I swear, every time I think we have reached peak stupid, reality says “Hold my beer and watch this!” The ruckus this past weekend over cadets at the Army-Navy game appearing on live camera making a variant of the “OK” gesture now has elements of the national media, as well as authorities at the two service academies plain old coming unglued. And this is because this gesture is somehow supposed to be associated with so-called ‘white power’/ racial superiority. Great has been the twitter-tornado launched by the particularly clueless activists who happened to notice the upside-down OK gesture; I can only imagine the numbers of boggarts, ghouls and haunts which are currently living under their own beds and in their closets. More »

26. June 2017 · Comments Off on The Near-Forgotten Man · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Navy, History, Old West

Edward Fitzgerald “Ned” Beale was a prominent 19th century hero, a celebrity, almost; a military officer, war hero, notable horseman and explorer, hero of the western frontier, good friend of several other notable frontiersmen, friend of one president, and appointed to offices of responsibility by four others – and those offices varied quite widely in scope. He was also a champion of the Native American tribes, prominent in Washington high society for decades, and seemed to lurk meaningfully in the background of key historical events at mid-19th century. Curiously, his name doesn’t readily spring to mind more than a hundred years after his death; the most prominent places bearing his name being Beale Street in San Francisco, and Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville in north-central California. One would think for all his various services to the nation and for his vast array of prominent and still-famous friends that he would be more of a household name. Perhaps he was for a while – but four decades or more of politically-correct restructuring of American history have elevated some, and reduced others to mere footnotes in dusty journals.

Beale as a young midshipman

Beale as a young midshipman

Ned Beale was born in 1822, in Washington D.C. – the capitol of a nation barely half-a-century old, to parents with connections to the American Navy. His father was a paymaster for the service, his mother the daughter of one of the first six commanders appointed by President Washington to head the new US Navy. So, it was only natural, when after the death of his father, Ned Beale was appointed to the Naval School in Philadelphia, a precursor to Annapolis. Upon graduation from the school in 1842, he was commissioned as a midshipman, and made voyages to the Indies, South America, and Russia. Three years later he was assigned to the Pacific Squadron, the command of Robert Stockton; an able and trusted officer, who had – as Beale himself would later have in his own career – the trust of presidents, and the friendship of the influential. Beale served as Stockton’s aide and private secretary; they were part of the American delegation to Texas when the Texas Congress formally accepted annexation to the United States.

Beale’s next assignment for Stockton was – not to put too fine a point on it – a spy, ordered to conceal his nationality and sail on a Danish ship to England, to suss out British feelings and possible war preparations over the contentious matter of the Oregon boundary. Barely having completed that assignment and reported his findings to President Polk, Beale was sent off hotfoot with dispatches to rejoin Captain Stockton, whose flagship happened to be in Peru at that moment. This necessitated that Beale make the journey by sea to Panama, cross the Isthmus and make his way to Peru – all this a kind of 19th century precursor to Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Stocktons’ ship detoured to Hawaii, and arrived in harbor at Monterey, California in July, 1846. War between the United States and Mexico had already begun. The Pacific Squadron’s orders, in that eventuality, were to seize those ports along the Pacific coast – especially those in California. Stockton set about doing so with zeal and efficiency. Ned Beale was detached to serve with a US Army column which had come at speed overland from Fort Scott on the Missouri-Mississippi under the command of General Stephen Kearny. Briefly pausing to take Santa Fe, and New Mexico for the US, Kearney’s advanced column – guided by Kit Carson — arrived in California out of breath and weakened after a marathon march of 2,000 miles across country. Kearney’s advance party, augmented with sailors and Marines from the Pacific Squadron clashed with Californio-Mexican volunteers and Mexican presidial cavalry at San Pasqual, near San Diego. Both sides claimed a victory – although Kearney’s force suffered the heavier losses, they eventually took San Diego, and Ned Beale was one of the heroes. Two months after the San Pasqual fight, he was sent east with dispatches. Over the next two years, he made six cross-continental journeys on official business; one of them in disguise to make a short-cut through Mexico to bring irrefutable proof of the tremendous gold strike in the California foothills at Coloma to the federal government. Amid these expeditions, he found the time and energy to marry; the daughter of a politician from Pennsylvania, Mary Edwards, and sire three children with her.

Beale resigned his naval commission in 1851, but in no way was he done with the far west, or assignments of great import to the federal government. He returned briefly to California, to manage properties owned there by his mentor, Commodore Stockton. On his way west, he squeezed in a spot of surveying for a transcontinental rail line through present-day Colorado to Los Angeles. Two years later, he was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs in California and Nevada. Thereafter Ned Beale spent a hectic decade exploring and surveying the west, establishing a wagon road between Fort Defiance, New Mexico to a point on the Colorado River between Arizona and California – the initial phase of this project involved another project of interest to the Army – the Camel Corps. He proved to be a champion of camels in the far west; when the Camel Corps was formally disbanded at the end of the Civil War, Beale purchased some of the surplus camels and kept them at his vast California ranch property. The camels also served in a later Beale expedition to extend the road from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the Colorado River. That same route was later followed by the Santa Fe railway, US Route 66 and the present day I-40.

In 1871, Ned Beale purchased a mansion in Washington, DC – Decatur House, notable for being almost next-door to the White House, and entertained a wide variety of guests there over the following years – guests including U. S. Grant, and prominent members of his administration. He spent one year as ambassador to Austria-Hungary, and made as much of a social splash in Vienna as he had in Washington. Doubt less his experiences on the far-west frontier – which by that point was almost legendary – coupled with his considerable diplomatic skills and ability to earn the trust of important people had a lot to do with that success.

His final years were spent between Decatur House, the California ranch, and a horse farm called Ash Hill, close to Washington. He died at Decatur House in 1893, a few years shy of the twentieth century. Sailor, soldier, spy, surveyor, explorer, diplomat, rancher, man about town – and a fine judge of horseflesh. Not many men of his time could quite equal that resume in every particular.
(Ned Beale is set to appear as a character in the next Lone Star Sons book – Lone Star Glory, which I hope to bring out by November, 2017.)

27. May 2017 · Comments Off on For Memorial Day · Categories: AARRRMY TRAINING SIR!!!, Ain't That America?, Air Navy, History, In the Navy

This short has been around for a bit – but still..

15. November 2013 · Comments Off on A Sailor’s Last Wish · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Navy

Go here and read this. Take as many Kleenexes as you need.

27. July 2007 · Comments Off on Way To Much Time On His Hands · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Navy, Domestic, Fun and Games, General, Good God, Technology, World

A model of an aircraft carrier… made entirely out of Legos.

(link courtesy of Rantburg, the source for all things civil and well reasoned.)

05. March 2007 · Comments Off on News Flash: Military Health Care Sucks · Categories: AARRRMY TRAINING SIR!!!, Ain't That America?, Air Force, Air Navy, Media Matters Not, Stupidity, Veteran's Affairs

You would think that the absolute cluelessness of the American Media, and many bloggers I might add, would fail to shock me.  You’d be wrong.

Anyone who thinks this is going to do more than cause some hospitals to paint a wall or two, raise your hands.

For almost 23 years I’ve mostly been given Vitamin M (Motrin) and/or Flexoril for just about every ache and pain that I’ve ever had.  I’ve been to a physical therapist twice even though I’m supposed to see one every other week…he’s usually so overbooked here he actually says, “When it hurts bad enough, come in, I’ll crack it again.”  After 20 years of rather constant “shin splints” they finally figured out I had compressed compartments.  The only reason they decided to operate was that they’d become chronic and were “getting ready to blow.”

And most of my crap is just muscles and nerves not doing what they should.  I can’t imagine being in need of any real treatment.

30. December 2005 · Comments Off on JSF Development Money Cut · Categories: Air Force, Air Navy, Politics, Technology

This from Aero-News:

Department of Defense representatives told Bloomberg News Friday the Pentagon plans to end a development program for a backup powerplant for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF.)

The move — which would have to be approved by Congress — aims to save approximately $1.7 billion through 2011, according to a DoD memo released last week. That’s not a small amount of money by any means — but it is a relative drop in the bucket compared to the $256 billion total cost of the fighter jet development program.

The backup program was initiated by Congress in 1995, according to Bloomberg, with the intent of maintaining competition and, thus, lowering costs of the Pratt & Whitney-designed powerplant intended to be the primary engines for the JSF. In a $2.2 billion deal, GE and Rolls-Royce teamed up to develop a backup powerplant — which also would have been utilized had technical problems cropped up with the P&W F135 units (below).

This would seem to me to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Single-sourcing on any major component is just never a good idea. Even if there are no technical problems with the Pratt & Whitney design, any of myriad problems can develop to disrupt supply over the decades which this aircraft is expected to be in service. And I don’t believe, on a program of this size, any economies-of-scale will be realized by giving the entire production to one supplier.

My feeling, however, is that this cutback will not last. General Electric simply has to much clout in Congress (and Rolls-Royce in Parliament) to be nudged-out without a major fight.

But, as Military.com reports here, engine development is not the only part of the program facing cutbacks:

The plan would scale back the Pentagon’s requested JSF research, development, testing and engineering funding level by $108 million. The Senate-passed appropriations bill called for a larger $270 million reduction. The House’s defense spending bill fully funded the Pentagon’s $2.4 billion JSF RDT&E request.

The report accompanying the conferees’ FY-06 defense appropriations bill contains no language explaining the JSF reduction. But in a separate September report on the version of the defense spending Legislation that was later approved by the full chamber, the Senate Appropriations Committee said “continuing uncertainties” surround the joint Air Force-Navy program, making it “difficult to estimate the resources needed for the program.”

I find it a bit unsettling that these “continuing uncertainties” exist this far into the program. But it would seem to me that cutting development money would only hinder their resolution.

20. September 2005 · Comments Off on MILITARY HISTORY · Categories: Air Force, Air Navy, History, Military, The Funny

Complete the following:

“A _______ for SAC Is a __________ for freedom.”

“You call, We _____” is one of the mottoes of ________ units.

The U-6A, formerly designated the ________ is a __________ type aircraft,

powered by a ___________ engine, and was manufactured by the

__________ Aircraft Company.

The B-52 was first flown in _______, and is affectionately (until you skin your

knuckles working on one) known as a __________. )Please, the “nice” version!

What was the most common method of calling home from bases in the far east

during the Vietnam conflict war?

Try these, and I’ll see if I can come up with a few more goodies. Kevin, you

probably know all the answers!

01. June 2005 · Comments Off on Suburban Sophistication · Categories: Air Navy, Domestic, General, Memoir

When JP and Pip and Sander and I were all growing up, the contiguous suburb of Sunland and Tujunga, untouched by the 210 Freeway was a terribly blue-collar, gloriously low-rent sort of rural suburb. It was if anything, an extension of the San Fernando Valley, and not the wealthier part of it either. It was particularly unscathed by any sort of higher cultural offerings, and the main drag of Foothill Boulevard was attended on either side by a straggle of small storefront businesses, a drive-in theater, discouraged local grocery store, a used car lot, the usual fast food burger or pizza places, a place with an enormous concrete chicken in front which advertised something called “broast” chicken, Laundromats, and a great variety of very drab little bars. There were no bookstores, unless you counted the little Christian bookstore across from the library and fire station.

The local phone book used to include the profession in each personal listing; lots of clerks, truck drivers, construction workers, mechanics, and police officers, leavened with welfare recipients, transients and others with no visible means of support. In the late 1960ies, the city fathers discovered to their great horror that the average per capita income for Sunland and Tujunga was equal to that of Watts. (The editor of the local newspaper at the time, a reactionary and repellant little toad whom my mother loathed with especial ferocity, nearly died of chagrin at that. Several years later a local resident with deep pockets and a particularly satiric bent created a parody of the newspaper, pitch perfect in every respect, down to the logo, called the “Wrecker-Ledger” and had a copy of the parody delivered to every house in town. The whole town roared with laughter, while the editor breathed fire and threatened lawsuits.)

Mom preferred going to Pasadena for serious shopping, and to the Valley for groceries and the occasional restaurant meal. The one notable big restaurant had once been very well thought of, when it was a family-run steak house on Fenwick, established in an old converted bungalow under pepper trees. Then they ripped down the old house and the pepper trees, and put up an ugly big building with banqueting rooms, and descended into a culinary hell of buffet tables laden with square pans of mystery meat in sludgy brown gravy, vats of O.D. green beans, and fruit cocktail emptied out of industrial sized cans. No, Sunland-Tujunga was not the place you thought about when you heard the words “gastronomic adventure”… but there were three little places in town which did seriously good food, although you wouldn’t think it to look at any of them at all.

Mom found the Mexican place first: Los Amigos, which used to be in a tiny sliver of storefront on Commerce, before moving to and embellishing a larger premise on Foothill with sombreros and serapes, painted plaster sculpture, fountains, painted tile and exuberantly excessive quantities of elaborate ironwork. It was owned and run by a three generations and extensions of a local family: Grandma was from Mexico City and cooked with a delicate touch; this was not the brash, greasy border Tex-Mex. We loved the chili rellanos at Los Amigos; they were a delicately eggy soufflé, folded around a cheese-stuffed chili pepper, not the battered and deep-fried version so popular everywhere else. The wait-staff and busboys were always country cousins, just up from Mexico on a green card and polishing their English before moving on.

The second gastronomic bright spot was, believe it or not, an authentic Rumanian restaurant called “Bucharesti”, a tiny place run by an energetic gentleman from Rumania who cooked and waited tables himself during the day. How he contrived to get out from behind the Iron Curtain and finish up in Tujunga, I have no idea. His specialty was authentic home-made sausage, and lovely soups; a pristine clear broth in which floated perfectly cooked slips of vegetable and meat.

I regret to say we put off even setting foot in the third place for years, even though we were very well aware of it: a tiny, ramshackle building on Foothill, next to the Jack-In-The-Box, seemingly on the verge of falling down entirely. The roof sagged ominously, the batten-boards of the exterior walls were split from age, and the paint was faded where it hadn’t flaked off entirely. It honestly looked like the sort of place where you could get ptomaine poisoning just from drinking out of the water glasses. We had lived at Hilltop House for a couple of years before we ever ventured in. A number of Mom’s friends insisted that it was the best, simply the very best Chinese restaurant around, and finally the rapturous chorus drove us to set aside our considerable misgivings and venture inside.

The inside was immaculately clean: Spartan, with worn old industrial linoleum and old dinette tables and chairs, very plain, but scoured clean. The only ornaments were the posted menu and some small mementos and pictures associated with General Chennault and the Flying Tigers over the cash register. An elderly Chinese couple ran this restaurant; they were the only ones we ever saw staffing the place. I used to see the wife on the bus from downtown, lugging two huge grocery bags full of vegetables and comestibles back from Chinatown. (This was before exotic groceries were commonly available.) I think most patrons took the generous take-out meals, and if you remembered to bring a covered jug or Thermos, you could have soup as well. It was all delicious— all Mom’s friends were correct on that— and it met the highest criteria for take-out Chinese in that it was excellent when warmed over on the next day. The old couple were quite taken with my little brother, who radiated cute and looked like Adam Rich on “8 is Enough” . They always slipped in extra almond cookies for him in our take-out order, and the portions were so generous we almost always had enough for dinner the next day. I often wondered what the Flying Tiger connection was, but they had so little English it would have been hard to get an answer.

Chinese, Rumanian and Mexican food, all within a couple of miles on Foothill Boulevard— not bad, for a blue-collar sort of town. I wish, though, that I could have gotten the recipe for Los Amigos chili rellanos… and that clear beef and vegetable soup… and those Chinese almond cookies.

30. April 2005 · Comments Off on Last Weekend’s Airshow · Categories: Air Force, Air Navy, General, General Nonsense, Military, That's Entertainment!

Well, I think at least, here:

AARRRGGHH!! Somebody help! Mom, I followed your instructions, and have done all kinds of machinations fiddling with it, and here’s what I get! What, for Pete’s sake, am I doing wrong?

(Can’t tell… upload it again, and e-mail me exactly what it gives you for a code once it is successfully uploaded, and I’ll try editing it in—-
Sgt. Mom)

OK, I did get a few of them uploaded here so you can go look at them there, for now. And there’s a joke involved, if you can stand it!


18. December 2004 · Comments Off on A Moment of Silence Please · Categories: Air Navy

Beautiful Wife’s Stepfather, a retired Senior Chief in the United States Navy, passed away earlier today from an apparent heart attack. He just lost his wife earlier this year to multiple strokes. He had to intern her ashes in the past week. We’re thinking his heart just broke.

Senior, thanks for being another Dad to me, a real Grampa to Boyo, and loving Gorgeous Daughter and her husband when the rest of the family didn’t know how.

05. September 2004 · Comments Off on Can You Say “Aurora” – I knew you could · Categories: Air Navy, Military

My guess is that this has something to do with the Navy’s “super-secret” AURORA project:

They have become legendary in UFO circles. Huge, silent-running “Flying Triangles” have been seen by ground observers creeping through the sky low and slow near cities and quietly cruising over highways.

The National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), has catalogued the Triangle sightings, sifting through and combining databases to take a hard look at the mystery craft. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, NIDS is a privately funded science institute with a strong research focusing on aerial phenomena.The results of their study have just been released and lead to some unnerving, still puzzling conclusions.

The study points out: “The United States is currently experiencing a wave of Flying Triangle sightings that may have intensified in the 1990s, especially towards the latter part of the 1990s. The wave continues. The Flying Triangles are being openly deployed over and near population centers, including in the vicinity of major Interstate Highways.”

But, due to the end of the Cold War, the need for secrecy has become not nearly so marked as with the B-2 or F-117 projects.

hat tip: reader Kayse