I have one neighbor who recently moved from the Northeast U.S. upon his retirement. Being fairly new to this area, he finds himself craving the Dunkin Donuts coffee he drank every morning before work for the previous few decades. He will drive for an hour roundtrip to buy a dollar cup of coffee.
Sometimes I join him on his coffee runs in the evening on his quest for that holy grail of caffeine. I welcome an occasional joyride after being practically shut-in for a year following my shattered leg injury. I think he is aware of this, too. He generously invites me to get the hell out of the house whenever he runs an errand for himself.
I have also drank several thousands of gallons of coffee to warm me up in the Winter Wonderland during the many years of construction work in my past. But, sometimes I just want a frosty Sobe Energy drink since these coffee quests are now taking place here in the moderate temperatures of Florida and not while standing outside ankle-deep in the ugly, gray, salty slush and frozen rust of Detroit of my past.
I took the above photograph on one of these coffee runs in January. It was a spontaneous urge to capture a small moment in time. Technically speaking, it's a crappy photo -- taken at night with a glovebox camera and out of focus -- but it is a helpful illustration for me. Perhaps I can bring the image into focus and shed some light upon it with less than a thousand words.
On that night's coffee run, we spotted this odd-looking contraption in the parking lot of the store where I wanted to grab something else to drink besides coffee. It was taking up two parking spaces. The damn thing was not only a three-wheeled motorcycle (trike), but also it had a loaded cargo trailer hitched up behind it.
Looking at the trike more closely, it was apparent the entire odd thing was custom built by the owner. It had fat car wheels in the back as you can see from the wide fender sporting the Support our Troops yellow ribbon in the lower left of the image. That shiny metal object with the straps to the yellow ribbon's right is one of two small Falstaff Beer kegs used for some bizarre mechanical purpose. I think they were additional fuel tanks.
In a moment of rare extroverted behavior, I decided to limp around with my cane and find the owner. I knew I wanted to snap a photo of the custom-built trike. And I also knew I didn't want the owner to freak out because two crazy people were loitering around his property taking flash photos in a dark parking lot. I located Frank (back left) who was drinking a beer with his friends after a long day.
Frank gratiously answered all of our questions about his curious work of mechanical art. Honestly, I had a few questions about this thing that I envisioned being part of some small hometown holiday parade. I imagined good ol' Frank has been photographed waving while puttering down a few main streets in his time since he built the trike in 1978. Both Frank and his trike were quite a piece of work, as they say.
Imagine, if you will, a large steamer trunk with a myriad of stickers on the luggage representing all the places some intrepid world traveller has journeyed. You, yourself, may still have a twisted gaggle of those annoying elastic airport tags wrapped around the handle of your suitcase in the closet. I think most people who don't constantly travel on business tend to leave those destination tags attached as little reminders of a happy vacation. Frank's homemade trike and attached trailer had a few symbolic things attached to it as well.
One of the things important to this stranger I had just met was his family. More specifically, but unseen from this photograph, Frank had a large oval photograph of his son laquered onto the top of the front center gas tank. Sealed there for the ages was the image of a child who was most likely my age some 25 years later. Oftentimes, people have images like that in memoriam of someone who has died. So, not wanting to bring up something uncomfortable, I simply pointed at it and said, "Wow, that's really cool."
Other symbols were more obvious and self-explanatory. I already pointed out the yellow ribbon decal on the fender. Also visible at the top of the photograph, although a bit fuzzy, is the American flag mounted on a golf flag staff like a tall whip antenna.
The retiree down the street from me also displays an American flag, as do many other people in the neighborhood. He also properly displays a second flag under the national colors. This second flag is sky blue. Flying proudly is the unit insignia and the words, "82nd Airborne Division."
All of the men in this photograph are military veterans (including the terrible photographer who is not shown). Today, it occured to me when I happened to see that familiar sky blue flag again that the most symbolic image of freedom was actually this goofy picture of these men. Patriotic people often display their own country's flag, but where the rubber meets the road in the symbolism of freedom is in the person.
Andrew V. was an Army officer that I served with in Sadr City. A police officer in civilian life, he was decorated with the Bronze Star for his acts in Iraq. Upon his return, he faced serious problems dealing with the readjustment to civilian life. Alcohol, PTSD, and family problems worsened, and nothing helped. In the summer of 2004, he donned his formal Army uniform, placed a noose around his neck, and stepped from a bridge, killing himself. He left behind a wife and a legacy of faithful service to his country.
Read the letter by Jason Thelen. His concern about veterans health care is not solely based on a few personal anecdotal examples -- as tragic and moving as they are. Jason's concern also stems from reading articles in his local newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, about the lack of proper health care for veterans, especially in the Dallas area.
I'm concerned about the seeming disconnect from the Bush Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress with the facts on the ground. I'm not talking about the Democrusader's spin machine concerning Iraq. I'm specifically talking about the Veterans Administration.
The newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, is now in charge of the largest health care operation in the United States, comprised of more than 230,000 employees servicing over five million veteran patients annually.
What are Nicholson's qualifications for this position? For the last three years, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican -- the smallest principality on the planet. While Nicholson is a Vietnam-era vet, I think the fact that Jim Nicholson was a national Republican Party Chairman weighed more heavily on his work resume than anything else.
Larry Craig, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said the proposals to charge some veterans annual health care fees of $250 and increase their prescription drug co-payment from $7 to $15 must be considered in lean budget times.
While that may seem reasonable enough to you, it's a slap in the face to veterans when our so-called lean budget times are caused by the never-ending cost and consequence of the Democrusader's war of choice in Iraq, compounded with a multi-trillion dollar federal budget deficit.
I fail to see the compassionate conservative ideals and priorities that we were all sold in 2000 and 2004. Like Jason Thelan, other veterans in the Democrusader's home state of Texas are not so pleased, either.
Welcome to Swamp Gas in the Imajica. Similar to the You Can't Make This Shit Up (YCMTSU) section, Swamp Gas will focus solely on news and items of interest in the sunshine state of Florida.
They say, "All the nuts in America roll downhill to Florida," so let's just see how true that phrase really is.
Click on the Swamp Gas logo for the smelly menu.
Swamp Gas v. 003
PORT ST. LUCIE
A Fort Pierce Central High School junior apologized to his former girlfriend while he stabbed her in the back and neck Wednesday night, law enforcement officials said. Then, as she lay bleeding in the street, Bryan Gordon, 16, told the high school freshman he would kill her family if she told anyone, according to officials.
"He was talking to her, looked at her, said, 'I'm sorry,' and pretty much stabbed her in the back," Detective John Holman said. "He apologized the whole time he was doing it, while he was stabbing her."
The woman who claimed to have seen a baby being tossed from a moving car fabricated the story as a cover to abandon her newborn and hide an unwanted pregnancy from her family, authorities said Friday.
"It's not as horrible as we first thought," Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said. "The baby was never thrown out of a moving car. This is the case of a disturbed woman who gave birth and did not want to keep her child."
On Monday, the WildFyre Society, South Florida's 1200-member all-male nudist group, takes a break from nude shopping excursions, nude theater nights, and nude country line dancing in order to present the Hot Wheels XVIII "Get Your Heart On" Nude Valentine's Day Skating Party at Gold Coast Roller Rink (2604 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale). No wallflowers -- nudity is mandatory at the event, which costs $10 and includes skates. The club's spokesman, Seth Paronick, says there won't be any races because "we don't allow horseplay," but limbo is on!
The Department of Defense (DOD) has six reserve components: the Army Reserve, the Army National Guard, the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard, the Naval Reserve, and the Marine Corps Reserve. DODís use of Reserve and National Guard forces increased dramatically following the events of September 11, 2001, and on January 19, 2005, more than 192,000 National Guard and Reserve component members were mobilized. About 85 percent of these personnel were members of the Army National Guard or the Army Reserve. Furthermore, the availability of reserve component forces will continue to play an important role in the success of DODís future missions, and DOD has projected that over the next 3 to 5 years, it will continuously have more than 100,000 reserve component members mobilized. Since September, 2001, GAO has issued a number of reports that have dealt with issues related to the increased use of Reserve and National Guard forces. For this hearing, GAO was asked to provide the results of its work on the extent to which DOD has the strategic framework and policies necessary to maximize reserve component force availability for a long-term Global War on Terrorism.
-- GAO report, released 2 Feb 05
Call up, Mobilization, Redeployment, Stop Loss, and even Draft are terms we've all heard over the past two years. Get used to it. Let me restate it: according to the DoD projections above, more than 100,000 reserve component service members will be actively deployed for the next 3-5 years.
Similar to the Bush administration's ridiculous federal budget proposal that doesn't even include the largest expenses involved, let's add something else to the Democrusader's"I forgot to mention this" file. The Democrusader's saber rattling has finally had some reaction from Iran and North Korea.
North Korea not only unsurprisingly announced today that it does indeed have some handy-fucking-dandy nuclear missiles, but also decided to stop all diplomatic talks with neighboring nations on this issue. That's the more troubling aspect of North Korea's reaction to the Democrusader's bravado.
In other Go-fuck-yourself-Democrusader-news, Iranian President Khatami had a few things to tell his fellow Iranians and anyone else that would listen: "Will this nation allow the feet of an aggressor to touch this land?" Khatami asked at the crowd. "If, God forbid, it happens, Iran will turn into a scorching hell for the aggressors." That's the Mullah-with-nukes version of a Texan diplomatic statement of "Bring it on."
The Democrusader seems to be flip-flopping on earlier promises of a diplomatic solution with his junior nuclear meglomaniacs -- which could place further demands on U.S. military personnel. What's the current state of affairs?
Simply read the one page highlight of the recently released GAO report on DoD which clearly states that, "DOD does not have a strategic framework with human capital goals concerning the availability of its reserve component forces." If that example of bureaucratic-speak flew over your head and parted your hair, let's just revisit why the Democrusader's political opponents raised the issue of the military draft during the election season.
The partial mobilization authority limits involuntary mobilizations to not more than 1 million reserve component members at any one time, for not more than 24 consecutive months, during a time of national emergency. Under DODís current implementation of the authority, members can be involuntarily mobilized more than once, but involuntary mobilizations are limited to a cumulative total of 24 months. Given this implementation, DOD could eventually run out of forces.
What would make the military run out of forces? Read the full report to see the hard numbers on the failure of the military to meet its recruitment goals for a voluntary force, as no surprise. Reason number two would be any unknown future military crisis likely caused by over-zealous neocons in the Bush administration. And, something else worth consideration is that we have had a military presence on the Korean peninsula for 50 years, as one example. Do you really expect the U.S. military to be able to leave Iraq in 3-5 years?
WoT? Where's Osama bin Laden? My educated guess is Balochistan (PK).