Crocodile Dundee, Athens, Paris, and Oslo

The Mary River, in Australia’s Northern Territory, about sixty miles from Darwin, has the largest population known, of salt water crocodiles. At a popular campground, near the Mary River, two young men ignored signs saying to stay out of the water, and swam across. They were attending a birthday party. As they returned, one of the young men, twenty four years old, was attacked by a crocodile, fifteen feet long. Witnesses were horrified at the sight of the man in the animal’s jaws, as he was pulled under water, never to be seen again. Crocodiles usually immediately drown their victims, to make their prey easier to control. Saltwater crocodiles can reach twenty three feet in length, and weigh as much as a ton. Police Sergeant Geoff Bahnert stated, “The Mary River is known, worldwide, to have the greatest saturation of saltwater crocodiles in the world. You don’t swim in the Mary River.”

Greece has seen chronic, intensely violent civil unrest for months, as austerity measures, taken by the Greek government to work through crippling indebtedness, increase citizens’ misery. Greece has the worst economy of the European Union, with record unemployment, and a sense of hopelessness growing among the people. Both the center left and center right political parties are losing credibility, and losing ground, as a third party has come from near obscurity, to gain twenty percent control of the Greek government. That party is Golden Dawn. With a reputation for likening themselves to the Nazis, even to the point of adopting very similar uniforms and emblems, Golden Dawn has recruited rogue soccer players, for the past several years, to form black shirted goon squads reminiscent of Hitler’s notorious SA. Foreigners, immigrants, non ethnic Greek citizens, and Jews have been targeted by Golden Dawn violence. Their influence, as the economy worsens, is rapidly spreading. Greek society has been likened to that of Weimar Germany. Already, pundits are whispering that the rest of Europe, itself in fragile economic state, should take heed, and be ever so cautious, as the disenfranchised turn to ultra right, white supremacist ideology.

The Greek government is striving for another bailout from the EU, this time for around ten billion Euros; this time, without further austerity measures. Yannis Stournaras stated that Greeks would not accept new austerity measures. Greece has already received two bailouts, totaling about two hundred forty Euros. Admittedly, as Mr. Stournaras has attested, this bailout request is for a far smaller amount than the prior grants. The request has not met with resounding acceptance among the EU states.

Angela Merkel has gone on record saying any further help for Greece’s ailing economy would be bad for the stability of the Eurozone. “I am expressly warning against a haircut,” she said. “It could trigger a domino effect of uncertainty, with the result that the readiness of private investors to invest in the Eurozone again falls to nothing.” Many Germans feel they have already contributed enough to European bailouts. Germany is presently showing a surplus in its economy. It is seen to be the strongest nation in Europe.

Aggravating Weimar Germany’s plight was general resentment, among Germans, for the crippling sanctions placed upon the country by the victors of World War One. Accompanying these sanctions was an overt insensitivity to the suffering of the German people, on the part of the rest of the world, not unlike Merkel’s insensitivity to the Greeks. The Nazis played upon this resentment, using foreigners, immigrants, non-ethnic Germans, and Jews as their scapegoats. Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany, under the rule of an imposed totalitarian government, economically disenfranchised, held back from the progress of the west, living in dreary old buildings, left over from the War, and dominated by the STASI. One would hope Merkel had not forgotten the price of fascism, of ethnic violence, and dictatorship. One would hope that Europe would never forget the Nazis.

Signs posted at the campground of the Mary River Wilderness Retreat warned of entering the crocodile infested water. The Mary River is known, internationally, for having the largest population of salt water crocodiles in the world. Yet, two young men, attending a thirtieth birthday party, swam across the river. They knew the risk. One died, eaten by a crocodile. Signs are posted, throughout Europe, especially in Germany, of a potential rebirth of Nazism. British nativist groups are on the rise. France is seeing a growing fascist trend. So are Holland, Norway, and Sweden. Stieg Larssen wrote from experience. Anders Brevik created that experience. Even Finland has a strong nativist movement, which threatens to dominate national politics. The Arrow Cross Party of Hungary has returned. Discrimination against ethnic Roma and Jews is on the rise. A Jobbik Member of Parliament called for Hungarian Jews to be put on lists, because they are a ‘security risk’. Despite federal legislation prohibiting it, Germany is seeing a slow, determined growth of neo-Nazi cells, throughout the country, with accompanying violence. As populations become further disenfranchised by wealth disparities and worsening economic conditions, xenophobia multiplies exponentially. Greek society has been likened to that of Weimar Germany. Greece could well provide the spark for a general conflagration. We can only hope that a majority of Europeans, and their leaders, read the signs and stay out of the water. The crocodiles are waiting. They want to be fed.

Advertisements
Posted in social comment | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teachers are Terrorists

That’s right.  You heard me. Teachers are terrorists. That is what former President George W. Bush said. Well, not in so many words. He labeled teachers’ unions ‘terrorist’ organizations. Terrorist organizations: teachers’ unions. Of course, teachers, with their ever so powerful unions, make tons of money, for only working part of the year, and have so many little vacations, within that work year, that, certainly, they must be terrorists. The stupidity of this is very like every public figure, who didn’t wear a white sheet in the 1950s, being labeled a communist by the John Birch Society.

The comparison is not lost, here. The John Birch Society was founded by Charles and David Koch’s own father, and is continued to be funded by them, along with Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, and the TEA Party. Two recent films have won the Koch Brothers’ support: a documentary, Waiting For Superman (2010) and a sort of reverse To Sir With Love, Won’t Back Down (2012). Waiting For Superman was directed by Davis Guggenheim, famed as the creator of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, an appearingly well intentioned work, though so lacking in scientific realities, that it could be questioned as a tool for discrediting its own thesis.

The film, Waiting For Superman, simplifies problems in modern American education as being nothing more than incompetent, uncaring teachers who are protected by powerful unions. Unions are demonized as the destroyers of American public education. Here we go again! Unions bad. Free market good. Privatisation is the only answer. Yep! The only answer to all the problems in American education is to ensure that Charlie and Dave make more money. That’ll fix everything. As anyone with half an ounce of sense can see, American society has declined, along with American production, directly as a result of Reagan’s unrelenting assault on organized labour. Outsourcing, selling domestic business to overseas buyers and locales, couldn’t have been possible, had unions remained strong. The demise of the American unions is the demise of the American middle class. Then, of course, that is the goal of the Kochs and their ilk. America don’t need no stinking middle class. The gap between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie needs to widen, rather than be blurred.

Of course, the evil villain of Waiting for Superman is Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The hero is everyone’s favorite, Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of Washington, DC’s public schools, renowned for her anti-union bias, now head of StudentsFirst. Rhee is so highly regarded that Time pictured her, on its cover, dressed in black, scowling, and holding a broom, in a very witch-like pose. The image was not lost on the American public, though it is now forgotten by most.  StudentsFirst lobbies for free market principles to be applied to education, and blames unions for every problem American education faces. The mentalities, seen in Waiting For Superman, are the identical principles endorsed by the Kochs and the one percent. Destroy unions and allow the market to answer every problem. The market answered Wall Street’s crises, didn’t it? One needs to question patronizing any of Guggenheim’s films.

Won’t Back Down, distributed by 20th Century Fox, stars Maggie Gyllenhaal in, as already stated, a kind of reverse To Sir With Love, the classic 1960s era film, which starred Sidney Poitier, as a dedicated educator, working in a depressed, inner city school, with little or no budget. Due to Poitier’s character’s caring and dedication, the plot of the film was uplifting, and had a happy ending. This is unlike Won’t Back Down, where Gyllenhaal portrays a concerned mother, who leads a pitchfork wielding mob of parents against school administrators, forcing the turning their ‘failing’ school into a privately managed charter school. Naturally, Gyllenhal’s efforts are opposed by the thuggish teachers’ union. Rather than showing a dedicated and caring union member educator turning students’ lives around, as in the case of Poitier, Gyllenhaal makes the case that teachers are incompetent, administrators are uncaring, and unions are evil. The only answer is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Like Guggenheim, Gyllenhaal’s character must be called into question, for accepting this role. Remembering an old union song, one must ask Ms. Gyllenhaal, “Which side ore you on?” Then again, wouldn’t she belong to the Screen Actors Guild? Of course, so did Ronald Reagan. Nixon was a Quaker, too. So much for affiliations. The difference between Won’t Back Down and To Sir With Love may have a lot to do the lead actors’ private lives. Sydney Poitier, along with Harry Belafonte, was quietly very active in the American civil rights movement. As in the case of Mr. Guggenheim, patronizing Ms. Gyllenhaal’s films is called into question.

Koch involvement in Won’t Back Down is seen in its heavy promotion by the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, ALEC, and the Chamber of Commerce. Monies from these groups provided screenings in most major US cities. Rhee presented the film at both Democratic and Republican conventions. The Koch Brothers and their minions represent an attack on government, in general, an attack designed to eliminate taxes on the rich, removal of all regulation, and all protection of the environment. Their attack on education is only part of a much larger scheme.

Both films are the product of Walden Media, owned by Phil Anschutz, publisher of the Washington Examiner and the Weekly Standard. Anschutz is a financial supporter of Right to Work legislation and a backer of Americans for Prosperity. In keeping with JBS Dominionist ideology, Anschutz also supports the homophobic Mission America Foundation, and the Discovery Institute, which refutes evolution as false doctrine. Aside from Anschutz’ involvement, Americans must be aware of Bill Gates’ connection to Waiting For Superman. Gates’ demand of cutting of teachers’ pensions, and his endorsement of the film, is exceeded by his benevolent donation of monies to the national PTA, which, not surprisingly also endorsed it. Follow the money. If you wish to control people, donate money to them. So, because of donated money, PTAs are willing to cut their own teachers’ throats.

Waiting For Superman was a very well produced and artfully created film. With the money behind it, and a stellar production crew, how could it miss? Critics lauded it. Oprah Winfrey endorsed it. President Barack Obama not only praised it, but his education secretary, Arne Duncan, spearheaded an educational reform agenda which aligns perfectly with the film.

The one percent is well schooled in the art of propaganda. Film is an adroit weapon for moulding the minds and opinions of the American public. Once, America could boast of a system which provided quality education for all. It served Bill Gates well. Now, that system is being barraged with underfunding and unending testing, to no end, save corporate profit. Flanked on its sides by Michelle Rhee, et al, the American education system is in danger of going the way of the dinosaur, if Americans refuse to wake up and smell the coffee. With the demise of public education, American citizens are doomed to further lose their critical thinking skills, be more easily controlled, and be force fed a corporate agenda. Home of the brave, land of the free? No. Home of the sheep, easily led.

Posted in movie commentary, social comment | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truther Dare

“If you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Paul Josef Goebbels

These words are often attributed to Adolf Hitler. He wrote the same message in Mein Kampf. In many ways, the words of Goebbels and Hitler are interchangeable. Even their rhetorical styles were almost identical. The commonality is propaganda; forming and controlling public opinion. It is the ultimate slight of hand. “Fool me once. Shame on you! Fool me twice. Shame on me.” George W. Bush tried to recite this in public, once, and he forgot all the words.

I know better than to write this. I have been cautioned by persons who lump my opinions, here, with my thoughts and skepticism about the JFK assassination. No one really cares what I think. It doesn’t matter; not at all. Kennedy is dead and buried. It happened. Move on. Alienating people, slapping them in the face with my version of reality, is one thing. Appearing to embrace a “conspiracy theory” is something else. Doing so runs the risk of being dumped into the abyss populated by those pesky conspiracy theorists, promulgators of urban legend, and anathema to polite society. So, let me state, at the outset, I really don’t bother thinking about sensational urban legends all that often, and much of what Alex Jones purports to be truth, I find to be amusing at best, insulting to my intelligence, at the very least. This being said, here is my thesis statement, “The American public was lied to, over and over, by government, the news media, and the 9-11 commission. It didn’t happen that way. It couldn’t have. What we have been told, for over a decade, is impossible. It is a lie.”

I’m not going to foolishly delve into esoteric theories of engineering. I’m not an engineer. Neither am I an architect. My work was far more pedestrian than either of those fields. I was a firefighter. I only understand a little bit about thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is what I hope to address. Mine is not textbook knowledge. It is a working knowledge. It is common sense.

 American commercial airlines utilize a fuel very similar to kerosene, Jet-A. This fuel has a burning temperature, in open air, of under 350 degrees Celsius. Most fire training academies teach recruits to fight Jet-A fuel spills with an inch and a half fire hose. One man, with an inch and a half nozzle set at a fifteen degree fog pattern, at a rate of up to one hundred fifty gallons per minute, can sweep the fire from its fuel source, extinguishing it. He can do this alone. Nothing more is needed.

The WTC fires were open air fires. Structural steel used in the WTC buildings was tested at 2000 degrees Celsius. The buildings were designed to endure impact from aircraft, specifically, a Boeing 707, the largest aircraft at the time of their construction. Regardless of the quantity of fuel or time involved, burning temperature either gradually diminishes or remains constant, unless oxygen is directly forced into the mixture, as with an acetylene torch, where temperature is greatly increased. Forcing oxygen into the fuel-air ratio results in complete combustion and an absence of smoke. Absence of smoke is paramount. Billowing clouds of smoke were clearly visible in the WTC fires. This determines incomplete combustion, burning in open air, an indicator of lower burning temperatures, roughly 17.5% of the temperature to which the steel had been tested. Jet fuel neither weakened nor melted the WTC structural steel. It couldn’t have. Something else had to.

New York’s Empire State Building was not built with enhanced structural steel, nor was it erected utilizing modern construction methods. Photographic records demonstrate the historic method of hand placing rivets in its construction. On July 28, 1945, the Empire State building was impacted by a B-25 bomber. The crash made a hole in the building, but the building remained standing. Fire damaged combustible materials, and did not cause major structural damage. World War II era aircraft were powered by aviation fuel. Aviation fuel is gasoline. Gasoline burns hotter than kerosene.  Therefore, a greater potential exists for gasoline to weaken steel, and it didn’t. Military aircraft, during World War II, burned 100 octane gasolines. The higher the octane number is, the hotter the burn will be. The fuel carried by the B-25, which crashed into the Empire State Building, was a far hotter burning fuel than that carried in the jets, which crashed into the WTC buildings, and the structure was nowhere near as sound. The Empire State Building remained standing. The WTC buildings fell to earth.

Other similar crashes have happened, involving jets into buildings. Of special note, is one which occurred in Venezuela, where the building remained standing, despite being impacted in the same way as the World Trade Center buildings. Considering prolonged high rise fires, and a potential for structural weakening, New York and other American cities have born witness to several notable blazes, involving even the World Trade Center, with no building collapse. On August 5, 1970, One New York Plaza burned for over six hours between the thirty second and thirty sixth floors. On February 23, 1991, One Meridian Plaza, in Philadelphia, burned for eighteen hours, across eight floors. It was called the most significant fire of the century. May 4, 1988, the First Interstate Bank Building in Los Angeles burned for four hours, involving four floors. Like the Empire State Building, none of these buildings fell. The Twin Towers survived major fires in 1975 and 1999. On September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center burned for fifty six, and one hundred three minutes, respectively, before dramatically collapsing, completely, to the ground. If fire hadn’t weakened the buildings before, and if fire hadn’t weakened buildings which burned for four, six, and eighteen hours, over multiple floors, it is highly unlikely that fire, alone, burning for a maximum of one hundred three minutes, could cause structural weakness or failure, resulting in total collapse.

One might argue apples and oranges about the crash of a propeller driven aircraft’s mass and velocity, nearly seventy years ago, compared to that of a modern jet passenger plane. Granted, there is no comparison. However, neither is there in their fuels’ burning temperatures. One hundred octane gasolines reach a much higher temperature than kerosene, and yet, the Empire State building suffered no major structural damage, only the expected fire damage, after being struck by a B-25. The WTC buildings dramatically fell to earth, while other, modern buildings equally struck by aircraft, and others which burned for much longer, stood.

Fire was not the cause of the collapse of the WTC buildings; nor was the impact. Something else caused this. Numerous comments were made, by media personnel, that the collapse of the WTC buildings closely resembled planned demolitions, where lower floors were detonated before the upper floors, allowing for a controlled collapse. Witnesses described multiple explosions, and strange, lateral puffs of smoke, inferior to the fire floors, preceding the collapse of the buildings. The National Institute of Science and Technology performed no tests for explosive residue. NIST admitted that they were unable to provide any explanation for the twin towers’ collapse.

Janette McKinlay lived directly across the street from the World Trade Center. On the morning of the WTC disaster, Ms. McKinlay was at home, in her apartment, and witnessed the destruction. The windows of her apartment blew in. The debris cloud from the WTC burst in through what had been her windows. Controversy, spoken of by so many news commentators, as to whether or not the buildings were victims of a controlled demolition piqued Janette’s curiosity. Friends of hers were acquainted with a Dr. Stephen Jones, of BYU, PhD in physics, from Vanderbilt University. Prior to teaching at BYU, Dr. Jones worked at Los Alamos, a site of advanced explosive study, including the development of the Atomic Bomb. Janette McKinlay sent Dr. Jones dust samples from the debris cloud which invaded her apartment.  Electron microscopy, chemical analysis, testing with a differential scanning calorimeter, and residue from molten iron revealed nano-thermite particles in the dust from Janette McKinlay’s apartment. Thermite is an explosive which evolved from a chemical developed to weld railroad tracks together. During World War II, it was deployed by US Army Rangers to sabotage German artillery on D-Day. It was used to melt the armour of enemy tanks. Thermite is more than capable of melting structural steel. Nano-thermite is a modern version of Thermite. It is a very recent development, created in government explosives labs much like Los Alamos. Nano-thermite is Thermite on steroids.

Salvage and overhaul of ground zero revealed puddles of molten metal, which remained until they were finally cooled to extinguishment, by a constant barrage of water, three months later, on December 13, 2001. The deployment of Nano-thermite leaves a residue of molten iron. The WTC disaster is the longest burning structural fire in history. Fire from jet fuel could not have brought the buildings down. Other buildings have suffered similar fates, yet remain standing. The presence of Nano-thermite in the dust from the WTC collapse indicates its use in their destruction. The denial of NIST, of any involvement of explosive having been used, in light of all this, poses serious questions as to the veracity of this agency. The obvious fact that hazardous materials, such as Nano-thermite, are never transported on commercial aircraft, nor would they be found in a janitorial closet, poses the question of “How did it get there?”

What inspired NIST’s denial? The American public was lied to, over and over, by government, the news media, and the 9-11 commission. It didn’t happen that way. It couldn’t have. The finding of explosive residue in the rubble is irrefutable. What we have been told, for over a decade, is impossible. It is a lie. The question is, “Why?”

Posted in social comment | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aiding the Enemy

Bradley Manning was convicted of twenty charges, today. Among those charges was not “Aiding the Enemy”.  Had he been, Manning’s conviction would have sent a clear message to the public at large. In leaking the records of egregious, unethical, illegal, and violent acts by agents of the US Government, Manning exposed the ugly under belly of the power elite, who strove to label his acts “treasonous” and “espionage”. If Bradley Manning’s actions were treasonous, his treason was only against the one percent. In swearing his oath, as a uniformed member of the US Armed Services, Manning’s loyalty was to the People of the United States, to the US Constitution, not to Charles and David Koch. To be guilty of espionage, he would have had to be a spy. He was merely a whistle blower, offended by the actions of his government, nothing more. Yes, had Bradley Manning been convicted of aiding the enemy, it would have sent a clear message to the People. Manning was serving the people. He was alerting the People to the truth, the ugly, horrible truth. Conviction of “Aiding the Enemy” would have openly declared the obvious. The People are the enemy of this government. Just as Warren Buffet said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Buffett also said, “The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. For to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves, and the better the teacher, the better the student body.” With the decline of the Fourth Estate, the People must depend on WikiLeaks, to learn the truth. WikiLeaks depends on truth tellers like Bradley Manning. This is not desirable for a government bent on controlling its People, like submissive sheep. Yes, there is a war on, and the People are the enemy of the power elite. Convicting Manning of aiding the enemy would have announced this to the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black

France sharply criticised US spying, allegedly including eavesdropping on official EU communications. Germany is indignant, remembering the STASI and Gestapo. Germany has the world’s strictest privacy laws, as a result of its tumultuous history. The UK has GCHQ and MI-5. Eavesdropping CCTV cameras are on practically every street corner. Vast data collection, as in Prism, is the norm. Are Anglo-American rights at risk? It would appear so. Once again, recalling the words of an eighteenth century Anglo-American, Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” come to mind.

All of this cloak and dagger, extra-legal behaviour by government is done in the name of national security. To be free from terror, it seems, it is assumed that citizens must surrender freedom from government. The question is often stated, “If we give up essential freedoms, aren’t we doing exactly what the terrorists want?” Not really, no. Former American President George W. Bush would have it that terrorists hate Americans because of the freedom inherent in American society. Identifying with this flawed reasoning leads to an assumption that terrorists won’t attack, if Americans are less free. Obviously, this is as idiotic, as is Bush’s statement. It tastes of “Freedom Fries”. Terrorist attacks against the US and the UK have both occurred as a result of Anglo-American imperialism. Britain has an aggressive domestic security service, which has developed from decades of IRA insurgency. The answer to this dilemma is to simply get out of Ireland. Leave Ireland to the Irish. Queen Elizabeth I’s incursion is not a tradition for Queen Elizbeth II to observe.

The US has endured decades of Islamist terrorism, due to its colonialism in the Middle East. America shows no respect for Islam or Arabic customs. Americans barely know their own history and geography, let alone have an understanding of Middle Eastern society. Factor in American insistence upon maintaining not only an excessive military presence left over from cold war paranoia, but vicious puppet dictatorships, as well, and one begins to see why America is a target. Just as in the logical course for Britain to rid herself of the IRA threat is by getting out of Ireland, America must leave the Middle East. To answer the predictable and obvious argument for the need to depend on foreign petroleum, if a nation can utilize science to chronically explore space, it has the technology to harness renewable sources of energy. Fossil fuels are as outdated as their sources: dinosaurs and Paleozoic plants. Only the greed of the one percent provides reason to remain.

Spying incessantly upon one’s own citizens is not the answer. Common sense foreign relations are. Le Monde reported that the French Intelligence service, DGSE, intercepts computer and telephone data on a vast scale, similar to the US Prism program. The French? Yes, the French. Those very audible critics of US hyper-security measures are doing precisely the same thing as the Americans. One needs to merely look closely at the history of French police collaboration with the Gestapo and the totalitarianism of Vichy, and a tradition of invasive disregard for human rights by the French government are painfully apparent. However, so is the reaction to such government abuse by the French people. Le Monde’s assertions should prove to be a catalyst.

Britains have been sick of government intrusion for years. The plethora of Guy Fawkes masks and hoodies at every English demonstration speaks of the People’s discontent and rebellion against authority. MI-5 cannot track you, if they cannot identify you. Le Monde’s and The Guardian’s revelations have awakened the People to government’s inherent hunger for power. It is a hunger which must be tempered. The neo-colonialist passions of France, the UK, and the US have brought home the violence of the Middle East. Those very actions, which were encouraged against the Soviet Union by the Mujahedeen, are coming home to roost. Neo-colonialism, which serves no one but the one percent, must cease. Unrelenting surveillance on a nation’s own citizens, in absence of probable cause, is a violation of the principles of both the French Revolution and the Magna Carta, which was, after all, the inspiration for the following quote:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

No legal basis exists for relentless government intrusion by the NSA, DGSE, or MI-5. The foundations of our mutual governments preclude that. These same foundations of government, however, do provide for the right of the People to resist it, and resist it we must!

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nineteen Souls

Nineteen souls, hotshots, lost near Yarnell. Let me put this in perspective. These are about the baddest of the bad. Only jumpers have more training. A ‘shot is a young kid, say about nineteen to twenty four years old, typically, working in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, where everything can change, in fractions of a second. If a crew is deployed in chaparral, a fire dependent species, and it is hot, very hot, and they are moving uphill, and the wind changes, everything changes.

Wildland fire creates its own wind. If there is no safe place to retreat, no already charred earth, you are fuel, too. The fabled ‘fire shelters’, resembling aluminum pup tents, are cynically called, “shake and bakes”. Fire creates its own wind, and firefighters know, full well, that wind can be strong enough to pull their so-called, “shelters” off, and away from them. This is always in the back of your mind, as you slog along the line, rooting away at the ground.

Usually, ‘shots are college kids, earning enough, hopefully, to get them through another couple of semesters at school, and they earn it. Granite Mountain Hotshots were unique. They were all regular firefighters from the City of Prescott. Therein lies the only difference. Like their brothers and sisters, these were young people, mainly in their twenties; men who disregarded inherent danger, in lieu of completing their mission. Their training is about as abusive as that of Airborne Rangers. They work out and run, miles and miles, every day, at altitude. Just qualifying for this torment is miraculous. Working the line is a full day, often from before dawn, until after dusk, bent over, rooting around with a Pulaski, scraping the ground with a McCloud or Number One shovel, or working a chainsaw. Maybe, you’ll get a decent, hot, breakfast. May you won’t. You can count on a couple of baloney sandwiches and some crushed chips, and a candy bar, maybe a piece of fruit, for lunch. And, let’s not forget the ever present boxes of skittles. If you’re lucky, there might even be a frozen bean burrito. If you’re lucky, you won’t have to eat MREs. Yes, Hotshots are the elite of the fire service.

Labeling these dedicated souls as “heroes” would be an embarrassing insult to most of them. A “hero” is just a great, big sandwich. It is a very safe assumption to make, that not one of them would consider what they do, the least bit heroic. They’re just doing a job; a dirty, dangerous, thankless job which very few have the courage and stamina to do. It is a job which goes unnoticed, by the general public, until something awful happens. Then, politicians pontificate and pose for photo-ops, and babble on about something else they don’t understand. Talking heads use this as another excuse to foment infotainment.

Hotshot crews are often composed of both genders, too. Remember that. Wildland firefighting is one of the very rare egalitarian realities on this planet. We work together, suffer together, pick dirt out of our food together, and collapse together. Then, after all too brief a down time, we get up, and do it again. My heart aches at the thought of another crew being lost. The horror of ‘The Dude’ was bad enough. Survivors wandered around, afterward, in base camp, with thousand yard stares in their eyes, and such pale horror on their faces, that they were unrecogniseable, even to people who knew them. This is unimaginable. Nineteen souls, hotshots, lost near Yarnell: nineteen kids.

Posted in Wildland Firefighting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What About Bradley Manning?

Ecuador has renounced its multi-million dollar trade relationship with the US. “Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” stated government spokesman Fernando Alvarado, who also made a sarcastic comment about the US need for human rights training. Mr. Alvarado’s remarks occurred after Robert Menendez, chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, suggested punishing Ecuador economically if it offered asylum to Edward Snowden, who has requested asylum in Ecuador. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, stated Ecuador had issued a special refugee travel document to Mr. Snowden, whose US passport has been revoked. Speaking before a gathering in the West African nation of Senegal, President Barrack Obama stated “I am not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” referring to Snowden, who apparently fled Hong Kong, to escape further US extradition efforts, flying to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport where he remains in a transit zone. Russia has no extradition treaty with the US, but Washington demands extradition without delay. Beijing has accused the US of “double standards” on cyber security. Cutting through Obama’s diplomatic double speak and exploring other developments about Edward Snowden, it is clear that the US will stop at nothing to silence him, including “scrambling jets”. If a Russian airliner suddenly and mysteriously went missing over the Atlantic, it would certainly be tragic. Conspiracy theorists would have a hay day, but the US Government would have plausible deniability. Such an act would be an act of war, and we would never do that, or would we? Barrack Obama’s having dropped his thoughtful, academic nice guy act, involving himself, publicly, about a “29-year-old hacker”, emphasizes America’s desperate insecurity. His comments were chilling. What else does Snowden know, which he might declare? How ugly are the Americans? The US Secretary of state, John Kerry, has commented about Snowden. Kerry called Snowden a traitor. Such a statement is somewhat hypocritical from a man who once threw away his service medals, on the steps of the US Capitol. It must be one thing to protest America’s involvement in an illegal, immoral war, but quite another to protest America’s illegal, immoral eavesdropping on its own citizens. With America’s track record of drone murders and political assassination, nothing should be ruled out. Doublespeak and hypocrisy reign supreme. America’s international standing is at another all-time low, just as it was during the Bush era, with Ecuador renouncing its trade relationship, in answer to US threats, Russia’s refusals to bend over, Hong Kong’s failure to blindly cooperate, and China’s declaring our double standards in cyber security. Washington will feel free to denounce Beijing for cyber espionage, but will not admit to its own use, furthermore becomes aggressive, when it is exposed. What about Bradley Manning?

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment