this package is mid 80’s vintage…it will be interesting to see how the G550 compares.

Pat called from a beach north of Lincoln City…said the sand was warm and everything was beautiful. She and puppy were having a great time. That is the best news this week…she has been wonderful during the move but she has not taken any time to enjoy life for weeks. Last weekend I dumped her and everything we own in McMinnville and left town for 3 weeks. Not fair but it had to be done. And I wonder why pilots suffer from AIDS (aviation induced divorce syndrome).

Click this one

A must see video

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

GIV School

I’ve been in Savannah for two days. Gulfstream GIV initial started Labor Day and will run for 21 or 22 days depending on when my type ride is scheduled. The first day was spent doing paper work and going over an overview of the aircraft. Today we started working on the meat…all day was devoted to getting the FMS (Flight Management System) up and running. The avionics are so tightly integrated with the airplane systems once you know how to program and use the FMS the rest is a piece of cake.

The class has 18 souls, about half are “Netjets”; the rest are US military types with a few of us corporate drivers thrown in to complete the mix. As with every Flight Safety class I’ve attended, with more than two pilots, there is the class "asshole”, he has flown higher, faster, and farther than anyone else in history and always has a story where he is the hero. My question as always is: “If you are so damn good and know so much how in hell did you get in that mess to began with”. I never receive a good answer.

The other thing that always startles me is how reactionary pilots are. Out of any group of pilots 90% will be so right wing they could fit right in with members of the Midland Petroleum Club. Strange…apparently no one has told them they are working class, the boss may pat them on the back and call them by their first name but the bottom line once they are not useful Mr. Big will not even remember what they look like. Times are changing a little, this class has one woman, no blacks, Hispanics, or others. I guess I should be happy that at least we are letting a woman into the club.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bats Left Throws Right

T.Bogg is on fire, even for him. Same with Wolcott. World O'Crap continues to hide her subtle brilliance beneath her overt brilliance with Wingnut Island. Tom Burka says everything that needs to be said with a headline. Fact-esque is on top of everything. Patrick Smith, Salon's Pilot you can Ask, shows just how sloppy and hysterical the mass media are even when there's no reason to be.

Chris Clarke brings a tear to my eye, and then he does it again, and then Professor Bérubé does it for good measure, all in a twenty-four hour period.

And one brave woman in Crawford, TX, reduces George W. Bush from a prick to a pinprick.

Me? I'm crackin' wise about Fried Twinkies and tossin' paperwads for a kitten.

I'm too old. I'm too comfortable. And I've got the love of a woman too good for me. I grew up in the birthplace of the John Birch Society, reading the crackpot-before-its-time Puliam family newspaper. I had tracts and letters from the corpulent and hate-filled bully Gregg Dixon, one of the founding licensed beggars of The Moral Majority, stuffed in my mailbox at the school newspaper on a weekly basis because I wrote against the war, against racism, and for rock and roll. I watched the descent of network news, the willful choice of comforting fiction over complex and mystifying fact, the ready acquiescence to the idea that reality needed to be balanced by appending the thoughts of the unhinged to every topic. I watched the glorification of a second-rate actor and dim-witted phony the way Ionesco watches his fellow citizens in "The Rhinoceros". I saw the shitty Soviet Heroic-Realist scupture the Right insisted on erecting next to The Wall because fake piety is preferable to real piety in its book.

Special pleading? Well, TBogg is nearly as old as I am, and he still walks into that alley every day to take on the likes of Malkin and Goldberg and Coulter. God bless 'im. But I'm just too tired of these fifteenth generation photocopies, they and the sorry gas-filled lawyers and basement dwellers who've turned xenophobia and poor potty training into a political crusade, who will gladly fight to the last drop of someone else's blood, who bravely pound the virtual lectern so long as they believe there's a mob at their backs to do the dirty work.

Well, it only takes one strong man to face down a mob. And today her name is Cindy Sheehan.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

States Tonight

I’m out of here!

My Sudan Tour is over. Tonight I board a Lufthansa flight that will take me to Cairo, Frankfort, Chicago, and finally Portland. The “Truck Shop” will pick me up for the final leg by van to McMinnville. I leave a little after midnight and will arrive in McMinnville some where around 21:00 PDT. With time zone changes it will be over 30 hours standing around waiting to board something or having something strapped to my ass. I expect to be dead but not know it once the Truck Shop drops me at my home. My only hope is that there is room for an up-grade out of steerage for one or more of the legs.

That is the good news, the bad is I left in such a hurry because of the lost passport and visa that my house is a mess. I doubt it will make much difference tonight but once I recover I have to face trying to pick up and organize the mess I left plus deal with 6 weeks of mail and who knows what else.


If you travel internationally this is a must. Once on your computer you can talk via the Internet to other Skype computers or call traditional phones i.e. landline or cell. Calls to phones are charged at rates determined by the country the call is to. I have spent the last 6 weeks in Khartoum, Sudan my total phone costs for this tour was less than 20 Euro. I paid AT&T over $4500 US for my last 6 week tour in The Sudan.

BTW Skype will work with dial-up, not as well as with hi-speed but it will work. There will be dropped calls and some distortion on many of your calls when using slow connections. Broadband computer to computer is the best, better than either phone to phone or computer to phone.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Flour Tortillas

I’m in The Sudan with a South African and a Zimbabwean as flat mates. Neither had eaten tortillas of any kind before last night. I can’t find Masa Harina to make corn tortillas but flour ones are almost as good and better for some things such as Tacos al Carbon. The meat and fresh chilies are available and we even found some avocados, they are still too hard to eat but at least there is hope. Damn I miss Texas. As backward, crazy, mean and reactionary as it is there is something about the place that holds you tight like a first love.

Monday, July 11, 2005

worst president ever

Google bomb time;

worst president ever

Slow week in Khartoum

One of the advantages of the Khartoum base is the almost daily flight schedule. It make the time pass quickly. You get up in the morning, shower, put on the monkey suit, go to the airport, fly your legs, go back to the flat, check email, have dinner, go to bed, get up the next morning and do it all over once more. Before you know it the tour is over and you are standing at the airline counter trying to upgrade out of steerage and paying for your overweight bags. The last two weeks haven’t worked that way…flights have cancelled or not booked and we have been sitting around the flat staring at the walls. Not a good way to pass the time.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Computer Woes

Sorry for the long delay...My computer crashed while I was in Abuja. Talk about being helpless, in Africa without a working cell phone, a dead computer and not a clue how you are going to get it, the computer, fixed.

The good news, I found a guy just down the street from our flat in Khartoum that worked on HP computers. Three days and $200 US later I'm on line. He didn't know how much he could have charged me...Can you say priceless.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Life as an ExPat

When living in the third world small things make a big difference. Meat, except for pork, is no problem in Khartoum. It is cheap and very good, whole beef back straps run less than $20 US, I bought a couple of dozen lamb rib chops for a little over $10 US the other night. Grilled lamb ribs, rice, and some cucumbers in yogurt make a great meal. There are a couple of things missing...vegs and cheese. Today I found cheese, wonderful, beautiful cheese. cheddar, blue, swiss, even a couple of soft ones. Life is good.

BTW one of the local cheeses would make great enchiladas if only I could find some masa.

Now all I need is a source for some good tomatoes, asparagus, or lettuce. I would kill for green beans :-) .

Friday, June 24, 2005

James Wolcott

Damn he is good.

For a tuff-talkin' Texas, President Bush is awfully punctilious about reporters' trying to double-dip questions during press conferences. During the one wrapped up a bit earlier today, he took a sarcastic swipe at a foreign reporter for picking up the "American trick" of asking two questions when the quota is one per customer. He's a stickler about that. Before the war Bujsh didn't know the crucial dif between the Sunnis and the Shiites, according to a NY Times magazine piece (on the eve of invasion he had to have it explained to him by an Iraqi exile), but this sort of infraction he pounces on like John Simon affronted by a dangling modifier. The press con itself was mostly a familiar reiteration of his War on Terror halftime pep talk; more interesting was the byplay between Bill Kristol on Fox News and the shiny host, whose name escapes me....


Max Sawicky has some very good Dutch-uncle advice for those of us who care primarily about the substance of government policy:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: COMMON SENSE: Determine the major policy challenges to come, fasten on the best solutions, and hammer away in the confidence that time will validate your message.... Three examples:

  • The U.S. has to get out of Iraq, ASAP.
  • The U.S. must have national health insurance.
  • The Federal Gov will need to increase taxes -- over the next 75 years -- by about ten percentage points of GDP.

I think the arguments supporting these are very solid. If nobody makes them, we'll never get there. I don't have to run for public office, so I can make them. Politics is beyond me...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Khartoum, Sudan

I’m in Khartoum. What a zoo this last week has been...UPS lost my passport with my Sudan visa. Our Washington office shipped it UPS "next day air" last Thursday to McMinnville, it made it as far as Louisville and no farther. Long story somewhat short...after working with UPS Monday and Tuesday I decided to go for a new passport and visa. I flew the company’s C-206 to Seattle Wed. morning and got a replacement passport then flew back to McMinnville to get on a redeye flight to Washington D.C. Wed. evening. I was on the Sudan Embassy’s doorstep Thursday AM. After 30 straight hours of go, go, go I had a passport and visa in hand. Needless to say once I made it back to my hotel and had some food, other than airline peanuts, and a couple of beers in my belly I crashed.

After resting most of Friday I started another 24 hours of travel on Saturday. This time on Lufthansa, the good news I was able to use our airline ID to upgrade. What a difference it is between the front and the back of today’s airlines. The seats did everything from making a bed to rubbing your back, all at the touch of a button. The food was eatable and the booze flowed. I’m still rummy from lack of sleep but all in all the trip over wasn’t too bad.

The C-206 flight was was the first time I had flown a 206 in over 30 years and almost that long between single engine cross-countries. Two things stood out...first: damn it was slow, second: it was a lot of work and this was a pretty well equipped 206. We forget how hard it is to do everything solo with equipment that is not top of the line.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

UPS Sucks

I'm pissed...The Washington DC office overnighted my passport and Sudan Visa last Thursday (09 June 2005). I have not received the package...It is lost. I'm busting ass to finish closing the house down tonight so I can fly the C 206 to Seattle in the morning. I have to file for a replacement passport. Then I need to make it back to Portland in time to catch the red-eye to Washington D.C. at 21:15. I will arrive in D.C. early Thursday morning...Just in time (I hope) to go to the Sudan Embassy and, cross my fingers, have a replacement Visa issued. Then who knows what kind of connections I can get to Sudan.

I had a good flight to Sudan booked out of Portland...Most likely First Class and with only a 2 hour layover in Frankfort. What do you bet it will be the middle seat of a 5 seat row with at least a 9 or more hour layover somewhere...I'm Pissed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Brass: 'we won't solve this with bullets'

by kos
Mon Jun 13th, 2005 at 14:06:21 PDT

Military commanders on the ground in Iraq must speak the obvious truths our civilian or Pentagon leadership is incapable of saying.

A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and taken a heavy toll on U.S. troops during the past two years.

Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerrilla war is through Iraqi politics -- an arena that so far has been crippled by divisions between Shi'a Muslims, whose coalition dominated the January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq but form the base of support for the insurgency.

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that ... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process." [...]

Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, expressed similar sentiments, calling the military's efforts "the Pillsbury Doughboy idea" -- pressing the insurgency in one area only causes it to rise elsewhere.

"Like in Baghdad," Casey said during an interview with two newspaper reporters, including one from Knight Ridder, last week. "We push in Baghdad -- they're down to about less than a car bomb a day in Baghdad over the last week -- but in north-center (Iraq) ... they've gone up," he said. "The political process will be the decisive element."


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Fall of 2001 Continued

After leaving the River Oaks Men’s Grill I returned to my office on Hobby Airport. I truly did not know what to do. I made a few phone calls, one was to Darrel Stewart, Darrel had an old and ugly Lear 25B he was operating and he needed someone to fly it. The only problem I did not have a current PPE in the Lear. I was typed but had not flown a Lear in at least 10 years. Darrel could give me a PPE but I had been out of the Lear so long I doubt the insurance company would have insured me with out my going to simulator based recurrent training.

Flight Safety has a wonderful program, if you are a full service customer you can go to recurrent on any other aircraft that costs the same or less than your primary aircraft. When I called FSI I still had just over a month left on my Fairchild SA 227 contract and the Lear program cost was the same. If I could make it to Flight Safety in the next month I could go through the Lear recurrent and have a fresh PPE. Even better if I could find a FAR 135 operator to let me use their program I could also get a fresh FAR 293a & b, a 297 and then all I would need is a 299 to fly Lears on charter. Darrel’s operation used Flight Safety Wichita for training. It was all working out, I could do some contract work with Darrel until I could find something full time. All I had to do was convince the downtown suits that it was to their advantage to send me to FSI Wichita. I did some fancy tap dancing and I don’t know if I caught Nick off guard or if he has a heart (if he does he hides it well) but long story short he said go ahead and go.

The first open slot was the end of December.

More to come,

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Out of Here

I'm leaving for a TDY in Khartoum, Sudan next week. It had been touch and go, for a while I didn't know if I would receive my new visa in time. My Afghanistan visa was still good and there was a chance I would be sent to Kabul instead of Khartoum. I must say the weather in Kabul would be better this time of the year but from what I'm reading people are being blown up in Afghanistan and so far that is not a problem in Sudan (unless you are black). It will be good to see my Sudanese friends and be in Africa for a few weeks.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

From the Whiskey Bar

Scenes We'd Like to See
(click here for full-size image.)
Defendants in the dock at the Ango-American War Crimes Trial of 2010, held at The Hague under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Of the 20 defendants shown here -- the so-called "Republican Guard" -- only one (Alan Greenspan, second row, second from right) was found not guilty, on the grounds that the destruction of the American economy and the global financial crash of 2008, while regrettable, did not constitute war crimes as defined by the Geneva Convention.

Another defendant (Ari Fleischer, front row, extreme right) received only a light sentence, as the court determined that lying to the American people was too common a crime to merit more severe punishment.

In a more controversial decision, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was spared any prison time at all, after the judges ruled that being seated between former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers for the entire eight-month trial constituted "punishment enough."

Former Vice President Richard Cheney (second row, extreme left), who feigned narcolepsy throughout most of the trial, was committed to the newly established United Nations Hospital for the Criminally Insane, as was former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (next to Cheney), who insisted on being addressed as "Mrs. Bush" during the the trial.

The remaining defendants were sentenced to life terms at the Guantanamo War Crimes Penitentiary -- the same facility used to imprison the remaining leaders of the Al Qaeda terrrorist organization, whose own war crimes trial began shortly after this picture was taken.

Posted by billmon at 06:15 PM

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lance Mannion

A damn good rant

Dog Shit and Shrub Posted by Hello

Shrub Flags and Dog Shit


Police in Germany are hunting pranksters who have been sticking
miniature flag portraits of US President George W. Bush into piles of
dog poo in public parks. Josef Oettl, parks administrator for Bayreuth,
said: "This has been going on for about a year now, and there must be
2,000 to 3,000 piles of excrement that have been claimed during that

The series of incidents was originally thought to be some sort of
protest against the US-led invasion ofIraq. And then when it continued
it was thought to be a protest against President George W. Bush's
campaign for re-election. But it is still going on and the police say
they are completely baffled as to who is to blame. "We have sent out
extra patrols to try to catch whoever is doing this in the act," said
police spokesman Reiner Kuechler. "But frankly, we don't know what we
would do if we caught them red handed." Legal experts say there is no
law against using feces as a flag stand and the federal legal experts
say there is no law against using feces as a flag stand and the federal
constitution is vague on the issue.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fall of 2001

I’m working for an Investment Banking firm in Houston, Texas. Our airplane is approaching 20 years old and is need of upgrades plus our travel needs are changing. For several months I have been looking at the market trying to decide what would be the “perfect” airplane for our needs, something that would do 85% of our missions yet wouldn’t blow the aviation budget too bad. I had picked several, from small and slow to mid-sized and reasonably fast. I was ready for the call.

The first sign of trouble was when the call came; it was to meet with Nick at the River Oaks Country Club Men’s Grill. It was never a good sign to meet somewhere other than “downtown” (my guess is they believe if we were at ROCC that I wouldn’t go postal) but I was so sure we were meeting to talk about a new aircraft I ignored the warning signs. I put on my monkey suit, showed up on time, ate a really bad hamburger, showed my research on the used aircraft market and then set like pole axed mule as Nick told me they no longer needed my services, they were going with a “Quartershare”. I walked out of the Men’s Grill without a clue how I was going to survive. The Job market was as bad as it had been in more that 20 years, I had just turned 60, and the only airplanes I could fly were no longer being made and had not been in production for many years. It looked grim.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Like Ike

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

Demise of a Hard-Fighting Squad

Marines Who Survived Ambush Are Killed, Wounded in Blast

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 12, 2005; Page A01

HABAN, Iraq, May 11 -- The explosion enveloped the armored vehicle in flames, sending orange balls of fire bubbling above the trees along the Euphrates River near the Syrian border.

Marines in surrounding vehicles threw open their hatches and took off running across the plowed fields, toward the already blackening metal of the destroyed vehicle. Shouting, they pulled to safety those they could, as the flames ignited the bullets, mortar rounds, flares and grenades inside, rocketing them into the sky and across pastures.

Gunnery Sgt. Chuck Hurley emerged from the smoke and turmoil around the vehicle, circling toward the spot where helicopters would later land to pick up casualties. As he passed one group of Marines, he uttered one sentence: "That was the same squad."

Among the four Marines killed and 10 wounded when an explosive device erupted under their Amtrac on Wednesday were the last battle-ready members of a squad that four days earlier had battled foreign fighters holed up in a house in the town of Ubaydi. In that fight, two squad members were killed and five were wounded.

In 96 hours of fighting and ambushes in far western Iraq, the squad had ceased to be.

Every member of the squad -- one of three that make up the 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment -- had been killed or wounded, Marines here said. All told, the 1st Platoon -- which Hurley commands -- had sustained 60 percent casualties, demolishing it as a fighting force.

"They used to call it Lucky Lima," said Maj. Steve Lawson, commander of the company. "That turned around and bit us."

Wednesday was the fourth day of fighting in far western Iraq, as the U.S. military continued an assault that has sent more than 1,000 Marines down the ungoverned north bank of the Euphrates River in search of foreign fighters crossing the border from Syria. Of seven Marines killed so far in the operation, six came come from Lima Company's 1st Platoon.

Lima Company drew Marine reservists from across Ohio into the conflict in Iraq. Some were still too young to be bothered much by shaving, or even stubble.

They rode to war on a Marine Amtrac, an armored vehicle that travels on tank-like treads. Marines in Iraq typically crowd thigh to thigh in the Amtrac, with one or two men perched on cardboard boxes of rations. Only the gunners manning the top hatches of Amtracs have any view of the passing scenery. Those inside find out what their field of combat is when the rear ramp comes down and they run out with weapons ready.

Marines typically pass travel time in the Amtrac by extracting favorite bits from ration packets, mercilessly ribbing a usual victim for eating or sleeping too much, or sleeping themselves.

On Monday, when the Marine assault on foreign fighters formally began, the young Marines of the squad from the 1st Platoon were already exhausted. Their encounter at the house in Ubaydi that morning and the previous night had been the unintended first clash of the operation, pitting them against insurgents who fired armor-piercing bullets up through the floor. It took 12 hours and five assaults by the squad -- plus grenades, bombing by an F/A-18 attack plane, tank rounds and rockets at 20 yards -- to kill the insurgents and permit recovery of the dead Marines' bodies.
Afterward, they slept in the moving Amtrac, heads back and mouths agape. One stood up to stretch his legs. He fell asleep again standing up, leaning against the metal walls.

Squad members spoke only to compare what they knew about the condition of their wounded. Getting the latest news, they fell silent again. After one such half-hour of silence, a Marine offered a terse commendation for one of the squad members shot at Ubaydi: "Bunker's a good man."

With the operation underway, Marine commanders kept the 1st Platoon largely to the back, letting its men rest.

Commanders had hoped the operation would swiftly capture or kill large numbers of foreign fighters. But the foreigners, and everyone else here, had plenty of warning that the Marines were coming -- including those ready to fight at Ubaydi.

By the time the squad from Lima Company crossed north of the Euphrates, whole villages consisted of little more than abandoned houses with fresh tire tracks leading into pastures or homes occupied only by prepubescent boys or old men. Men of fighting age had made themselves scarce. The AK-47 assault rifles ubiquitous in Iraqi households had disappeared.

Many Marines complained bitterly that commanders had pulled them out of the fight at Ubaydi while the insurgents were still battling, to start the planned offensive. "They take us from killing the people they want us to kill and bring us to these ghost villages," one complained Wednesday on the porch of a house commandeered as a temporary base.

Uneventful house searches stretched into late afternoon, the tedium broken only by small-arms fire and mortar rounds lobbed by insurgents hiding on the far side of the river.

This correspondent had just gotten off the Amtrac and the reconstructed squad from 1st Platoon was rolling toward the Euphrates in a row of armored vehicles, headed for more house searches, when the vehicle rolled over the explosive.

Marines initially said they believed the blast was caused by two mines stacked on top of each other. But reports from Marines that they had seen an artillery round and two hand-held radios near the blast site raised suspicions that the explosion was caused by a bomb that had been activated remotely, Lawson said.

Hurley and others pulled their comrades out of the Amtrac as flames detonated -- or "cooked off," in military jargon -- its ammunition. As Marines carrying stretchers ran to the Amtrac, bullets snapped out of the burning hulk and traveled hundreds of feet. The Marines ran back through the fusillade, carrying out the wounded. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon," some shouted, desperate to get the wounded out.

The four dead were trapped inside the vehicle, Lawson said.

"We passed right over it. We passed right over it," one of many Marines in the convoy ahead of the burning Amtrac said of the explosive, puzzling over why he was still alive.

"That's the last of the squad," said another, Cpl. Craig Miller, whose reassignment last month had taken him out of the unit. "Three weeks ago, that would have been me."

Late Wednesday, helicopters flew out Hurley and the remaining members of 1st Platoon for time off. They are to return after the platoon is remade, Marines said.

Another Lima Company platoon commander ordered his men to bed early, in preparation for the next day's operations. Mourning could wait.

"We don't have time," the commander said.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

230 HP Bellanca Cruisemaster  Posted by Hello

Small Airport Life

I did a Biennial Flight review in a Cessna C-172 yesterday. This was the first time in over 20 years I have instructed in a light airplane. I have over 5000 hours of Instruction given but…that was a long time ago. Yesterday I was like a newbe doing it for the first time...and then the student asked me to do the last landing. It was not a thing of beauty but I managed to land the Cessna with enough grace that I was not too embarrassed.

The move to McMinnville has been very positive. My day job’s flying is some of the most interesting I have done, then add in a small town airport with the usual assortment of airport bums, students, and other hangers on, it has recharged my flying batteries. For the first time in years I’m enjoying the sense of brotherhood, the comradeship of the air that attracted me to flying for a living.

I’m enjoying it so much for I’m thinking about buying a light airplane. It will not happen but…there is a 230 HP Bellanca Cruisemaster for sale on the airport that I’m looking at with a lustful eye. Now if I do 40 hours of instruction a month at $40 an hour…that’s $1600…let’s see taxes will be about $600…that leaves $1000…hummm.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Un Fucking Believable

I'm at a loss for words, just click.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Charlie Wilson’s War

I just finished reading “Charlie Wilson’s War” by George Crile (ISBN 0-8021-4124-2). What a hoot, an investigative report that reads like a spy novel. As I read, all I could think was only in Texas would you find the half bubble off plumb folks with the money and connections to pull off Charlie Wilson’s War. As good as the book is, more important it is a history of the CIA’s Afghanistan adventure and how it led to the blow back of 9/11. A must read that is fun, not a bad twofer.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Cell phone store in Khartoum Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Smartest Guy I Know

I worked for Matt almost from the start of Simmons & Company International.

TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT....Via Land of Black Gold, a story in the Sunday Herald of Glasgow about oil analyst Matt Simmons:

George Bush’s energy adviser Matt Simmons claims the global economy has misjudged oil supply, writes Valerie Darroch

AS President George W Bush strolled around his Prairie Chapel ranch in Texas last week with Saudi ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, oil prices were high on the agenda during talks between the leaders of the world’s biggest energy consumer and largest oil exporter.

At the same time, Matt Simmons, one of Bush’s energy advisers, was at a conference in Edinburgh, spelling out harsh facts on Saudi oil production which, if proved true, would have severe repercussions for the global economy.

Simmons’s belief is that Saudi has been overstating its oil reserves for years, its biggest oil fields are in decline and it will struggle to live up to its promise to crank up daily output from around 10 million barrels a day to 12 million by 2009 and later 15 million to meet global demand.

He visited Saudi in 2003 as part of a US energy delegation. By the time he left, six days later, he was convinced that the rosy picture the Saudis had painted of their key strategic resource was deeply flawed but he could not yet prove it.

“On the plane back from Riyadh I said ‘Something doesn’t meet the smell test …’ I have made my career out of uncovering illusions and I thought, wouldn’t it be odd if the biggest energy country in the world proved to be an illusion,” he says.

Chairman of Simmons & Co, the independent energy investment bank he founded in 1974, Simmons is about to publish a book – Twilight In The Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock And The World Economy – in which he outlines the fruits of his painstaking research into the true extent of Saudi oil reserves.

Simmons studied some 200 petroleum engineering reports on the biggest oil fields in Saudi, a nation which boasts 25% of world reserves.

“It was the most exhausting project of my life … like putting together a complex patchwork quilt,” he says. He found “a smoking gun” – no evidence of major new finds beyond a limited “golden triangle” and clear evidence of major fields entering decline.

Global data on oil reserves is a sensitive topic. The big oil-producing nations, members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production cartel, are particularly sensitive about revealing data as any downward revision in oil wealth would have ramifications on economic and political stability. Simmons claims that OPEC members frustrated attempts to get real data over the past two decades because the higher their reserves seemed, the bigger the quota they obtained.

In the 1980s, Middle East reserves jumped by some 43% in three years, despite there being no major new finds.

Oil nations and oil companies alike have a motive to exaggerate reserves. Shell admitted last year that it had overstated reserves by a whopping 20%, sending its shares crashing. “Sure, there are other bombshells out there still to come,” Simmons claims.

He is calling for the world to adapt a new standard of disclosure of oil reserves, which he refers to as “13 points of light”. The idea has support from the International Energy Agency, International Monetary Fund and G8 leaders of the world’s richest economies.

But facing up to the truth is not easy for those with vested interests. Simmons says: “My two worst critics in Saudi think I’m looney … but I think I’ll sell a lot of books there.”

His arch critics – two senior figures in Saudi oil firm Aramco – visited Washington recently to debunk his theories, arguing that with new technology and future discoveries, they could hold production steady in mature fields such as Ghawar, the world’s largest.

But Simmons says the seeds for today’s problems were sown in the 1970s when US oil majors urged the Saudis to use water injection to get high oil flow rates. Simmons argues that this has led to significantly lower recovery levels. “Big Oil bagged the Saudis … people knew in 1972 that if they produced at those levels it would destroy the reservoirs,” he says. Does he fear the Saudis might want to silence him now?

“Some people in Saudi will think I’m a hero because the oil price will go up … I’m no Salman Rushdie,” he grins.

And what does Bush think of Simmons now? “He tells me to keep speaking out loudly and honestly about our energy situation,” Simmons replies.

In the run-up to Bush winning the Presidency in 2000, he hired Simmons to help write and edit his energy plan. Simmons had previously warned Bill Clinton’s administration of impending oil shortages. He advised Melanie Kenderdine, who became director of US oil policy, and former energy secretary Bill Richardson, to concentrate on finding out how much oil OPEC had rather than on begging for more.

“Melanie came back and said ‘Oh Matt. There’s no oil out there … But if you talk to the super-majors there’s no crisis at all,” Simmons says.

He takes a pride in being a contrarian, making strategic moves against conventional wisdom in his career that later proved to be prescient.

Son of a wealthy commercial banker, he was a research associate at Harvard Business School when he did his first oil-related deal in 1969, raising $340,000 for a diving company fighting off a takeover.

“The guy who ran it pioneered the use of mixed gases to take men below 200ft. If that hadn’t worked we’d never have had the North Sea,” he says.

Five years later, investors in the company made 60 times their money – a blistering start to Simmons’s career. He set up an office in Boston doing deals in a number of sectors. “But I’d fallen passionately in love with companies selling services to the oil industry,” he says.

When the Yom Kippur war broke out in 1973, sending oil prices soaring, Simmons saw his future: “I foresaw a boom in oil services of which we’d not seen seen the like since the railroad days.”

He moved to Houston and secured funding from Edward Bates & Sons, a bank controlled by Ivory & Sime, and founded by Jimmy Gammell, father of Cairn Energy founder Bill, just one of his long-standing links with Scotland in the early days of the oil boom.

“The industry was full of gruff old boys and we were the young Harvard MBAs. Man alive, it was fun,” he says

Bates was declared insolvent during the secondary bank crisis and Simmons had to buy back its shares from the Bank of England. There followed seven strong years, interrupted by another oil shock in 1981. “I thought there would be an oil crisis like you wouldn’t believe and I’d best get into restructuring,” he says.

Simmons steered countless companies through painful financial restructuring at a time when other banks declined to get involved. “It was the best of years and the worst of years,” he recalls.

His principles remain the same as in 1974 – specialise in energy products and services; offer the highest quality advice; pride yourself on being small; and have fun.

“When we emerged at the end of the 1980s I thought – our sector got nuked and we didn’t just survive, we are actually now an important firm,” Simmons says.

In 1993, Simmons moved into the securities business, which now accounts for 40% of revenue, and expansion continued in 1998 when Simmons hired Colin Welsh to head up a new office in Aberdeen.

A restless mind with unflagging energy, Simmons spends increasing time at his home in Maine where, besides indulging his passion for painting, he buries himself in energy research. If his latest book is anything to go by, he may have a few more shocks in store for the future.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Low and Slow

The other day I mentioned climbing into the back seat of a J3 Cub for my first flight lesson. Yesterday for the first time in over 45 years I found myself in a J3. This time it was the front seat and it was much harder to find a way to get in than I remember but once in the memories of those first flights came flooding back. The pilot-owner of this J3 looked the part, jeans held up by braces, a long bill give-me cap and just old enough that you could believe he had flown the airplane when it was new. We flew from McMinnville up to the Flying M ranch in the coast range foothills, stopped for a glass of tea and airplane talk, and then flew back to KMMV. What a day, it reminded me why I started along the road chosen so many years ago. Good people, grass landing strips, flying low and very slow, one of the best airport bum days I’ve ever had.

After our return to KMMV Bryan and I walked over to my hangar so he could sit in a LearJet for the first time. The symbolism was not lost on me, a day spent with the two most iconic airplanes of the first century of flight. You could not plan it better.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

More Food

I find I eat out very little unless I'm on the road. If I lived in Mexico or even The Sudan it would be different, other countries are still serving real food in their cafes instead of the robofood you find in all but the very best places here in the States. I like what I call real food, not necessarily expensive, but food that is made on site. I started to say "native food" but then I realized that deep fried, frozen, breaded, ground meat patties served with canned green beans and instant potatoes is native food in Texas. Sad thing is even in other countries American "type" food is being served more and more.

I loved the food in both Sudan and Afghanistan...both were very simple; charcoaled meat, bread, some chiles, and in Sudan fresh greens and tomatoes, served with either hot tea or fresh juice. I came out of country feeling better and healthier than I have in ages.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

OK Guy Cooking Posted by Hello

OK Guy Cooking

One of my great pleasures in life is good food. You can tell from this photo that beer is high on my list as well. I have found over the years, with few exceptions, I can make better than I can buy or at least when I cook for myself the food pleases me and it has very few false notes. The same can not be said for most restaurants. In the above image I’m making Hollandaise for some beautiful fresh asparagus. I like to make Hollandaise over a direct flame. Three egg yokes, a ¼ pound of butter, a few drops of water, stirring over heat until the butter and eggs are an emulsion. Then season with salt, white pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper, add fresh lemon juice to taste. The same basic sauce works for so many other foods as an example if you want Béarnaise for a steak just add some fresh chopped tarragon and shallots to the sauce. It is so easy and so much better than anything you can buy.

I’m Back

It is Saturday morning and I have “The Lone Star Jukebox” playing as I surf the Internets. The changes in the way we live over my lifetime would have been unimaginable when I was growing up on a West Texas dirt farm. From no phone or TV, coal oil stoves and lamps, outhouses, and “Amos and Andy” on the radio to today’s playing a Houston radio station while in Oregon, talking to the office or your loved ones on cell phones from remote areas of Africa and Asia, traveling from one coast to the other in less time than it took for us to go to town and buy supplies and all of it so common as to be unremarkable. Still no TV but that is by choice :-).

I spent some time in the new Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport while in D.C. It brought home just how much of the history of aviation I have witnessed in my life, that I have been involved for just a couple of years short of half the time of powered flight. If it had not been for the Wright Brothers my life would have been very different. I often wonder how long it would have been before someone other than the Brothers solved the central problem of controlled flight, adverse yaw, if the Wright’s had not. Like most problems, once solved it is simple to understand but at the time of early powered flight no one other than the Wright Brothers had a clue and none were building machines that had a chance of being controlled once airborne. But once we solved that problem, progress was rapid. Like the other changes in my life time, today’s glass cockpit, speed, range and altitude capabilities of modern aircraft were unimaginable when I climbed into the rear seat of a J3 Cub for my first flight lesson.

Today I describe myself as an “antique flying antiques”. None of the airplanes I’m typed in are still in production and haven’t been for almost 20 years. That’s the bad news, the good is; the other airplanes are just now catching up to the performance of the LearJet. BTW, the first LearJet Model 23 is on display in the Air and Space Museum. I can’t tell you how it tugs my heartstrings to see it in its rightful place of honor.

The power of music is great; to think this post started because I heard Ray Wily Hubbard on my computer speakers.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I’m On the Road

The blog didn’t die after a short week of life. I’m just on the road and do not have time to write anything that would hold my interest much else anyone else’s. I should be back by next Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Street To Our Compound In Kabul Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Kabul Cook and Station Manager Posted by Hello


Our compound in Afghanistan is walled with an outbuilding for the guards. The main house is split by a hallway with office, kitchen, common area and dinning room on one side and three bedrooms, each with a bath, on the other side. There are guards on duty 24 hours every day and all are armed with AK-47s. We also employ two drivers, a cook, a house cleaner and a station manager. Electric heaters and kerosene space heaters supply heat but the house has little insulation so it is always cold. Electrical power is available every other day and then for only about eight hours and you never know which eight hours. The rest of the time we use diesel generators for power.

Cuckoo Nation

With pot and porn outstripping corn, America's black economy is flying high,12271,947880,00.html

Thursday, April 14, 2005

King's Tomb Posted by Hello

Never Bored

If I continue to work for this company I will never be bored. Two days ago it was a trip to Iceland, tomorrow it will be Las Vegas, Anchorage and back. Sometime next week they are planning a trip to the Philippines, I doubt it will happen but who knows.

Yesterday I wrote about how every building in Afghanistan was bomb and bullet marked. Today’s image is of the “King’s Tomb” overlooking Kabul. There are still people caring for it and they will take you down to the tomb area below the dome. The tombs are in good shape.

The Tomb over looks the infamous football stadium where the public executions took place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


But embarrassing.

Isam, Khartoum Airport Posted by Hello

Isam, Our Driver in Khartoum

Isam was our driver in Khartoum; this photo was made the first day we were in country. We were at the airport to try and get visas for the flight crew. For some reason mine was held up and I didn’t get my permanent visa for several weeks.

When Isam saw the camera he struck this pose for me. His English was limited but most of the time we would end up in front of where we wanted to go. Sometime it would take 2 or 3 tries with many signs, hand signals, head nods and “yes..yes…I understand", all the while you knew he didn’t understand.

Khartoum traffic was our major source of entertainment while in The Sudan. Any description of it will not do justice; it must be lived to be believed. It was a mix of cars, buses, motorcycle jitneys, donkey carts, donkeys and even a camel or two. People walking along side and in the road, some herding sheep or goats, men sitting almost in the road on rugs drinking tea, and families living in tents by the road ways. No one paid the slightest attention to stop signs, stop lights, lanes or even one way roads. If there were an opening in the traffic some one would fill it. Yet traffic moved very well and there were very few accidents. The only time traffic came to a standstill was when the police would show up and try to direct the flow. Then it would come to a complete stop. Go figure.


From Kevin Drum and the Washington Monthly

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

IED Afganistan Posted by Hello

IED (Improvised Explosive Device)

The photo is of an IED that was found near the entrance to Kabul’s airport. It is very simple, a large pressure cooker filled with explosives and a motorcycle battery for a detonator.

Afghanistan has been at war for decades. Unless you have been there you will have trouble understanding the amount of ordnance scattered around the country, how almost every building and road is bomb and shell damaged, and the number of Afghans on the streets who have lost limbs to IEDs, land mines and other ordnance. Yet Economic Man lives. The markets are full of food and other goods for sale and there are street vendors on every corner selling everything from phone cards to U.S. dollars.

When I first arrived in Kabul I would see the rug dealers placing their rugs in the street so the cars would drive over the rugs. I learned that used rugs were more valuable than new ones and what better way to quickly turn a new rug into a used one than a few hours of cars and trucks driving over it. Reminded me of visiting Maine Antique shops and seeing things marked “age unknown”.

Monday, April 11, 2005

James Wolcott

I know that I tend towards the Chicken Little school of economic thought they say "a stopped clock is right twice a day". You need to read James Wolcott's post.

America: We Stand as One Remix

This version is more like it.

Peak Oil

Anyone who knows me knows I do not have a high opinion of most of the “Masters of the Universe”. Many if not most are venial, dumb shitheads.

One exception was a man I worked for almost 20 years, Matt Simmons; Matt is one of the smartest men I have ever known. He was the brain behind the restructuring of the Oil Service Industry in the early 80’s. While the process was not pretty and many jobs were lost, the industry came out of the 80’s downturn and in a better position to compete with the rest of the world.

Matt is publishing a book soon on what I think will be the major crisis of this Century if we do not plan for decreased supply and increased prices of oil in the near future. Kevin Drum of the “Washington Monthly” has a post on Peak Oil and a link to Matt’s book. Check it out.

N911JA or why RVSM is a good thing

I don’t have the whole story yet but from what I’ve been told a friend’s life was saved by RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums). Starting in January of this year unless your airplane has been approved for flight in RVSM airspace you are limited to FL 280 or below. He was flying N911JA in the high 20’s when a 18” hole blew out the bottom of the pressure vessel. Odds are, if not for RVSM he would have been in the low 40’s when the explosive decompression happened.

We practice emergency descents every time we go to Flight Safety and the drill is always the same…the instructor yells “boom you just lost the cabin”. We reach behind and don our oxygen masks and in one motion kick off the autopilot, retard the thrust levers, deploy the spoilers, and drop the landing gear, pointing the nose down to keep the airspeed on the barber pole. We hold that speed until we are at a safe altitude and the exercise is complete. BTW we also know it is coming because it is the only time we have the Sim at FL410 all week .

In the Sim it works every time. In real life I have strong doubts anyone would survive no matter how good the training. In the low 40’s the best conditioned pilot has less than 20 seconds to get on oxygen. While I’ve timed myself putting on my mask and I can do in a little less than 10 seconds that is in a normal environment, not the world of a decompressed cabin at FL430.

The first problem is you would not be able to breath, in fact all the air has been sucked out of your lungs and you would be in intense pain from the expansion of any trapped air. You would not be able to see, the cabin would be full of condensation, and the noise would be deafening. The cold alone would be defeating. You would be fighting panic: yours, your co-pilot’s and any passenger’s that could reach the cockpit. It is a world that is hard to imagine and impossible to simulate.

That’s the bad news, not much chance you will make it out alive. The good news is it doesn’t happen often and if you are so unlucky that it happens to you it will be over with quickly.

BTW I flew N911JA for almost a year back in 2001.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Three rules of travel

Over the years I have developed three rules of travel that have stood the test of time.

The first is: You get on the first airplane that will get you within a $100 cab ride of your destination.

The second, you don’t eat fish in Kansas.

And the third, never eat Mexican food north of the Red River

Stolen from Eschaton

The first time I viewed this video I thought it was a parody…second time I thought this is one sick puppy…third time I still can’t believe anyone could pander to the lizard brains that much without out a wink, wink, nudge, nudge in the whole video.

The Lear on the Ramp BIKF (Keflavik, Iceland). Posted by Hello

Working out the kinks

I'm working on the format of this Blog so some of the posts may seem a little lame. I'm posting an image to see how it looks. I will try and find one that is interesting but no guarantee.


If you love the Blues log onto KPFT Radio ( ) on Sunday mornings.

OK Guy on the ramp HSSJ (Juba, Sudan). Posted by Hello

Starting a new blog

I’m an Ok guy. I’m a political junky, I cook, paint (not much lately), do photography, write about art and life, and I fly airplanes for a living. For a guy that grew up on a West Texas dirt farm in the 40’s and 50’s, I’m OK. I don’t have much use for normal male activities like hunting and sports although I can scratch and ogle with the best of ‘em. I know which fork to use most of the time, I don’t say fuck unless it’s needed and for the most part I can get along in polite society. I’ve seen more of the world than most people have and I think I can say things about it that may be interesting. The first posts will cover the time I spent in The Sudan and Afghanistan last year.