Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush: Buy My War or I'll Shoot These Dogs

If meaningless mantras were sound strategies, Bush Inc. would have zipped up the Iraq situation two years ago.

This morning, speaking from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Mister Bush gave us the latest Rovewellian attempt at spinning Egyptian cotton out of bull manure:

Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory…Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory… Plan for Victory…

Am I the only one who got cross-eyed looking at that mural of brainwash they erected behind the podium? I wonder what outfit they contracted to build that monstrosity. Kellogg, Brown, and Warhol? I very much doubt that it was designed by the Naval Academy's school of fine arts. (The Naval Academy's school of fine arts consists of the painters who work in the building maintenance department.)


And what's up with Mister Bush having to talk in front of a bunch of kids at a military academy? He can't get the adults to applaud on cue anymore? What's next? A fireside chat to an audience of Campfire Girls?


"As long as I'm your Commander in Chief…"

As long as Mister Bush is Commander in Chief of our military, our military is screwed over a log like Ned Beatty in Deliverance.

Seriously, folks. This rich punk (that's right, I said "punk") who couldn't "stay the course" of his own Texas Air National Guard commitment during Vietnam has committed our "best trained, best equipped" armed forces to an endless war that it cannot win because it was never equipped or trained to win the kind of war it's currently bogged down in.


But that makes no never mind to Mister Bush. He's a wartime president, by golly, and he can swagger and smirk and make like a Teddy Roosevelt macho man to his dark little heart's delight.

What does it matter to him that he squandered our military power on the Mesopotamia Mistake?
Throw up your hands
Stick out your tush
Listen to Rush
Reelect Bush
You've just made the
Iraq Mistake.


I'm not Ted Kennedy's biggest fan, but I agree with his assessment of the administration's new "Strategy for Victory" as a "Strategy for Quagmire".

And yeah, it's just lipstick on an already failed strategy. Or another coat of gold paint on an outhouse.


Not a day goes by that I don't thank my maker I'm no longer a military officer who has to stand in front of my subordinates and convince them that they're fighting for something other than Mister Bush's big oil cronies' agendas, and that Mister Bush himself isn't totally full of bilge.

In Case You're Wondering...

I have plenty to say about Mister Bush's lecture to the kids at the Naval Academy today, and about his "Plan for Victory." But I really need to calm down first.

Hopefully I'll be able to organize a thought or two by this afternoon.

Wayne Downing: Bush Boy

Retired General Wayne Downing on MSNBC.

He's turned. One more cable news "analyst" who's an echo chamberlain in disguise.

I am really, really, really getting sick of the "news" channels trotting these guys out and letting them repeat the company line.


I've been listening to Mister Bush's big speech at the U.S. Naval Academy. "Plan for Victory." Good God, he's babbling. In front of a bunch of midshipmen, no less.

I can't help but wonder if any of those kids are actually buying the brain wash.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Dirty Duke Comes Clean

WaPo's Charles R. Babcock and Jonathan Weisman report:
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) resigned from Congress yesterday after tearfully confessing to evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode.

A Vietnam War hero and eight-term congressman, the Duke sold his soul for, among other things, an antique toilet.
U.S. Attorney Carol C. Lam told reporters that Cunningham "did the worst thing an elected official can do -- he enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those that put him there."

That pretty much says it all.

Except for this bit:
Prosecutors said Cunningham, an eight-term House member, "demanded, sought and received" illicit payments in the form of cash, home payments, furnishings, cars and vacations from four co-conspirators, including two defense contractors, over the past five years. (Italics added.)

That defense contractors were involved may be the most notable aspect of this story.

The L.A. Times' Tony Perry reports that…
According to documents filed in federal court, Cunningham began receiving bribes in 2000 as his seniority gave him political power to influence the awarding of military contracts.

One of the named co-conspirators who bribed Cunningham was Mitchell Wade, founder of the Washington, D.C. based MZM Inc., a defense firm that has received $163 million in contracts over the past decade. Also named was Brian Wilkes, an associate of Wade's who was head of ADCS, another military contracting firm.

One can't help but suspect that this is merely the tip of the iceberg of the corruption that exists in the military-industrial-political complex. How much more illegal collusion between politicians and the arms industry will surface is difficult to predict. But keep in mind that scores of civilian leaders in the Department of Defense--like Gordon England and Donald Winter--are former executives of America's largest defense contracting companies.

Also keep in mind that while the U.S. now spends as much as the rest of the world combined on defense (roughly $500 billion predicted for 2006), our troops in Iraq still don't have all the armor and equipment they need.


At a news conference after his conviction, a visibly shaken Cunningham could barely read from his prepared statement as he admitted: "I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

Give the Duke a little credit. He didn't ask for a different judge, or caterwaul about the "criminalization of politics."

In fact, the Duke Cunningham story clearly illustrates the fallacy of this GOP mantra. The folks who criminalized politics aren't the ones who pressed charges. They're the politicians who committed crimes.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jiggety Jig

Back from the Thanksgiving trip, catching up on what happened over the holidays.

The Saddam Hussein trial is turning into a three-ring affair. His lawyers just got another delay in the trial, and they'll no doubt continue to play every procedural card in the deck.

But at the end of the day, expect Hussein's defense to hinge on two arguments: 1) the court was convened under the jurisdiction of a puppet government and 2) everything Hussein did to suppress rebellion as a duly elected head of state was within the law.

Does that second one sound familiar?

When he's called to task for invading Kuwait, he'll likely blame bad intelligence.


I heard WaPo's David Broder and others on the Sunday talk shows chanting the mantra about how it's more important to come up with a solution to Iraq than it is to figure out how we got there.

I’m not sure what Broder's motivation is in echoing this "limited choice" message, but it's a false one. It's incredibly important to figure out how we got into this disaster, and to hold the responsible parties accountable. I'd say the future of our Republic depends on it. We have more to fear from politicians with secret agendas than we do from any other threat to our country's security, including terrorism.

And it's specious to say we can't do both. Heck, if Mister Bush can do two things at once, you'd think the legislative and judicial branches could.


Senator John Warner on Press the Meat yesterday said that Mister Bush needs to give the American public some frank talk.

This is another mantra we hear from time to time lately. But, seriously. Frank talk from Bush? Now? What can he say?

Yes, I was blowing smoke up your skirt before, but I'm being a straight shooter now?

Another possibility: hey, I'm sorry, all my guys lied to me, but don't worry, I fired all of them. Now we'll really get down to business.

What are the odds of that happening?


On a related note, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek says we need to say we have no ambitions to establish permanent bases in Iraq to show we're not there for the oil.
What's Alter thinking about? That would just be telling another lie.


Last but not least: everyone's tossing around the term "timeline" like a hand grenade. "Timeline" has become synonymous with "cut and run" and a half dozen other manipulative buzz phrases.

It's another "limited choice" maneuver. We either "stay the course" with no real plan for victory or withdrawal or we "surrender to the terrorists."

Utter bunk.

The term we really want to use is "roadmap." Militarily, a "roadmap" is a plan of interrelated objectives and milestones, and in the pre-Rumsfeld days, was a staple of any operational plan or strategy. Target dates are flexible, and change as the "situation on the ground" develops.

Funny how nobody wants to use the term these days. Maybe nobody wants to admit that nothing is black and white.

You can bet a paycheck Mister Bush doesn't. He's made a political career out of convincing people that everything is one way or the other. With us or against us. Victory or surrender. Great taste or less filling.


Don't discount the possibility that despite all the pressure to arrive at an end game in Iraq, the administration has no intention of withdrawing troops from that country.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Shame and Irony: Both Still Dead

Have you heard that Mike "FEMA" Brown in starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm?

Shock and Awe.

What next? Rumsfeld retires and opens a counterinsurgency school?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wednesday Night Sea Story

The Horse He Rode In On

Jack slept in two or three hour squirts. Not sleep, really. More like the kind of thing you do when your third grader reads you the poem she wrote in school today.

For the first two weeks of NORPAC, as he lay in his rack, Jack listened to the daughter he didn't have read him stories about the bridge, watching from the navigation table as the mountains grew bigger and bigger. Chief Kirk cried like a girl, tugging at Jack's sleeve, saying, Make him turn us, sir, make him turn us, oh my GOD! Jack flew across the bridge like Bizarro Superman, and slapped Bizarro Zach Taylor upside the head, screaming, How about dropping your cock for a minute and letting us turn the ship around?


A month into the NORPAC, what had at first seemed like common terror punctuated by fill-your-pants terror became routine. At rest, Jack's mind began visiting compartments it had stayed out of since the deployment began.


Liz was a beautiful woman, but not a pretty one to live with. She loved horses, and not much else. She didn't like Jack being in the Navy, didn't like Jack's music, didn't like Jack's friends, and didn't like his habits--especially his drinking habits. Which, in reality, weren't all that bad compared to a lot of naval aviators Jack knew.

Hell, Jack didn't think he liked herself all that much. They argued constantly while they were dating. He'd somehow convinced himself they'd get along better once they were married. What the hell had he been thinking?

Silly question. He wasn't thinking, was he? Not with the head on his shoulders and neck, anyway.

Like she'd rehearsed it a hundred times if front of her mirror, Liz had explained over coffee what her lawyer had told her. California as a common property state, and she was entitled to half the marital property accumulated over their two-year marriage. Money-wise, those had been two good years for Jack. His Scripps Ranch house had almost doubled in value. He'd socked away his career bonus pay in mutual funds that had done well. In all, this short, miserable marriage would cost him over a hundred grand.


Why was divorce so expensive?

Because it was worth it.


Mom's husband Joe had landed in the first wave at Normandy Beach, to hear him tell it. Jack sat down and figured out one day that Joe had been nine years old when the allies invaded France. The guy must have lied to his recruiter about his age, Jack reckoned.

A chess aficionado, Joe was. Talked all the time about the time he played Bobby Fisher to a stalemate. One time too many, he talked about it. The last time he talked about it was two seconds before Jack put him in checkmate in three moves.

Jack and Joe couldn't spend two days together without a fight breaking out; Mom getting upset, Jack leaving, going back to wherever his duty station happened to be at the time.

Joe's only redeeming value was that he'd made Mom happy after seven years of widowhood, and he'd gooned that away by growing a tumor in his head, and now Mom would have to suffer through the lingering death of another husband.

Why couldn't the bullshit bastard have been a man and stepped in front of a bus or something?

The Turkeys in the Headlights?

Face to face with the front bumper of congressional pressure to come up with a "victory strategy" and Iraqi leaders' calls for a troop withdrawal timetable, the Departments of Defense and State are leaking/spreading a story of plans to reduce the U.S. footprint in Iraq.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States will probably not need to maintain its current troop levels in Iraq "very much longer," though she declined to provide a precise timetable for reduction in U.S. forces…

…CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported last week that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has submitted a plan to withdraw a quarter of American combat forces, bringing the overall number of troops in Iraq down to below 100,000, by the end of next year…

…The withdrawal plan has not been approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and won't be until after a new Iraqi government is elected in December.

At the end of the day, I expect we'll see the execution of a plan that will look very much like the one Congressman Jack Murtha proposed.

I can't wait to watch the food fight when pols on both sides of the aisle try to claim credit for "solving" the Iraq problem.

I'm beyond caring who gets credit for solving the problem. We already know who gets credit for creating it.


NYT's Eric Lichtblau reports on the Joseph Padilla case:
The Bush administration brought terrorism charges on Tuesday against Jose Padilla in a criminal court after holding him for three and a half years in a military brig as an enemy combatant once accused in a "dirty bomb" plot.

The decision to remove Mr. Padilla from military custody and charge him in the civilian system averts what had threatened to be a constitutional showdown over the president's authority to detain him and other American citizens as enemy combatants without formal charges.

At issue were Mister Bush's suspension of the habeas corpus privilege (a power the Constitution grants to only to Congress in times of rebellion or invasion), his execution of a de facto bill of attainer (which the Constitution completely prohibits), and suspension of Mr. Padilla's rights under the fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments.

Losing this case in the Supreme Court would have led to the unraveling of major portions of the Patriot Act and an official denunciation of many extra-constitutional powers Mister Bush has exercised in his "war on terror."

With Sandra Day O'Connor still sitting on the court, it's unlikely that the administration would have won its case.

That the Justice Department agreed to turn the case over to civil jurisdiction indicates to me that they know they've been operating outside the law, and the country is starting to catch on to them.

The jig's up!

Here's hoping Congress gives us all a Christmas present by sticking the Patriot Act in the administration's eye.


Murray Was of National Journal brings us this Holiday Cheer:
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter…

… The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser [Condi Rice} and deputy national security adviser [Steven Hadley], the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense [which would include Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz], and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records…

…"What the President was told on September 21," said one former high-level official, "was consistent with everything he has been told since-that the evidence was just not there."

… The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB [Presidential Daily Brief] of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

We'll see how long the admin can hold out on this one. If Congress subpoenas the PDBs, and the White House refuses to turn them over, this too could wind up in the Supreme Court. But as the Padilla case indicates, BushCo isn't all that het up about getting into fights it's likely to lose.

Ho, ho, ho!


I'm headed out of town for the rest of the weekend. If I get a chance I'll stop in and shout out, maybe tell another sea story or two.

Here's wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!



Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Classy Guy

Another reason to like Jack Murtha: how he reacted to Jean "Red White and Blue" Schmidt's attack on him on the House floor:
Murtha, a lawmaker since 1974 and a Vietnam veteran who received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he doesn't hold Schmidt responsible.

"This is a new member, and sometimes they give her something to say that ... they get out of hand. I try not to take this stuff personal," he said.

IMO, Murtha has permanantly redfined the definiton of "cool."

And heck, he doesn't even ride a motorcycle or play the guitar or wiggle his hips!

Tuesday Night Sea Story: the Legend of Fix Felon

In case you need something more than hot chocolate to put you to sleep:

The gator begins:

The gator's at this party in a hotel suite in Thailand with his buddies from his first EA-6 Prowler squadron, and they're all shit faced.

"Yeah, Gary," Buzz says. "The EA-6 Prowler, that's the jet with the bent dick looking thing on its nose for air-to-air refueling. The gator used to fly it, before his non-ex-wife bent his dick for him."

"Who's telling the story?" the gator says. "You or me?"

"Sorry Gator," Buzz says.

"Buzz is right, though," the gator says. "The EA-6 Prowler is like an A-6 Intruder that drops bombs, except the Prowler doesn't drop bombs, and it has room in the cockpit for three assholes instead of one asshole, like the Intruder has room for --"

"By 'assholes,' he means NFOs, Gary," Buzz says. "Naval Flight Officers, like Jack and me, with two anchors on our wings, who don't actually fly the airplane. As opposed to asshole pilots with only one anchor on their wings, like the gator has on."

"Again with the interruptions?" the gator says.

"Sorry, Gator."

"Give me fifty pushups later," the gator tells Buzz. "When you can get around to it. Yeah, Gary, the EA-6 Prowler is an airborne radar jammer. Except it was a butt jammer when Fix Felon flew in the seat behind mine. Except he never did go flying, actually, but that part of the story comes later..."

The gator didn't take the non-ex-wife bait this time, but that's okay, Buzz and Gary and Jack think. This new Fix Felon story might be good enough he won't have to kiss everybody's ass on the corner of First and Orange. And if it isn't, that's okay too, right?

Anyway, the gator's saying, they're all shit faced in this hotel in Thailand, and in walks this tall, Abraham Lincoln looking lieutenant commander with pilot wings on his chest who nobody's ever seen before. Ugly as a wet poodle with AIDS, this guy is, but that's all right. The world needs character actors too, the gator says.

The squadron's skipper, who's as shit faced as the rest of them, tries to stand up and say, "Who the fuck are you, Boris Karloff, crashing into our party like The Curse of the Mummy or something?" But what he does instead is stumble off the couch and spill his drink and the rest of him tits down on the carpet. The squadron XO, a little short guy, grabs the skipper's tits and the rest of him up off the floor and hauls him off to a bedroom.

The Mummy lurks around the room with a drink in his hand, looking like he expects everybody to recognize him and shake his hand and kiss his ass. But nobody does that, because they're all too shit faced.

The short XO comes back from the bedroom and troops over to The Mummy, and stands under him, and says, "Just who the fuck do you think you are?"

The Mummy looks down at the little XO and says, "I'm Phil Felon, your new operations officer. Who the fuck are you, little man?"

The little XO goes ballistic, jumping up and down and cussing up a blue streak. The Mummy crooks a finger at him and leads him into the kitchen. Thirty seconds later, he comes out of the kitchen with his arm around the little XO, who has a Colgate smile smeared on his face, and who says, "Hey, guys. Meet our new operations officer."

Gary asks if that's all there is to the story. The gator tells him to keep his pants on, the story gets better from here.

Go back a few years, the gator says. This is all second, third hand. The gator doesn't know how much of it's really true. He heard it from a good buddy of his, a Filipino pimp, who's not the most reliable. But it sounds good, so here goes, the gator says.

This Young Abe Lincoln looking lieutenant checks in off transfer leave at the A-7 Corsair light bomber training squadron and says he's there to get checked out in the airplane. But Young Abe has to take emergency leave first. His grandma just died, or something. So he checks back out of the squadron. Nobody sees him again until six months later, when he shows back up in the ready room. This stash ensign has the duty, and Young Abe Lincoln tries to get the ensign to sign his papers saying he's completed the A-7 flight training, but--

The A-7 squadron skipper walks in just then, sees what The Mummy's trying to pull, and says, "Not so fast."

The skipper crooks a finger at Young Frankenstein and takes him back to his office. Two men go in, one man comes out--Young Frankenstein, and he makes the ensign sign his papers and walks out. The ensign goes to look for the skipper in his office, and there's nobody there!

"What happened to the skipper?" Gary says.

"Nobody knows," the gator says. "The Mummy just disappeared him, like in Catch-22.

"OOOOOOOOOOH!" everybody says.

Except Gary, who says, "Catch-22? What's that?"

"Famous novel," says the gator.

"By whom?" Gary says.

"Joseph Heller," says the gator.

"Who's he?" Gary says.

"Famous author," says the gator.

"What did he write?" Gary says.

"Catch... Hey, you look like you might be a little retarded, SWO Boy. You're not, are you?"

Gary, the surface warfare officer hereafter also known as SWO Boy, says, "No, sir. I'm very smart. I'm just pulling your chain. I know what Catch-22 is. I read it in grade school. My mother taught me to read when I was four, so I'd learn things and be smart, because she knew I wouldn't be the matinee idol type."

"Yeah, well, like I said before," the gator tells Gary, "the world needs character actors too. Now, do you want to hear the rest of the story or not? If so, keep your pie hole buttoned, or I'll send you to bed without any milk and cookies to put in it, which from the looks of you, you don't need any more of anyway."

"I promise to keep my pie hole buttoned," Gary AKA SWO Boy says. "Please tell the rest of the story, Navigation Man."

The gator, now also known as Navigation Man, says, "And don't call me Navigation Man. Not while the captain's around, anyway."

"Aye, aye," says SWO Boy.

Navigation Man looks at Buzz and Jack to make sure they're still awake, still paying attention, and notices his audience has gotten bigger. The duty bosun mate and the quartermaster have crept over by his chair to listen, and a couple of lookouts who got off watch an hour ago. The lookouts shouldn't still be up here it's okay because Chief Kirk--who got up at 0430 like he always doe--is keeping an eye on them. And they know they'll get a chief sized boot up their scrawny young asses if they pop their pie holes open while the gator's talking and the chief's around, so they'll keep them buttoned.

Navigation Man continues:

Fix Felon, in various personae, roams the earth in search of phony warfare qualifications. To this day, nobody knows how he got them put into his official service record without ever having flown an airplane, or been an NFO in the passenger seat of one, or jumped out of one with a parachute, or driven a ship or a submarine. And yet here he is, on our ship, in our battle group, in command of our entire...known...universe.

"Scary!" Everybody shudders.

"Of course," Navigation Man says, "like I told you, I heard all that from a lawyer who used to be a Navy JAG officer, so most of it probably isn't true. And however he got all those warfare pins, Fix Felon just wears his pilot wings now. Ask Buzz, NFO Man. Buzz sees Felon lurking around in combat all the time, right?"

"Some nights," says Buzz, now sometimes called NFO Man. "He likes to come in and spy on us, see if he can catch us sleeping when we're supposed to be jacking off. But he only does it after midnight, and he always wears a disguise. Sometimes he's a Catholic chaplain and shakes holy water on us. Sometimes he dresses up like a master chief mess specialist and brings us cookies. Sometimes he pretends to be a visiting politician acting like he's drumming up votes so he can figure out if any of us aren't Republicans. Not that it matters what he dresses up like. We'd recognize that Boris Karloff looking bastard if he dressed up like a ballerina. Which he did, back on WESTPAC, come to think of it. Several times."

Everybody laughs.

"Keep it down," Navigation Man says. "We don't want to wake up the captain and have him come out here and catch us all jacking off."

Everybody tries to keep it down, but they all have the late night/early morning giggles now.

"That's the end of the story," Navigation Man says. "Is it safe for me to take Orange Avenue home when we get back, or do I have to find an alternate route?"

"You're safe," Gary the SWO Boy says. "You never have to kiss our ass ever again, Navigation Man."

"Damn your impertinence, SWO Boy."

They never find out about the deal with Navigation Man's ex non-wife, or about when he was a roadie for the Grateful Dead one summer in college. Before Jack and Buzz and Gary can steer him back in that direction, somebody brings up Bull Palsy, the Connie's old XO from WESTPAC, and everybody has some shit to pitch at that son of a bitch. What he did to who, how he did it, how far up he did it, how long it took for the bleeding to stop after he did it, how many tampons it took to stop the bleeding...

And the next thing everybody knows, the sun's coming up, and it's time for them to turn into their racks--which is a Navy way of saying "go to bed." (Except for Gary, who has two more hours on watch.)

But before everybody but Gary turns into their racks, they take one last look at the mountains as the sun climbs up to light their universe, and think about how much fun they've had, on the bridge, telling sea stories; and they feel for just a moment, that maybe, just maybe, life doesn't suck a thousand dicks after all.


Zach Taylor had been a single seat A-7 pilot in Vietnam. He had infinite confidence in himself, and little confidence in anybody else, especially the "black shoe" surface warfare types who ran his engineering plant and manned his bridge teams.

As an aviator, Jack was the only OOD left on board who had any sway with Zach, but that influence was mitigated by the fact that Jack was an NFO, and not a pilot--and an E-2 NFO at that, which put him only slightly higher on the Navy pecking order than black shoes like Gary. Gary, as we have seen, couldn't do anything on the bridge what-so-fucking-ever unless he checked with Zach or the gator first. Gary was actually a pretty competent ship driver, and a good officer all around. But he was a black shoe. And the other two black shoe OOD dip shits had no influence with Zach whatsoever, because Zach shit canned them, remember?


Yakkety Yak Zach.
Wake up, crawl out of your rack.
When the clock strikes one,
He'll take his gun,
And jam it--
Right up your crack!


Needless to say, the old Vietnam A-7 pilot's eyes were the sharpest navigation tools on the bridge. Zach's highly developed sense of space, time, and distance was far superior to anything lesser beings could calculate with radars and maneuvering boards. And an A-7 Corsair pilot's eye was a damn sight better than an EA6 Prowler pilot's eye. Just ask the gator.

"Yeah," Navigation Man said, after Zach had left the bridge for the night, and everybody gathered around to hear another sea story...

What's Going On?

I'm still shaking my head over the underwhelming non-coverage of the Iraqis' call for a U.S. troop withdrawal at the conference held in Cairo, Egypt under the sponsorship of the Arab League.

The relative silence from both the administration and Congress is puzzling to say the least. One needs to dig like a gopher for any official comment from Washington. An Associated Press report filed at noon eastern time today by SALAH NASRAWI:
A day after the communiqué was finalized by Iraqi Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders, Washington reiterated Tuesday that the United States would stay only as long as it takes to stabilize Iraq…

… On Tuesday, the State Department "the United States supports the ongoing transitional political process in Iraq, and encourages participation by all Iraqis in the political process."
"President Bush has made our position very clear," department spokeswoman Julie Reside said. "The coalition remains committed to helping the Iraqi people achieve stability and security as they rebuild their country. We will stay as long as it takes to achieve those goals and no longer."

I had to Google clear down to China World to find this:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (Xinhuanet)-- The United States hailed on Monday positive role of the Arab League (AL) to push forward Iraq's peace process by hosting the preparatory meeting for an Iraqi national reconciliation conference in Cairo, Egypt.

Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman of the US State Department, told anews briefing that the AL-sponsored conference will be instrumental to in pushing forward the national reconciliation process and reconstruction in Iraq.
What the Arab League has done is a good thing, and is consistent with what the United States is aiming at in Iraq, Ereli said.


Maybe I've gone totally web-dumb, but I can't find a copy of the actual communiqué the Iraqis' released on Monday. Why the mainstream media can report on what it said but can't provide a translated copy of it is a bit beyond me. To say the MSM doesn't want to release it so the blogosphere knows what it knows might be a stretch of the imagination, but not the kind of stretch that would pull a muscle. (Or some mixed metaphor like that.)


Despite the limited information available so far on the communiqué and the influence America's state department had on its composition, I'm actually optimistic that this action by the Arab League may be a positive step in moving to a more stable world order.

If you haven't seen my previous posts on this subject, here's a rough sketch of what I've described at various times as the multi-tiered "Leveraged Balance of Power" model.

The Rational Tiers
Major Powers: United States, European Union, China.

Balance Powers: England, Russia, Japan.

Regional Powers: A loosely defined group of national/political entities with geographically dominant economies. India and Brazil are two examples.

The Unstable Tiers
Wild Cards: The Middle East, Africa, and North Korea.

Others: Everyone and everything else.


The Arab League meeting may signal that the Middle East is collectively beginning to get its act together in a "rational" attempt to transform itself from a wild card into a balance power, possibly positioning itself into a position to become one of the major powers.

Click here to see a map of the nations that make up the Arab League, and you'll see that they cover geo-strategically vital areas of both the Middle East and Africa.

Let's consider a few "ifs."

If the Arab League, whether under the aegis of U.S. influence or not, can get a handle on Islamo-fabulist extremism or whatever we're calling it these days, and make a concerted effort to bring their geographic sphere of influence into the 21st century, and…

If the U.S. can learn to wean itself from over-dependence on military force as its primary means of national power and…

If the U.S. can use diplomacy, economy, and information to lead the growing ranks of rational powers to adopt a policy of Mutual Assured Prosperity and Security (MAPS, a hokey take on the Cold War MAD policy), then…

Just maybe, cockroaches won't be the only creatures left on earth when the 22nd century dawns.

Two Girls and a Message

In an interview with The Queen of Kool Aid Monica Crowly, White House Communications Director Nicole Wallace just called Mister Bush a "champion of the free press."

Then Monica and Nicole proceed to do a big bash on the media (remember, everything's the media's fault).

They play the Biden clip. Monica and Nicole say he's dishonest. "Everybody saw the same intelligence." (How many times have I heard that in the last two weeks?)

Thank goodness MSNBC cut to a commercial before I had to watch those two kiss.

Yeah, I know, that's a bit cattier than I normally care to get, but come on!

The RNC should have to pay for this kind of air time.

Chalabi Didn't Want to Play

No telling what this means just yet, but Iraq Information Report says:
Iraq – The preparatory meeting in Cairo for the National Reconciliation Conference has confirmed the Arab League’s role in the Iraqi crisis. Iraqi Shiite and Sunni sources agree the meeting has already thrown the door open to dialogue between Iraqi factions, especially between the Sunni factions that support insurgency and the Shiite and Kurdish factions that oppose it. President Jalal Talbani and PM Ibrahim Jaafari played a prominent role in this. Note that SCIRI leader Abdulaziz Hakim did not attend the meeting and Deputy PM Ahmad Chalabi boycotted it.

Chalabi boycotted it? Interesting. One can't help but speculate if that had any connection with his recent goodwill tour of Washington D.C.

By Their Own Bootstraps?

A follow up to the Iraqi call for a withdrawal timeline from AFP:
BAGHDAD (AFP) -Iraq's government stands ready to "help" insurgents wanting to lay down their weapons, a top government official said in the latest bid to encourage political reconciliation in the war-torn country.

"We are not bent on revenge. We will help any party wishing to disarm," Vice President Adel Abdel Mehhi told reporters.

On the other hand, "the government will strike back forcefully against all acts of violence and terrorism", he warned Tuesday.

The Shiite leader did not elaborate on the government's offer, but his comments came just two days after President Jalal Talabani said he was prepared to hold talks with insurgents.
"To those who took up arms to end the occupation, we say that the solution will not come through weapons but through political dialogue and democratic means," Talabani said in Cairo where he attended an Arab League-sponsored meeting of Iraq's rival factions.

Can we dare to believe these guys are standing up and taking charge of their own country?

This is incredible news. And still next to nothing about it in on the cable channels.

And no comments yet from the administration.

Do you think they had to call the paramedics to revive Dick Cheney?

No Comments


Norah O'Donnell does a story on Iraq, runs Mary Matlin and Dick Cheney sound bites. More Mary Matlin.

Some talk about the Daily Mirror story that said Bush had planned to bomb Al Jazeera.

Footage of the mortar shell in Tikrit as U.S. troops tried to turn over the town to Iraqi forces.

Ah, finally, the call for an Iraqi timetable. But no comments on it from the usual suspects.

And it looks like they didn't get Zarqawi.

This just in: Osama bin Laden, the tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by the United States government, is still at large.

Now back to your holiday weather report.


9:10 am on the east coast, still no comment from the wonks on the Iraqi call for a withdrawal timetable.

Maybe they're still having their cornflakes.

Iraqis Call for Troop Withdrawal

From the NYT (if by some miracle you haven't heard or read it already):
Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout

CAIRO, Nov. 21 - For the first time, Iraq's political factions on Monday collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces, in a moment of consensus that comes as the Bush administration battles pressure at home to commit itself to a pullout schedule.

The announcement, made at the conclusion of a reconciliation conference here backed by the Arab League, was a public reaching out by Shiites, who now dominate Iraq's government, to Sunni Arabs on the eve of parliamentary elections that have been put on shaky ground by weeks of sectarian violence.

About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces," the statement said.

"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when foreign forces will leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and an end to terrorism," it continued.

Is the timing of this entirely too coincidental or what?

Bayan Jabr, Iraq's interior minister, thinks U.S. led forces can safely redeploy by the end of next year.
"By mid-next year, we will be 75 percent done in building our forces, and by the end of next year it will be fully ready," Mr. Jabr told Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab news channel.

How convenient. The summer before America's '06 elections, the troops will start marching home in droves.

So what's your guess? Is Uncle Karl pulling out what's left of his hair, or was the whole thing his idea?

I mean, if you tell the Iraqis to ask you to leave, you're not cutting and running are you?

And you can "stay the course" long enough to "get the job done" and still have most of the troops back in time for Thanksgiving. Heck, most of them will be able to vote in their home districts.

That could play out two ways. The troop vote could be a decisive factor in a lot of congressional races.


On a related note…

Over at HuffPo, Paul Reickhoff posts an e-mail from a buddy of his serving as an officer in Ramadi, Iraq.

I wish I had the time or energy or memory capacity to describe to you how wrong this whole thing has gone. It's just as you described it a couple years ago. We *can* make a difference here, and i believe in the mission as it looks on paper. But your president and his brain-dead colleagues aren't even trying to give us what we need to do it…

It doesn't sound like Paul's buddy is too impressed with his Commander in Chief.


I haven't heard any MSM jabber on the Iraqi's announcement yet. But it's still early in the day. Imus is signing off from MSNBC. If this isn't the top story after the break, something's not quite right.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday Night Sea Story

Sea Stories

Zach Taylor wasn't getting along with Admiral Felon either. "They're like oil and magnesium," the gator said from his barber chair on the starboard side, late one night, after flight operations had secured and Zach had gone off the bridge. "Or vinegar and water. Or whatever."

The only reason the gator was still up was because Gary had the watch, and Zach didn't trust Gary on the bridge at night unless he or the gator was around to keep an eye on him. Jack had stayed up to make sure Gary didn't doze off and fall down the night hood, and wake up tits up on the deck with blood on his blouse, and get shit canned.

"Admiral Felon is on the phone with Zach every ten minutes, bitching at him about one thing or another," the gator said, starting a sea story to keep everybody awake.

Rear Admiral Phillip "Fix" Felon commanded the Constellation battle group, and was living on Connie (and in Zach Taylor's ass) for the duration of the NORPAC deployment.

"Plus," the gator said, "whatever the hell's up with Zach and his wife. Guy's been married to her thirty years. You'd think they'd have learned to get along by now. I just thank God my wife had the good grace to walk out on me before I married her. Easier that way. Cheaper. Faster. Funnier too."


Jack nudges Gary. "Never got married to his wife?" he whispers. "Don't you just wonder what that's all about?"

"I bet we can get him to tell us," Gary whispers back "Careful, though, let's not spook him. He's probably so tired, he doesn’t realize he blurted that one out. Let's get him talking about something else, and then pull a switch on him."

Jack grins, and nods.

Buzz walks on the bridge.

"Oh good," Jack says. "Buzz is here. What's the buzz, Buzz buddy? What brings you all the way up here to the nosebleed level? Why aren't you racked out in your stateroom? They fumigating it or something?"

Gary chimes in:

Buddy Buzz, he had no hair.

Buddy Buzzy, was he there?

He might be white. He might be black.

He might be sleeping in his rack.

"Stow it," Buzz says. "I just got off watch in combat, so I came up from my dark hole to take a look out at your dark hole. So pipe down on the Buddy Buzzy bullshit, okay?"

"Roger that, Buddy Buzzy," Jack says. "Hey, come over here a second."

Gary keeps the gator occupied while Jack conspires with Buzz over by the helm console. "We're trying to milk some good shit out of the gator about his ex non-wife," Jack says, "so we can pitch him shit about it forever later. But we don't want to spook him, and we're afraid he'll know we're up to something if we say anything. So you get him ranting about Fix Felon, like you did last time, and we'll see if we can change the subject on him."


"Fuck Fix Felon," the gator says. "I flew with that asshole in my last squadron. An NFO who started out as an intelligence weenie, and then became a ship driver, and then became an NFO, and then became a pilot."

"How did he pull off a stunt like that?" Gary says.

The gator says he'll tell them the whole story, but it's convoluted, so if they want to hear it, they'll have to shut their pie holes and listen, and not interrupt him. But, he promises that this is one of the top ten sea stories of all time. What's more, when he gets to the end of it, if they don't agree it's one of the top ten sea stories of all time, he'll kiss all their asses on the corner of First Street and Orange Avenue and give them half an hour to draw a crowd.

"Sounds like a deal to me," Gary says.

The gator begins:


Next: the legend of Fix Felon, as only the gator can tell it.

Ich bin ein "Huber"

This piece from the LA Times makes me proud to be a German-American.
How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'

The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.

By Bob Drogin and John Goetz

Special to The Times

November 20, 2005

BERLIN — The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

"This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."

The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. "He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy," said a BND official who supervised the case. "He is not a completely normal person," agreed a BND analyst.

Curveball was the chief source of inaccurate prewar U.S. accusations that Baghdad had biological weapons, a commission appointed by Bush reported this year. The commission did not interview Curveball, who still insists his story was true, or the German officials who handled his case.

Ain't that just ironish?

No wonder the Germans didn't think invading Iraq was such a wunderbar idea.

And what's up with the administration's claim that "everybody else's" intelligence agreed with ours?

Looks to me like the Bush adminstration has yet another thing to erklären.


An old German great uncle once told me this about different breeds of dogs.

"If you throw a steak off a cliff, some dogs will jump after it. A German Shepard will not."

More Dubya Talk and "Disassembling"

Hand salute to Think Progress for this piece by the Times of London:
The mysterious source who gave America’s foremost journalist, Bob Woodward, a tip-off about the CIA agent at the centre of one of Washington’s biggest political storms was Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, according to lawyers close to the investigation…

…A spokeswoman for the National Security Council (NSC) denied that Hadley was the journalist’s source. However, in South Korea on Friday during an official visit with President George W Bush, Hadley dodged the question.

“I’ve also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his sources,” Hadley said with a smile. Asked if this was a yes or no he replied: “It is what it is.”

Where did Hadley see those reports, the New York Times?

It is what it is. Brother. I think we all know what it is, and it ain't chocolate ice cream.

I lament once again that our nation's senior officers consistently get away with outrageous prevarications that we wouldn't tolerate from our children.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday Night Sea Story

Action in the North Pacific

Jack leaned against the navigation table to take pressure off his lower back. He could still out-run most nineteen-year old sailors on the physical readiness test. But he wasn't getting much exercise on this Northern Pacific (NORPAC) gig, and having his feet planted on a metal deck eighteen hours a day wasn't exactly orthopedic therapy.

Connie hurled herself ahead at thirty knots, the mountains growing larger and larger in the Plexiglas windscreen. Chief Kirk looked up from the navigation plot. "Holy shit, Mister H, how close is Captain Zach going to cut it this time?"

Jack checked the time on his Jap job and sidled over to the helm console, where Stick Boy had the conn. "How soon do we turn?"

"Thirty seconds, sir."

"Keep an eye where you're going, Stick Boy. This is a bigger car than you're used to driving."

Jack skulked over to the port side where Gary, on watch as OOD, stood by Zach Taylor's chair. "Time to turn," he whispered in Gary's ear.

"I know," Gary whispered back. "But I need the captain's permission. He told me yesterday not to do anything what-so-fucking-ever unless I checked with him first, and I can't get his attention."

Jack raised his voice. "Captain, I show time-to-turn as right now."

Zach Taylor looked up from the paperwork in his lap and peered at the mountains, taking a fine measurement with his superior eye. "Bullshit. We have a good thirty seconds to go."

Two seconds later, he waved the back of his hand and Gary, Jack, and Stick Boy. "All right, goddammit, turn us around and bring us into the wind."


The Northern Latitude Operation Area was a fiord like body of water in Alaska's Aleutian Island chain. Sheer mountain cliffs surrounded three sides of the NOLA. The mountains protected the carrier and her escorts from attack by Soviet cruise missiles, whose radars couldn't sort out the ships from the mountains. A barrier reef covered the entrance to the NOLA. The single break in the reef was barely wide and deep enough for a super carrier like the Connie to transit, and was relatively easy to protect from penetration by Soviet attack submarines.

Officially, the NORPAC exercise's purpose was to demonstrate that U.S. carrier battle groups could operate with impunity in striking distance of the Soviet ballistic missile submarine pens in the Kamchatka Peninsula. If you asked Jack Hogan, NORPAC's real purpose was to justify the Cold War Navy's budget and burn off excess testosterone.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had two choices for taking out the Kamchatka ballistic missile submarine pens. They could send the dozen ships and ten thousand men in a carrier battle group to the NOLA, let them operate to the point of exhaustion, then launch a squadron of A-6 Intruder bombers on a one way mission and hope one or two of the jets made it through the Soviet air defenses and dropped a nuke on the sub pens...


They could order some matinee idol Air Force major--sitting in an air-conditioned missile silo in Bumfuck, Omaha--to push a button and fling a fistful of nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles in the general direction of Kamchatka. Hell, they had enough ICBMs to barbecue the whole planet five or six times over. Fencing off a handful of them for Kamchatka wouldn't make a shit bit of difference.

But if we threatened the sub pens with our fleet, then the Soviets would have to build and train and maintain a fleet of their own to deal with it, and spend all those rubles, and look one way while we went another, and wheels-within-wheels, and hocus pocus, and blah, blah, blah. And here Jack and 9,999 other sorry bastards were, breaking their balls, trying to make this red ass NOLA bullshit work.

Carrier aircraft operations required 25 knots of wind down the deck. In open-ocean, you turned into the natural wind and cranked up the ships speed until they added up to 25, and you stayed there for the half hour or so it took to launch and land everybody. In the NOLA, you had to work wind and distances precisely enough to launch and recover everybody before you rammed the carrier into the reef or the mountains. Which would suck.

Jack, near the end of his assistant navigator tour and the Connie 's most experienced OOD, spent most of his time on the bridge. Partly because it was his job to be there, but partly because Zach Taylor had shit canned the other two OOD dip shits, and it was just the Jack and Gary show now. And Gary needed all the help he could get in dealing with Zach Taylor.

In "normal times," Zach Taylor was a man of many moods, few of them good. On NORPAC, the guy went totally Queeg on everybody. The gator theorized that Zach just wanted to get this final underway deployment of his command tour over with before somebody else fucked the dog for him and knocked up his chances of making admiral.

You couldn't blame Zach for shit canning the other two OOD dip shits, though. They'd asked for it, mostly.

The first dip shit was a surface warfare lieutenant commander who'd been shit canned from every other ship in the surface navy--the navy of destroyers and cruisers--because he'd been such a dip shit his whole career. The dip shit thing he'd done on this ship was let the battle group's supply ship, the Mars, pass down the Connie 's starboard side within two hundred yards in the middle of the night. Standing orders on the Connie required OODs to notify the captain if any ship got any closer than five thousand yards, day or night.

Zach Taylor had been asleep in his at-sea cabin when the Mars passed within two hundred yards, and the dip shit lieutenant commander hadn't bothered to tell him about it when it happened. He hadn't bothered to tell Zach about it when Zach came out on the bridge in the morning, either, or when the dip shit reported he was going below at the end of his watch.

Zach never would have found out about it at all except that the captain of the Mars, Commander Winifred "Bull" Palsy, Connie 's old executive officer from the West Pacific cruise the year before, called Zach on the bridge-to-bridge circuit that afternoon.

"Hope you're having a fine Navy day," Bull said over the radio. "Just wanted to call and say thanks for letting us pass close down you side."

Zach must have thought he was losing his other marble. "When did that happen?"

"Last night," Bull said.

Zach Taylor about shit. The dip shit lieutenant commander was about to have a real fine Navy day.

Zach ordered the enlisted duty messenger down to the dip shit's stateroom to shake his ass out of his rack. When the dip shit finally hauled himself up to the bridge, still half asleep, his shirt tail half out and his shoes untied, Zach ripped him a open a couple new assholes and shit canned the dip shit right there on the spot.

It was kind of the same thing with the second dip shit. Except the second dip shit was just a jay gee, like Gary. All the jay gee dip shit did was put his eyes over the rubber night hood of the port side radar repeater in the middle of a midnight watch, just to rest his head for a second. Next thing he knew, he'd dozed off and gone face first down the night hood, and broken his nose on the radarscope.

Zach picked that minute to wake up and walk out to the bridge, and saw the jay gee tits up on the deck, his nose bleeding all over his blouse. Zach had the jay gee flown off the ship and transferred to civilian command the next day.

Jack and Gary and Buzz thought Zach wasn't being quite fair when he shit canned the jay gee dip shit. The jay gee dip shit hadn't been nearly as big a dip shit as the lieutenant commander dip shit had been. The jay gee dip shit sure wasn't the first OOD of a Navy ship who ever dozed off for a second on a late night watch. And the lieutenant commander dip shit's career had been over anyway, while the jay gee dip shit's career had been nipped in the bud.

But, oh well. Those were the breaks.

As Good as It Gets

From NYT's Sabrina Tavernise:
Two and a half years after the American invasion, deep divides that have long split Iraqi society have violently burst into full view. As the hatred between Sunni Arabs and Shiites hardens and the relentless toll of bombings and assassinations grows, families are leaving their mixed towns and cities for safer areas where they will not automatically be targets. In doing so, they are creating increasingly polarized enclaves and redrawing the sectarian map of Iraq, especially in Baghdad and the belt of cities around it.

The saddest thing about this story is that there's nothing we can do about it. It's another illustration of why no military solution for Iraq exists.

And another reason why I'm so on board with what Congressman Jack Murtha says. Our troops have done the job we sent them over there to do. They can' t protect the Iraqis from each other, nor should they be expected to. Their presence in the country has gone well beyond the point of diminishing returns. We're not defeating terrorism by remaining in Iraq; we're throwing fuel on the fire.

Once the December elections are held and verified, excuses for "staying the course" will be hard to come by.

But I'm confident the Bush administration will make every effort to come up with new ones.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Weekend Sea Stories

Jack, Gary, Chief Kirk, and the rest of the sorry slobs on the bridge of the USS Constellation get the ship underway...

Jack looked across the bridge at Gary, who stood next to the captain's chair. "Officer of the Deck, are we ready to get underway?"

Over on the port side, thirty feet from where Jack stood, Gary cocked his head a quarter turn in the direction of the captain, and shrugged. Captain Julius "Zach" Taylor, slim, steely eyed, and closely shorn, sat in a raised chair identical to the gator's, his legs crossed at the knees, his back twisted, left elbow on an armrest, the forefinger and thumb of his left hand covering his mouth.

On the starboard side, Jack turned to the gator. "What's up with the captain?"

The gator leaned forward. "He's had a cork up his blow hole for three days. I figure his wife must have cut him off or he didn't pick up admiral this time around. Or both."

"Is he going to snap out of it so we can get underway?"

"I'll get this turd rolling." The gator swiveled his chair toward the port side and sang out, "Captain, all checklists for getting underway are complete, the ship is ready for sea."

On the port side, Gary saluted Zach Taylor. "Captain, request permission to cast off all lines."

Zach Taylor started, glanced at his Jap job, and spun on Gary. "Christ yes, cast off all lines. How the hell else are we going to get underway?"

Gary passed the word via walkie-talkie. From the starboard side of the hangar bay, sailors drew in mooring lines from the pier. Four tugboats eased the ship toward the turning basin. On the bridge, the duty bosun mate sounded one prolonged, throaty blast of the ship's whistle, shattering picture windows halfway across Coronado Island.

The tugs pointed Connie's bow toward the channel. The conning officer, a skinny ensign fresh out of Surface Warfare School, blurted, in a cracked alto voice, "All engines ahead one third."

Jack donned a headset that put him in communication with the Compass Kids, who were stationed on the open-air signal bridge just above the pilothouse. "Here we go, guys," he said. "We'll start taking one-minute fixes in thirty seconds. Everybody have your landmark?"

"Port, Aye."

"Starboard, Aye."

"Aft, Aye."

"Fifteen seconds. Ten. Five. Standby. Mark."

Jack wrote the reported bearings in a logbook and repeated them to the chief. Faster than the unpracticed eye could follow, Chief Kirk's hands manipulated a compass arm, a spacer, and a pencil across the chart taped to the top of the navigation table. "On track, excellent fix."

Jack, hovering over the chief to double-check his accuracy, said, "Concur. In fact, it's a tremendous fix, Chief." He announced, "Conning Officer, based on a tremendous fix, navigation holds the ship on track."
Officially, there was no such thing as a "tremendous fix," but Jack pulled non-standard crap like that all the time, so nobody noticed.

Stick Boy the conning officer, standing in front of the helm console in the middle of the bridge, halfway between the gator's chair and the captain's chair, croaked, "Very well."

Zach Taylor, standing by Stick Boy's left shoulder now, turned to the harbor pilot. "I think we're a foot right of course."

On the starboard side, Jack, Chief Kirk, and the gator looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

Standing by Stick Boy's right shoulder, the harbor pilot, an ancient, heavy civilian in a wrinkled blue blazer said, "We're okay for now."

Stick Boy, nervous as hell at being under Zach Taylor's close scrutiny, said, "What should I do, Captain?"

Zach grimaced. "Hold what you got for now. What little you got."

"Aye, aye, sir." Stick Boy didn't get the dig about "hold what little you got." It implied that you had a small penis and your balls hadn't dropped yet. Which in Stick Boy's case was true.

Jack saw a smirk growing on the face of Petty Officer Johnson, the enlisted helmsman, who actually controlled the wheel that controlled the rudders that steered the ship while the officers stood around and decided where he should steer it. Johnson glanced over at Jack. Jack touched a forefinger to his lips and turned his attention back to the navigation table, and got ready to help Chief Kirk with the next fix.

Pleasure craft blared their stadium horns and scrambled to make way for the thousand foot long warship as she steamed around the arc of the Coronado Channel. Thirty minutes after she left her pier, Connie steamed past Buoy 1SD and entered international waters. With the gator's concurrence, Jack secured (Navy talk for "dismissed") the navigation detail (the Compass Kids) and went to the office aft of the bridge. He shut the door, locked it, sat at his desk, and booted up his Smiley Macintosh computer.

A two-key macro brought up his favorite screen saver, a series of white concentric squares that chased each other across a black background as they caromed off the edges of the computer's tiny built-in monitor.

How many times had he and Liz argued over whether Jack could buy his own computer with his own money to use at work?

Didn't matter now.

Jack reached over and turned off the overhead lights. In the seat of his pants, he felt the slight roll of the ship you could sense this high, a hundred feet above the waterline. He breathed stale memories of the chief's pipe tobacco, which made him want a cigarette, a habit he'd given up in deference to Mom's wishes when Dad had died.

You don't want to hear about that sob scene just now.

Jack rolled his head and sighed. The vertebrae in his neck popped. He shifted in his chair to relieve the pressure in his lower back, which he'd sprained in a body surfing accident during his first sea tour. His eyes tracked the bouncing squares across the computer screen, and then they closed.


Fighting with Liz. Telling Mom he couldn't come out to Charleston because he had to go to sea. Keeping the truth about Liz and Joe from Grandma. That was a lot of baggage to be carrying around, even for a big strong boy like Jack.

He let himself wonder if standing late night Officer of the Deck watches on the bridge, in charge of the safety of the ship and the five thousand sorry slobs in her crew and air wing while Zach Taylor and the gator slept, was such a good idea. But the ship only had four qualified OODs. If Jack crapped out, Gary and the other two dip shits would have to miss sleep to pick up the slack.

And what would Jack do? Walk up to the gator and say, "Boss, I need to share something. I have issues right now, and I'd like to take a little time off, make some space, find my center?"

No. He wasn't going to do that. Way too vaginal. Plus, that would be taking an ax to his naval career, and his naval career was all he had going for him at the moment.


Two soft taps at the door.

"Mister H, you okay in there?"

"Yeah, Chief. I'm fine. Just sitting here playing with myself. I'll be done in a minute."

Chief Kirk chuckled. "Ain't no rush, sir. Take your time. Just don't get none on my desk, okay?"

Jack rubbed his eyes. "Roger that."

Feeling the hangover again, now that the rush of getting underway had worn off, Jack reached in his desk drawer, took out a bottle of eight hundred pound Motrins, and swallowed one dry. He shut off the computer, turned the lights back on, went out to the bridge, and relieved Gary as Officer of the Deck. After consulting with the gator, he ordered Stick Boy to set a northerly course for the Aleutian Islands.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Give 'Em More Hell...

I love it.

From Harry Reid's web site:
It would be funny, if it weren't so serious

Nov 18, 05:43 PM | Harry Reid

On Sunday the Republican National Committee is going to start running ads against me in my home state of Nevada – well I must be doing something right if they are already that scared.

The ads claim that I am politicizing the war in Iraq. Quiet frankly this attack is so ludicrous it would be funny, if the topic were not so serious. Our soldiers are fighting everyday in Iraq, but instead of engaging in a legitimate debate on the merits of our current course in Iraq, George Bush and Dick Cheney do what they always do and attempt to smear their opponents.

This week alone, we’ve seen Stephen Hadley. . . Donald Rumsfeld. . . President Bush. . . and Vice President Cheney lash out at their critics. . . yet they all remain silent when it comes to giving our troops and the American people a plan. Tired rhetoric and political attacks do nothing to solve our problems in Iraq.

As a former boxer I know, your opponent always starts to swing wildly when you’ve got them on the ropes. The way to beat them isn’t to hesitate, but to continue landing punches until he goes down. The Iraq war is too important an issue to allow cheap political attacks to prevent us from doing what is best for our troops and best for our country.

Back when I was Nevada Gaming Commissioner the mob planted a bomb inside my car. That didn’t scare me from doing what was right then, and I certainly am not scared of George Bush and his gang now. Democrats are going to keep pressing forward demanding accountability for intelligence failures and demanding a strategy for success that will bring the troops home.

Call the White House and let them know you are tired of political attacks and want real solutions for Iraq. You can reach the White House by dialing:



"I'm sorry, the number you have reached has been disconnected. For some time now."

Another Usual Suspect

The Rolling Stone links the Rendon Group to the propaganda campaign that sold the war in Iraq (hand salute to Think Progress).

Good reading, and another explanation why Dick and Dubya are so admanant about denying they lied.

Friday Fling

NYT's James Glanz reports this morning that the comptroller and financial officer for the American authority and Iraq who been charged with taking kickbacks served prison time for felony fraud in 1990.
Along with a web of other conspirators who have not yet been named, Mr. [Robert J.] Stein and his wife received "bribes, kickbacks and gratuities amounting to at least $200,000 per month" to steer lucrative construction contracts to companies run by another American, Philip H. Bloom, an affidavit outlining the criminal complaint says.

How soon do these two get their Medals of Freedom?


Hooray for Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. The Vietnam veteran and retired Marine Colonel who once supported the war has called for the troops in Iraq to be pulled out in six months. From NYT's Eric Schmitt:
"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. It is time to bring them home," Mr. Murtha said, at times choking back tears. Mr. Murtha's proposal, which goes well beyond the phased withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq that other moderate Democrats have proposed, stunned many Republicans who quickly held their own news conference to criticize the plan.

Among those Republican critics was House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who said Murtha had adopted a policy of "cut and run." Hastert, if you hadn't guessed, is one of many pro-war Republicans who never served in the military.

Murtha made his views on the "chicken hawks" abundantly clear when asked his opinion of Vice President Dick Cheney's recent incendiary remarks about critics of the war.
"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

Keep it coming, Congressman Murtha. It's people like you who will give the rest of the legislature the spine to stand up and take its constitutional authority back from the White House.


Speaking of Congress growing a spine, NYT's Eric Lichtblau tells us…
A tentative deal to extend the government's antiterrorism powers under the law known as the USA Patriot Act appeared in some jeopardy Thursday, as Senate Democrats threatened to mount a filibuster in an effort to block the legislation.

"This is worth the fight," Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview.

"I've cleared my schedule right up to Thanksgiving," Mr. Feingold said, adding that he was making plans to read aloud from the Bill of Rights as part of a filibuster if necessary.

As we've discussed here before, the Patriot Act violates key provisions of the Constitution's fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments, and illegally gives the president the power to suspend the write of habeas corpus privilege, and empowers him to exercise bills of attainer which are specifically prohibited by the Constitution.

So while I'm glad to see Senate Democrats opposing the extension of the Patriot Act, I'm somewhat dismayed that they have to. The Patriot Act should never have been passed. It not only gives Mister Bush unconstitutional powers, it was unconstitutional for Congress to have given them to him.

Andrew Young has a good account of the debate over Abraham Lincoln's war powers over at Roger Taney, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, thoroughly refuted Lincoln's authority to suspend habeas corpus.
Near the end of his opinion [in the Ex parte Merryman case, Taney] says that, if the executive branch can, in any situation, overstep other branches, then “the people of the United States are no longer living under a government of laws.” In Taney’s view, the Constitution is not a mere suggestion of how government should operate under ideal circumstances. Instead, it is a concrete document to which the executive must adhere at all times, including times of emergency. If presidents can abandon the Constitution “upon any pretext or under any circumstances,” the Constitution means nothing.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear Mister Bush talk about "rule of law."

And have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Torture Never Stops

There's more.

NYT's Leslie Wayne reports that the Navy's biggest contractor will get special help recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
PASCAGOULA, Miss. - The destruction is everywhere at the Northrop Grumman shipyards here…

But as the cleanup begins, Northrop will have a much easier time than most other Hurricane Katrina victims, at least financially. Unlike many small businesses and families that may never fully recover from the storm, Northrop - through a combination of insurance and, most important, support from the Pentagon - is likely to end up having to pay little, if anything at all, from its own coffers to repair the damage.

The Navy is asking for $2 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, saying in a memo that it wants to restore Northrop's three Gulf Coast yards, where most of the Navy's surface ships are built, to their pre-Katrina "capacity and profit opportunities."

Donald C. Winter, recently confirmed by the Senate to become the next Secretary of the Navy, is a senior executive with Northrup Grumman.

How about that?

Speaking of Setting Examples

From NYT's James Glanz:
In what is expected to be the first of a series of criminal charges against officials and contractors overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq, an American has been charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to American occupation authorities and their spouses to obtain construction contracts, according to a complaint unsealed late yesterday.

The man, Philip H. Bloom, who controlled three companies that did work in Iraq in the multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort, was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money and interstate transportation of stolen property, all in connection with obtaining up to $3.5 million in reportedly fraudulent contracts.

The complaint, unsealed in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, also cites two unnamed co-conspirators who worked in the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American administration that governed Iraq when the contracts were awarded in early 2004. These were the officials who, with their spouses, allegedly received the payments.

Ah, heck, what's a little graft in wartime? At least they didn't torture anybody. That we know of.

Oak Trees and Acorns

It looks like Iraq's democracy is turning out to be more like American democracy than we expected.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A top Interior Ministry official said Wednesday the 173 malnourished prisoners found by U.S. forces included all Iraqi sects, playing down allegations of a campaign by Shiite-led security forces to suppress Sunni Arabs ahead of next month's election.

Iraq's president even sounds like ours:
President Jalal Talabani said there was "no place for torture and persecution in the new Iraq" and that anyone involved "would be severely punished."

Can we expect to see a handful of bad apple enlisted personnel in the Iraqi Security Force take the fall for this?

Tongues on Fire

AMERICAblog has a synopsis of 51 occasions when Vice President Cheney misled America about Iraq.

A-blog also has this link to "Iraq on the Record: the Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq," prepared for Congressman Henry Waxman by the House Committee on Government Reform.

The document contains a database of 237 misleading statements on the threat posed by Iraq made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice between March 17, 2002 and January 22, 2004.
The 30-day period with the greatest number of misleading statements was the period before the congressional vote on the Iraq war resolution. Congress voted on the measure on October 10 and October 11, 2002. From September 8 through October 8, 2002, the five officials made 64 misleading statements in 16 public
appearances. A large number of misleading statements were also made during the two months before the war began. Between January 19 and March 19, 2003, the five officials made 48 misleading statements in 26 public appearances.

The document concludes:
Because of the gravity of the subject and the President’s unique access to classified information, members of Congress and the public expect the President and his senior officials to take special care to be balanced and accurate in describing national security threats. It does not appear, however, that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice met this standard in the case of Iraq. To the contrary, these five officials repeatedly made misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq. In 125 separate appearances, they made 11 misleading statements about the urgency of Iraq’s threat, 81 misleading statements about Iraq’s nuclear activities, 84 misleading statements about Iraq’s chemical and biological capabilities, and 61 misleading statements about Iraq’s relationship with al Qaeda.

Have you read about this report in the mainstream media yet?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Big Oil Slicks

Wapo's Dana Milbank and Justin Blum blow the whistle on the big oil execs who zoomed Congress last week.
A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

Ho, ho!
In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Strictly speaking, the oil barons aren't subject to perjury charges because Commerce Chairman Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens of Alaska decided not to make them testify under oath.

Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg will ask the Justice Department to investigate whether oil execs are lying about their role in manipulating the energy policy.

Nice gesture, Frank, but what kind of investigation do you expect 'Berto "Torture Guy" Gonzalez to conduct on Dick and Dubya's big oil cronies?

Isn't that a bit like putting Pat Roberts in charge of investigating the Bush administration's manipulation of the intelligence on Iraq?


The Officer of the Deck, Jack's roommate, Lieutenant (junior grade) Gary Constantine, flipped an equally half-assed salute back at him. Gary had the short, bald, flabby ass look of a classic surface warfare officer. "Permission granted. Good of you to join us, Jackie. Better late than never, huh? You mind going over to the starboard side and getting that boss of yours off my back before he has an embolism?"

Jack looked to his right and caught the eye of the navigator, a squat, salt-and-pepper haired commander with a set of pilot wings on his chest and sourpuss on his puss. The gator, sitting in his elevated, barbershop style chair just aft of the navigation table, said, loudly enough for everyone on the bridge to hear, "Jack, glad you could make it. You know, they have these new things called alarm clocks. You should invest in one. They don't cost much."

Jack made his way starboard, twisting his shoulders through the swarm of watch standers, safety observers, and lookie-loos that always overpopulated the bridge when Connie got underway.

"I'll put one on my shopping list, Gator. What do they look like?"

That got a guffaw from all the enlisted men. Funny guy, that Mister Hogan. Frosted the gator's ass with that one, didn't he?

Jack took station at the navigation table next to wiry, mustachioed Chief Petty Officer Kirk, the senior enlisted quartermaster in the navigation department, who reeked of cheap pipe tobacco he'd no doubt just consumed in the small office behind the bridge that he and Jack shared.

"You ready to do this, Mister H?"

"I was born ready, Chief. The compass kids all set?"

The compass kids were junior enlisted men assigned to shoot visual navigation bearings as the ship transited the channel on its way out to sea.

Chief Kirk nodded. "Everybody's on station, sir, all compass repeaters check four-oh." In Jack's ear, he whispered, "About that alarm clock crack, sir. I don't recommend pitching the gator too much shit this morning. He ain't the happiest camper in the trailer park right now. The captain's been whipping him like a step child all morning."

Jack took the sunglasses from the map pocket of his flight jacket and slid them over his face. "At least the morning fog has burned off, Chief. The kids should see all their landmarks." He pointed out the bridge windscreen. "Look, up in the sky..."

Across the channel, a Boeing 707 with UNITED AIRLINES smeared all over it skimmed the skyscrapers as it made its final approach to San Diego International.

"Couldn't ask for a prettier day to go to sea," Chief Kirk said.

"No," Jack said, and making sure the gator wasn't listening, he whispered, "Don't worry about the elephants, Chief. We'll hose their shit over the side once we're out to sea."

"Roger that," Chief Kirk said. "Hey, speaking of which..." He looked at his watch, and tapped it, and held it to his ear, and looked at it again. "It's about that time, and I don't see nobody moving in that direction." He tapped the watch again, like that would do a shit bit of good if the watch had anything wrong with it. It was a digital plastic Jap job, like everybody else's watch was.

Jack looked across the bridge at Gary, who stood next to the captain's chair. "Officer of the Deck, are we ready to get underway?"

Hagel on Foreign Policy and the Middle East

Some pretty good stuff released from Chuck Hagel's office yesterday.

America must approach the world with a sense of purpose in world affairs that is anchored by our ideals, a principled realism that seeks not to re-make the world in our image, but to help make a better world.

We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that come with great power. Our foreign policy should reflect the hope and promise of America tempered with a mature wisdom that is the mark of our national character. In this new era of possibilities and responsibilities, America will require a wider lens view of how the world sees us, so that we can better understand the world, and our role in it.

Trust and confidence in America is about more than our military might or economic power. Power alone will not build coalitions, will not inspire trust, will not demonstrate confident leadership, will not resolve complicated problems, and will not defeat the threats that the United States will confront in the 21st century...

Good News or Cheesy Campaign Trick?

This is good news. I think.

From the NYT:
The Senate voted on Tuesday to press the Bush administration to provide more public information about the course of the war in Iraq as lawmakers of both parties made it clear they wanted chief responsibility for securing the country shifted to the Iraqi government within the next year.

Lawmakers voted 79 to 19 for a Republican plan to seek new quarterly reports on matters like the number of Iraqi troops ready to take the lead in combat operations. The proposal expressed the Senate view that "2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty."

On one hand, this seems to signal that the Senate "gets it" when it comes to the majority of Americans' opinion of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq. The Senate also appears to understand that American's are tired of the job Mister Bush is doing, and it wants Congress to step up to the plate and execute its Constitutional duties.

But don't get too excited just yet. As the NYT article points out…
…the practical consequences of the bipartisan vote on the Republican proposal may be limited and largely symbolic.

The president, through his officers in the Pentagon, is already required to make quarterly reports to Congress on the war by the War Powers Act of 1973. We may wind up getting nothing more than we've had in the past: Rummy gets grouchy and berates the armed services committees while his generals shrug and mumble.


I'm willing to give Congress the benefit of the doubt for the time being, but it needs to keep up the momentum and drive the executive branch back into its Constitutional box. It must pass the interrogation limits bill, and it must not exclude the CIA from constraints on the treatment of prisoners. If Mister Bush vetoes the bill, Congress must override it.

Congress must force the administration's hand on the Guantanamo situation. Holding prisoners there without granting them POW status or a right to trial is a bill of attainer, something specifically prohibited by the Constitution.

Most importantly, Congress must repeal the Patriotic Act, which not only enables bills of attainer, but expressly violates the fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments of the Constitution. (The Patriot Act is itself unconstitutional. Congress doesn't have the constitutional power to pass laws that allow a president to violate the Constitution.)

I hope the current issues being debated in the Senate wake the good people of South Carolina up to just what an administration patsy their Lindsey Graham has become.

Graham wrote the legislation that blocks Guantanamo prisoners from access to the courts, and yesterday he voted against the Senate bill to hold Mister Bush to account for the Iraq war.


So I'll be very happy if this Senate bill on the war signals the beginning of Congress taking its powers back from the executive office and doing its job. But I'm waiting to see if it's just a campaign strategem to get everybody back in office in 2006 so they can go back to sleep.

What They Called Things...

Jack double-timed it across the empty hangar bay--the air wing wouldn't fly aboard until that afternoon--trying not to gag on the smell of metal and jet fuel that stank up every corner of the ship.

He slipped through a hatch on the port side. They called it a hatch; it was just a big door with a watertight fitting. He started climbing ladders. They weren't ladders, really. They were more like stairs. They went up at an angle like stairs, and had handrails like stairs, and had steps instead of rungs. They probably called them ladders because that's what they'd really been on old Navy ships, and when they switched over to stairs, they forgot to change the name. Or something like that.

He'd taken this route to his stateroom so many times that his head didn't have to think about where it was going, because his feet knew their way by heart. Pretty soon, though, his legs started bitching at the rest of him that the rest of him was making them work too hard.

Jack realized he'd gone up three flights of stairs you called ladders too many. He slammed his gym bag against the wall you called a bulkhead, looked up at the ceiling you called an overhead, and begged God to spare him this shit right now. He turned around and started back down ladders. He tried not to think about why you called them ladders so he wouldn't go past the O3 level again (where his stateroom was), and keep on going until he was going down decks instead of levels.

Levels turned into decks when you got to the first deck, which was the hangar deck, also known as the hangar bay. Deck numbers got bigger as you went down--second deck, third deck, and so on. Level numbers got bigger as you went from the hangar deck, except that as you went up levels, you used different kinds of numbers to count them: O1 level, O2 level, etcetera.

It was an easy system to keep straight in your head, because it was all very consistent. Except that the flight deck was up on the O4 level. And you always called the floor a deck, regardless of whether you were standing on a deck or a level.

Jack didn't have a clue who had come up with the Navy's system for naming and numbering things. But he'd like to meet the bastard someday, and put a boot in his ass, because with all this interior monologue about why you called things what you called them on a Navy ship, he'd gotten himself all the way down to the hangar deck again.

This was just the sort of thing that happened when you drank like a whale for three days to get ready to go to sea.

He should be grateful, thinking about it. Being underway for two months would do him good. You couldn't drink alcohol on a U.S. Navy ship, so he'd get a good detox thing going. But he didn't want to think about his drinking too much either, because he didn't want to climb past the O-3 level again.

Up at the O3 level, Jack got off the ladder and turned left, which, when you were on the port side, was forward. Port and starboard were easy to keep straight too. Port was left and starboard was right, unless you turned aft and faced the ass end of the ship. Then everything turned ass-backwards, and port was right and starboard was left.


Jack made his way forward, reflecting that as ass backwards as things on a Navy ship were, he understood them a damn sight better than he understood anything in the real world, where you called things by their right names.


In his stateroom, he threw his civvies and flight jacket on the lower bed, which you also called a berth, and sometimes a bunk, but that you normally called a rack. From a metal closet welded to the bulkhead, he pulled a fresh set of brutally starched khakis. He put them on the way he'd learned to from the Marine drill instructors at Aviation Officer Candidate School: the shirt (that nobody called a blouse anymore) first, then trousers (which real people called pants). The shirt tucked in neater that way. He slipped on tan socks and aviator's brown shoes, and looked in the mirror over the stateroom's metal sink.

Shit. He'd forgotten to pin his shirt shit on his shirt.

Come on Jack, he thought. Focus.

He draped the shirt that wasn't a blouse anymore over the back of his metal chair and jerked open the metal dresser drawer where he kept his shirt shit. Lieutenant bars went on the collar points. Nametag over the right breast pocket, dual anchored naval flight officer (NFO) wings over the left. On the button flap of his left pocket, Jack attached his Surface Warfare Pin.

He'd been all shot up about qualifying as a surface warfare officer when he'd wrangled his way into this assistant navigator job. You could count the number of Navy pilots and NFOs of his rank who were also qualified to drive ships on one hand. That might mean something to the ship drivers on his captain and admiral selection boards--if he made it that far before he pissed off the entire known universe.

He'd paid a price to earn the surface pin, though. Thousands of extra hours aboard the ship when it was home, studying engineering and weapon systems. Hours that Liz had loudly complained he should be spending with her.

Fuck Liz. Jack had been a naval officer for six years when he met her at the Miramar Officers' Club. First thing out of her mouth, when she saw his two anchored NFO wings, was that cheesy crack about "non-flying officer." What a crack she turned out to be. He'd told her on their first date that he was a career man, and that the Navy would always come first. Maybe he shouldn't have told her that; let her figure it out for herself. What he should have done was tell her to go take a non-flying fuck at a rolling donut from the get go.

He buttoned the shirt, jammed its tails into the waistband of his trousers, and grabbed his flight jacket from his rack and his sunglasses and Connie ball cap from his metal nightstand. Sixty-two seconds later, up on the O-9 level, he breezed onto the navigation bridge, which you sometimes called the pilothouse, and flipped a two fingered salute at the Officer of the Deck.

"OOD, request permission to enter the bridge."