March 31, 2011

The im-FA-sis is on the wrong si-LA-bull

I didn't watch Blowie's speech, but I read it.  Maybe I missed some magical nuance or screen graphic that better explains WTF his logic and plans are regarding Libya.  Otherwise, I am as confused as ever.

Blowie and 'many other world leaders' have embraced the goal of removing Qadaffi from power, but will pursue it through 'non-military' means.

Blowie said that the task assigned to our military is to 'protect the Libyan people from immediate danger' and establish a no-fly zone, as requested by the Libyan 'opposition'.

Blowie claims that overthrowing Qadaffi by force would cause the collapse of the 'coalition' and that pushing for 'regime change' would require ground troops, and he ain't going there.  (I'm not holding my breath).
"...what we can do -- and will do -- is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power...With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be."
Now the news is out about Blowie's 'secret' (pardon me while I clean the coffee off my monitor) plan to go all covert and possibly arm the Libyan rebels.  We have also learned that the CIA is already on the ground (see, they don't count as 'troops') and has been working with the rebels. 

For those keeping track, we don't exactly know who the rebels are.  The money quotes on that issue are:
Admiral James Stavridis, NATO supreme commander for Europe, said of Libya's rebel force: "We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah."
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel took things a step further, telling the Hindustan Times: "There is no question that al Qaeda's Libyan franchise, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition. It has always been Qaddafi's biggest enemy and its stronghold is Benghazi. What is unclear is how much of the opposition is al Qaeda/Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - 2 percent or 80 percent."
Can someone please explain to me why it is okay to use the CIA to arm align rebels to defend citizens that apparently need protection from Qadaffi, but using the CIA to, um, 'remove' Qadaffi isn't allowed?

I heard Rudy Guiliani talk about this on the radio this morning and agree wholeheartedly - Blowie has, once again, put on full display, his lack of executive experience, his inexperience in RUNNING anything; meeting a payroll, being decisive, determining costs and benefits. 

 My 4-year old, playing with toy soldiers and a cap gun can freaking figure out that one cap wasted on the bad guy is much more economical and less resource consuming that handing over thousands of green plastic men and rifles.   

March 30, 2011

The Clapper - not as seen on TV

I heard this song on the radio this morning while I was schlepping kids to school (just click play to listen, there are no pictures):



Classic.  Love me some Steve Miller Band. This song and 'More Than A Feeling' by Boston are good examples of what drove my early-years bucket list desire to be credited on an album as a 'clapper'.
"They headed down to, ooh, old El Paso (cue Harper) CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!"
I have done some recorded clapping work, sadly none of it immortalized me in an album's liner notes.  I briefly entertained thoughts of being a 'snapper', a la 'Killer Queen' not 'West Side Story'.  Unfortunately, I just don't have a good, strong, loud snap. I can clap like a mo fo, though.

With Foley artists, computers, digitized sound effects and the death of albums, I probably won't ever cross that off my list.

March 29, 2011

Green Machine

I never had a Green Machine.  I had a Big Wheel.  I loved that thing.  I perfected the sideways-sliding stop.  I pedaled around the driveway with purpose, like I had somewhere to go on those three plastic wheels.

I loved my Big Wheel so much, I often pleaded to take it with me to the babysitter's house.  Often, mom relented and loaded the Wheel into the trunk of the car to leave at the sitter's during the work week.

I was supposed to ride around on the pavement directly in front of the sitter's house.  One day I begged to be able to go once around the block, and the sitter finally relented.

I was 3/4 of the way around when He stopped me.  The older boy.  On the Green Machine.  He asked me what I was doing on 'his' street.  He rammed my big front wheel with his, punctuating his questions.  I remember to this very day, the look on his grimy face, the gleam of his beady eyes, the wide collared shirt and polyester pants (fashion horrors of the 70's).  He got up from his Green Machine and started pushing my Big Wheel around with his foot.  Then he stood over me, one foot on my Big Wheel, snarling down at me.  I really thought I was dead. 

Finally, he told me to get back to where I belonged and warned me to never come over to 'his' street again.  If you do, he said, "Your ass is grass and I am the lawn mower."

Ever since that day, Green Machines have invoked that memory and a little shudder.  This about made me wet myself:

From here

March 28, 2011

FOD

I know there are sayings about truth/purpose/success being defined by how fervently people attack you, I just can't think of one right now...

Media Matters originally set out to attack 'conservative' media:
Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time.

Using the website mediamatters.org as the principal vehicle for disseminating research and information, Media Matters posts rapid-response items as well as longer research and analytic reports documenting conservative misinformation throughout the media. Additionally, Media Matters works daily to notify activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and to take direct action against offending media institutions.
Now Media Matters has more narrowly defined their mission:
...for what its founder, David Brock, described in an interview as an all-out campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” aimed at the Fox News Channel...
“The strategy that we had had toward Fox was basically a strategy of containment,” said Brock, Media Matters’ chairman and founder and a former conservative journalist, adding that the group’s main aim had been to challenge the factual claims of the channel and to attempt to prevent them from reaching the mainstream media.
The new strategy, he said, is a “war on Fox.”
It is no secret that Blowie's administration doesn't like Fox.  I think it is comically ironic that conservatives (and libertarians, of course) have historically opposed the Fairness Doctrine, yet now we have an administration that considers a bona fide television network as 'an opponent' and refuses to provide key figures for interviews.  No wonder democrats haven't tried to revive or reinstitute any Fairness Doctrine-like legislation in recent years.  With the media scales tipping liberal, there is no way they want 'fair and balanced' coverage.



March 26, 2011

Shiners and 30 or so blazing incandescent bulbs.

Just read that I missed that 'Earth Hour' thing, where you are supposed to turn off a light or something for an hour or more to save the children or the whales or trees or something.

I might have missed the appointed hour, but I am happy to report that my house was lit up like a Christmas tree anyway, which would have been my intent to begin with.  These inane displays of stupidity in the name of some mysteriously undefined greater good drive me to drink.  Well, actually the smooth taste of Shiner Black is my reason for drinking this evening, but I do hate international do anything days.

For good measure, I will leave a few lights on all night tonight, just to offset the tree huggers around the world who might be enjoying their drink of choice in the dark, saving the __________, but not the hops.

Not My President

If I could spend my Saturday standing somewhere holding a sign, I think it would say this:
'If you like our no fly zone, you'll love our health care plan'
I am still left wondering which one will ultimately cost more.  

The only bothersome thing about scenes like this:

AP Photo/Chamila Karunarathne
 and this:

AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

Is that protesters around the world lump 'Americans' in with the American president.  Many of us don't agree with him either, folks!

This post rounds up several of the places around the world that are protesting our president's actions in the Libya.  I love the title, 'Don't They Know He's The One?'.

I haven't been able to find any evidence of Cameron or Sarkozy getting the same effigy stomping and burning treatment.  It's ironic that the U.S. was so reluctant to get involved that we were lambasted throughout Europe after the G8 foreign ministers meeting, but now Obama is getting all the 'credit' and Americans, by association, are assumed to be supportive of Obama. 

Despite my personal feeling about our involvement in Libya, I have to acknowledge the best protest sign, coming from my home state:

From here
And if you go here for the '40 Best Libya Protest Signs', you'll find at least seven different English spellings of the name of that guy in Libya. A dozen or more if you read Arabic.

March 24, 2011

Co-parenting advice needed

My oldest child is a 'good' kid.  Boom will be seventeen this summer and she is nothing like the revenge child I was expecting.  By that, I mean the child that was supposed to make me regret all the rebellious teenage antics of my youth.  I see inklings of which child that will be, but I ain't sayin' at this point, in hopes that I can head it off.

Boom is also very open and honest with us.  What that translates to, recently, is hearing about all of her classmates that are experimenting with alcohol, drugs and sex.  None of the kids that she has talked to us about are from families that we are especially close to, but a couple of the stories had me itching to pick up the phone.  I had this preconceived notion that I would only ever be the 'narc' parent if I heard of a situation that was dangerous.  Obviously, 'dangerous' is a relative term. 

While the number of homes we will allow Boom to visit is dwindling, I haven't become a social pariah yet, by making any phone calls to parents that would refuse to believe what I was telling them - but unless there is a massive attack of morality among the teenagers in our town, it is only a matter of time.

Have you ever called another parent and told them something unsavory about their child?  How'd that work out for you?  Hillary famously said that it takes a village to raise a child.  She didn't mention if they would all still be speaking to each other by the time the child was grown.

March 23, 2011

'A coalition of the unwilling'

From Germany's Die Welt via Spiegel Online:
"Gadhafi benefits from the fact that he is facing a coalition of the -- more or less -- unwilling. But he must continue to fear the rebels, a collapse of his military power or being assassinated by someone within his own ranks. Until one of those things happen, he will continue to oppress and exploit the part of Libya that is still under his control."
I really don't have much commentary to add, I just like that phrase, 'a coalition of the unwilling'.

One other thing I read about the thing going on in Libya that we aren't supposed to call a 'war', this editorial phrase cracked me up:
The Bushies went to war with their chicken hawks, the Obamas go with their hawkish chicks.
That's it.

Thug, celebrity or just a regular ol' Cowboy?

The burning question in my mind is whether a punk like Dez Bryant was a thug to begin with, if the money and celebrity did it, or if it is the curse of the big blue star on his helmet?

NorthPark mall is an upscale shopping center in Dallas, Texas. Dez Bryant apparently likes to spend time there, as evidenced by his most recent police report. On Saturday, he and friends were trolling the mall in the usual thug uniform - pants strapped on at testicle-height. NorthPark likes to keep things 'nice', and two of their off duty police officer/security officers stopped Dez and his crew and asked them to pull up their pants.

Dez let loose with the profanity and, the racially inspired and overused, 'you be treatin' us like criminals' tirade.

Is anyone else sick to death of this crap? Unless you have a proclivity for unlawful activities, why would you jump to that conclusion? Where did you get your knowledge about how criminals are treated?

Here's the thing, Dez: for the percentage of the population that dresses like a thug but lives on the right side of the law, being asked to pull their pants up over their ass might be embarrassing or make them feel put upon, but they won't automatically assume that the cops are all up in their bidness trying to catch them doing something else wrong. No one wants to see your friggin' underwear, or bare ass. (One of my top ten complaints about football is the transparent pants, so I get an eyeful every season anyway). The cops just wanted you to PULL UP YOUR GOT DAMN PANTS! All across this fair land we have rules about what you may or may not reveal when in public and underwear and butt cheeks hanging out at the mall are not universally accepted.

Further into the police report, it is revealed that Dez thinks he is above standing in line and gets into public fights at restaurants - all at the same mall. Lord knows where else this piece of trash is spreading the love.

March 22, 2011

Letters for Lyrics

Give this a go, would ya? If you write a short note to a soldier, Dodge, the Zac Brown Band and their partners will donate a music CD to troops around the world.

Damn You Auto Correct


Damn You, Auto Correct! has some laugh out loud posts.  Some of them are manufactured, but they are still funny, so what do I care?

Comic relief

For a few minutes, let us forget all of the domestic and world events that should be on the front burner.  If our elected officials can jet around the world and leave us behind, we should at least be able to do it figuratively.  (I understand that our representatives are supposed to be in their districts for the March Work Period, I just don't remember Pelosi's district including Italy).

There are any number of thoroughly entertaining political cartoons available today, but instead, today's comic respite comes from none other than Sammy Hagar.
There's no better way to put this: Sammy Hagar believes his mind was taken over by aliens. Years ago, before he played with Van Halen or Montrose, before he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the American singer claims extra-terrestrials tapped into his consciousness in the California foothills. "I know there's something out there," he explained, "and someday they'll come."
Although Hagar's vision of an alien spaceship was part of a dream, he insists he was seeing something real. "[It] friggin' happened," the 63-year-old explained. "Aliens were plugged into me ... Either a download or an upload. They were tapped into my brain and the knowledge was transferred back and forth. I could see them and everything while it was happening ... Like an experiment: '[Let's] see what this guy knows'."
If it was a 'download', then, Thank You, Space Aliens, for the early stuff and some of the Van Hagar.  Oh, and especially, 'T-T-T-T-T-Trans Am!'

If it was an 'upload', well, I guess that explains why the aliens haven't been back.

March 21, 2011

It's still FOD

Who said:
It's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war.
We are still spending $10 billion a month at a time when we are in great distress here at home. The lesson is we should never hesitate to use military force, & I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely.
As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I don't oppose all wars.  What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war....What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income.

I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.  

We need better judgment when we decide to send our young men and women into war, that we are making absolutely certain that it is because there is an imminent threat, that American interests are going to be protected, that we have a plan to succeed and to exit, that we are going to train our troops properly and equip them properly and put them on proper rotations and treat them properly when they come home. That is an argument we are going to have an easier time making if they can’t turn around and say: But hold on a second; you supported this. That’s part of the reason why I would be the strongest nominee on this argument of national security. 

It is important to tell the American people the truth.
It is important for the president to lead diplomatic efforts

...we’ll need to make sure that any exercise of American military power helps rather than hinders our broader goals...
[The US should] use American moral authority and credibility to help achieve Middle East peace.
This is fun!  I could do this all day.  Thanks, Blowie, for providing endless hours of entertainment.

Waiting on a 'Libya costs to the American taxpayer' widget to add to the sidebar...

March 20, 2011

FOD, on behalf of those now being put in harm's way by Warmonger Obama

Whited is providing me with post subjects two days in a row...thanks, Whited!  Over at GGDF, he offered up this opinion on the comments for FOD.  (If you don't know what FOD is, check the GGDF sidebar).
"...The pretext for war is far weaker than it was under Bush. Our "allies" aren't going to do shit. And we'll have troops on the ground in Libya within 3 months of Qadaffi's death. Hide and watch."
3 months by whose watch?  I don't think we will be waiting that long for troops to be on the ground in Libya.  I hope I'm wrong.
For the first time in years, the 82nd Airborne Division here has stood up its "ready brigade," trained to a razor's edge and poised to move instantly, as one of its paratroopers said, "to the sound of the guns."

This new capability gives President Obama the option to swiftly land powerful military forces anywhere in the world for missions that could include evacuating American citizens, safeguarding fragile new democracies from counterattack, or violently taking down a renegade regime.
The above excerpt is from an article published March 9, 2011.  I have lots of friends and family in the military and sometimes hear of training and planning that doesn't always make sense at the time, but hindsight is 20/20, right?  The NTC at Fort Irwin is mentioned in the article as changing the type of training they do, something I had been hearing about from a friend but just didn't get, until now.   

I found another startling coincidence in the article.  Try to follow me here - Blowie has taken it in the shorts on Gitmo.  Why?  Because Gitmo is a necessary evil.  Had Blowie not trotted out the close Gitmo dog and pony show-signing two days into his presidency, and instead, took the time to learn why Gitmo exists today, he could have delayed becoming the broken promise poster child for at least a month or so.

Still with me?  Okay, Blowie and his administration, in another stunning example of being completely out of touch with the American people (and very in tune with their inner Carter), recently proposed a massive cut in military personnel - 47k from the Army and Marine Corp ranks by 2015, based on the thought that the mission in Afghanistan would be ending.  Whoops.  Ignoring the obvious (I wouldn't plan that vacation to Kandahar anytime soon) is one thing.  Blowie might be reconsidering the imminent backlash among military families (who vote in large numbers) and deep pocketed defense-related donors.  Surely he is now concerned with what would happen to our economy and unemployment numbers if 47,000 military members were added to the millions of people already without work.  Many of those 47k were to be overseas slots...so add spouses to those unemployment numbers coming back stateside. 

I am circling around here...I think that this 'new' ready force plan will provide a way out for Obama's troop cut plans.  That is my optimistic view. 

The pessimist in me wants to know what the hell the narcissist in chief is secretly hoping for.
Expanding from the narrow mission of counterinsurgency to quick-reaction missions -- which might demand a full spectrum of skills, from providing disaster relief to fighting the opening battles of World War III -- marks an abrupt change for the 82nd Airborne Division. For a decade it has fought in small units, squads of nine to 12 soldiers and platoons of 30 or 40, working with local soldiers and villagers in a kind of armed nation-building. These operations required little or no coordination with neighboring units.

But now, with its ready brigade unhooked from this counterinsurgency mission, it can refocus on the skills required for larger company- and battalion-size maneuvers involving hundreds of soldiers in tight coordination with artillery, mortars, helicopter gunships and Air Force strike fighters.
None of those scenarios, save disaster relief, sound like anything remotely necessary to 'insure domestic tranquility or provide for the common defense'.   Libya here we come, of that I am certain.  Who's on deck after that?

Wagging the dog

Over on the Facebook, my friend Whited wondered if the Nobel Peace Prize was like the Heismann Trophy - as in, can it be taken away from a recipient if there are problems discovered after it is awarded?  Since our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president is now bombing Libya, one could make a sound argument about repo-ing that gold coin and million dollar check.

Although much has been written about ditherer-in-chief Blowie's refusal to take a stand on Libya, and about our Secretary of State being the only wishy-washy Charlie Brown character at the table in Paris, I think it was all a matter of timing.

While still an unimaginable tragedy and nuclear threat, news from Japan is no longer dominating the headlines.  Time to bomb Libya and create another attention grabber, lest the major outlets report on the reception Blowie is getting in Brazil.

From here


I think it is laughable that the Brazilian Socialist Workers Party, PSTU, thinks that Blowie is a yankee capitalist.   Don't worry comrades, we are all getting taken for a ride by him, no matter what we believe he is. The PTSU printed this poster to promote their protest:


One of PSTU's concerns is that Blowie is in Brazil to convince the government there to sell oil to the U.S.  Petrobas, a Brazilian-government owned energy company (of which George Soros is a shareholder), is said to be intent on serving its own country's needs first.  That is interesting, considering where some of their wells are:

Petrobas' Gulf of Mexico operations.

And in another example of interesting timing, on Thursday, the U.S. Interior Department approved the first ever deepwater floating production storage facility in the Gulf - with a daily production capacity of 80,000 barrels of oil and 16 million cubic feet of gas.

This facility is 165 miles off the Louisiana coast and owned by....Petrobas.

March 19, 2011

Helen Thomas can speak past the foot in her mouth

Look up angry, bitter old hag in the (online) dictionary and you will no doubt find a picture of Helen Thomas

Thomas, as you should recall, spouted some classic open-pie-hole-and-insert-wrinkled-old-foot anti-Semitic comments last May and 'retired' from the White House press corp shortly thereafter. (In the interview she clears up the 'retirement' issue by saying right at the beginning that she was fired - good!) 

Part of her 'retirement' announcement read:
"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.’’
'Deeply regret' in this case, means, 'deeply regret speaking my mind and losing my job', not that she deeply regrets or denies the meat of what she said.  In fact, Thomas is back to her old ways with a recent Playboy interview in which she goes even further and makes even more outrageous (and intolerant) claims:
PLAYBOY: Let’s get to something else you said more recently. In a speech in Detroit last December, you told an Arab group, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.” Do you stand by that statement?

THOMAS:
Yes, I do. I know it was horrendous, but I know it’s true. Tell me it’s not true and I’ll be happy to be contradicted. I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction.

PLAYBOY: That stereotype of Jewish control has been around for more than a century. Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?

PLAYBOY: Well, for instance, explain the connection between Hollywood and what’s happening with the Palestinians.

THOMAS: Power over the White House, power over Congress.

PLAYBOY: By way of contributions?

THOMAS: Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control.

PLAYBOY: Who are you thinking about specifically? Who are the Jews with the most influence?

THOMAS: I’m not going to name names. What, am I going to name the Ponzi guy on Wall Street [Bernard Madoff] or the others? No.

PLAYBOY:
Then how do you make the claim that Jews are running the country?

THOMAS: I want you to look at the Congress that just came in. Do you think [New York Democratic senator Charles] Schumer and Lehtinen—whatever her name is—in Florida [Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a strong supporter of Israel] are going to be pro-Arab? No. But they’re going to be very influential. Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the Republicans, do you think he’s going to be for the Arabs? Hell no! I’m telling you, you cannot get 330 votes in Congress for anything that’s pro-Arab. Nothing. If you’re not in, you’re eased out, just as Senator William Fulbright was in the 1960s [after claiming that millions of tax-deductible dollars from American philanthropies were being sent to Israel and then funneled back to the U.S. for distribution to organizations with pro-Israel positions]. Congressman Paul Findley from a little old rural district in Illinois made the mistake of shaking hands with Yasir Arafat years ago. It ended up costing him his reelection. He later wrote a book called They Dare to Speak Out about how impossible it is to have a position in this country that takes on Israel. Maybe there is a handful that can, but in general you cannot speak against any Zionist movement in this country.
Thomas as a conspiracy theorist:
PLAYBOY: Is anyone asking the tough questions about Israel?

THOMAS: We’re still not getting the full story on Israel. I asked both President Obama at a news conference and Hillary if they knew of any nations in the Middle East that had nuclear weapons. Obama danced around it and said, “I don’t want to speculate.” Hillary said, “Oh, Helen, you’re cute” or something to that effect. She laughed it off.

PLAYBOY: Why would our government remain quiet if Israel had nukes?

THOMAS: Years ago we made a pact with Golda Meir never to say it. In her era, they would never say it, and they can’t say it now because they can’t tell Iran and all these other countries that they have nukes. That’s my opinion. Our government won’t tell the truth, and neither will the Israelis. Everyone knows, but I can’t write “Everyone knows.” You have to attribute it to somebody. Again, you don’t see these stories in the news. You have to go to a magazine like The Nation or the offbeat press to find out what is really happening. They don’t say that in The New York Times.
Further proof of her stupidity:
PLAYBOY: Who’s the greatest president you’ve covered?

THOMAS: Well, I think Carter was most impressive from the perspective of pure intellect. He was the smartest, if not the most effectual. A man of bold ideas and great wisdom. But that doesn’t mean he was a great president. He wasn’t a schmoozer. He didn’t know how to do that part of the job.
And, at the beginning of the article, the interviewer, David Hochman, a Jewish man, when asked if he thinks Thomas is anti-Semitic, is quoted as saying:
“I’ll let the reader decide. But I did think it was amusing when she presented a plate of ham sandwiches and then said, ‘Oh, I hope I haven’t served the wrong thing.’ ”  
Anti-Semitic, intentionally insulting and rude, bitter old hag.  In the interview she says that she would like her epitaph to read 'Why?'.  Why didn't we see through her earlier?  Why did she enjoy over 50 years in the White House press room?  Why was an anti-Semitic, liberal, blindly pro-Arab, hateful bitty wasting oxygen in the West Wing?  Why indeed.

March 18, 2011

No communion, but there is a show

One of my family's favorite restaurants has one of these signs hanging near the restrooms:


I've always liked the sign because I never understood the charm of Houston and avoid it like the plague.  Horrible traffic, stifling humidity and less friendly people than other parts of Texas I have visited are among the top reasons for my dislike.  Now I can add entertaining, yet concerning, religious activities to the list.  The Houston Fox affiliate provides two stories this week:
Members of the small congregation at Houston Unity Baptist Church said when they refused to give the pastor their tax refunds; he refused to give them their Communion...
...When asked if he withheld Communion, Pastor Goodman said absolutely but it wasn’t because of the tax refund issue. He said it was because of internal issues in the church he refused to disclose.

Goodman said only 4 or 5 members in the church actually help with bills, but he called the rest of his congregation devils and demons.

Pastor Goodman said he was attempting to get donations to build a new parking lot at the church.
Wow.  I won't go into my rant about churches, their facilities and tithing, but would like to point out that stale crackers and grape juice aren't hard to come by and saying a prayer to bless those items is free.

This story about made me wet my pants laughing.  No offense to the lady teaching it, she seems like a genuinely reformed 'dancer' with an entrepreneurial spirit.  I am left wondering if those acrylic hooker heels are the shoe of choice for church wear.

March 16, 2011

Carney is full of Blarney (c'mon, that was kinda clever)

The GGDF Criplets posted an update on our president stubbornly sticking to his schedule as if nothing was going on in Japan, Libya or Congress.  Their post pointed out one of the many asinine things the new smarmy mouthed press secretary has said this week.

Today, when asked to provide an update on the terrifying nuclear situation in Japan, Carney basically says to an ABC reporter - 'I am standing here in the White House, your company has reporters in country...go ask them.'

Carney then goes on to suggest several government agencies that might have answers, but he clearly doesn't know what that information might be and dances around the question like an old political hack.

Where did Blowie get this tool?

Go watch it and read the partial transcript here.

Heartbroken all over again

Harper house has been observing and preparing for some sad anniversaries.  Last March and April were horrific, especially for my oldest child.  March 12, 2010, a good friend of Mr Harper's died in an industrial accident.  On March 21st, one of Boom's friends lost his mom to cancer.  On March 29th, another of her friend's dad was murdered.  In the early hours of Easter morning, a drunk driver murdered her friend's mom and sister and wounded the rest of the family.  Then on April 7th, a father from school died.  

In most cases, the passage of a year would reveal healing and forward movement.  In most cases, it has.  There has been peace, forgiveness, new love and justice for many of these families.  But today's local news dealt a gut-wrenching blow.

In the case of a local father and husband that had been found dead; stabbed and shot at his business warehouse, the medical examiner has now changed the cause of death to suicide.  The reasoning seems to be full of holes - or is just lacking in the reporting of details - or I want to believe something else for the sake of this family.  Regardless, I really didn't want to read this.  Not that I don't have an irrepressible curiosity to know the truth, because I do - but, because I can't imagine how news like this serves the general public.

Surely the family has been aware of the route the investigation was taking.  Hopefully, they were made aware of the ruling before the public was.  Should it have been front page news? 

I am a self-admitted news junkie, but when I know who the children and widow are and can vividly recall how stricken they were at this precious man's funeral, and can picture their faces as they see this newspaper, I want to scream and shout and kick an editor in the balls.   

Just shy of one year since his death, this man's family is re-living every painful detail of his death.  Now, they have the stigma of suicide to bear on their already burdened shoulders.  I can't imagine it.

How can we change?  How can we change society and our sense of entitlement?  Our demand to see the sausage made and the media's fervent desire to supply the footage? 

Even more disgusting is the commenting.  A blog is a great place for opinions.  A newspaper article about a father's death is not.  Maybe not today, maybe not anytime soon - but, unless they have uncommon strength and capacity to turn the other cheek - his kids will someday read the horrible and uninformed comments of anonymous strangers.  It makes me physically ill to think about it.

March 14, 2011

Rove's 3 images + 1 from me

Karl Rove authored an op-ed piece on Fox News entitled, '3 Disturbing Images of Obama'.

In the piece Rove makes the point that Obama's 'team' seems to think that anytime the anointed one makes a speech or holds a news conference that all is well with the world.  I get that feeling all the time - his administration seems to be so starstruck by him that they refuse to look around and acknowledge that a growing number of people have had all they can take of the smug bastard.

Rove's first of three images are; the president's inaction on Libya:
First, there was the president on Libya -- dithering, indecisive, unreliable, and weak. As Qaddafi’s mercenaries and bombers brutally grabbed back momentum from the democratic opposition, all Mr. Obama could say was, “My national security team has been working…to monitor the situation…to prepare the full range of options…” 
If America’s failure to lead allows Qaddafi to snuff out the popular uprising against his dictatorship and regain power, the consequences for the U.S. will be severe. Dictators will know the U.S. president is a pushover. Our allies around the world will be dispirited and our adversaries emboldened.
 the budget battle:
...Then Mr. Obama went on to say of the budget that “it shouldn’t be that complicated…to get this completed.” This came after weeks during which Democratic Congressional leaders criticized the president for providing no leadership, then the appointment by Mr. Obama of Vice President Joe Biden as his personal negotiator on the budget, and Mr. Biden’s almost immediate departure for a weeklong foreign trip. Mr. Obama still refused to get his hands dirty by offering a possible solution.
 and third, Blowie's broad swipe at the situation in Wisconsin:
Then there were the president’s remarks to members of the National Governors Association on Wisconsin, last month, where he cautioned, “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified.”
This was a classic Obama straw man. Who exactly is “vilifying” or “denigrating” whom? The president’s intimation was that it was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but Mr. Walker’s tone has been mild, even-tempered, restrained and entirely appropriate.
If there are people who needed a presidential admonishment about civility and respect, they are the protestors who broke into the Wisconsin capital building in a vain attempt to keep the legislature from voting, the protestors who compared Mr. Walker to Adolf Hitler, and the Democratic legislators who fled the state rather than do their duty. But those would be the president’s allies and admonition are only required of his opponents.
 I will add a fourth:

As the rest of the world watched the horror in Japan unfold, watched entire cities wiped off the face of the earth and watched smoke billow from nuclear power plants, our president played 18 holes of golf.  As Rove points out below, Blowie used to be supremely concerned with his public persona, worried about perception and appearances.  Apparently, once you reside in the big white house, that all goes to hell in a hand basket.
When Mr. Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he had the annoying habit of voting “present” on controversial issues he felt might damage his future political ambitions. -- But at least Mr. Obama showed up then. The president’s refusal now to provide leadership on Libya or the budget and his readiness to score cheap political points with straw man attacks makes his days in the State Senate look like an era of true statesmanship.

FOD, Michelle not #WINNING

The First Wookie, Michelle Obama, as you well know, devotes endless taxpayer resources dictating to the American people what their children should eat and how they should play.  This nutrition and exercise initiative has a trying-to-be-catchy name, 'Let's Move' and recently 'went social' with a Facebook and Twitter account.

The 'Let's Move' Twitter account went live on February 8th and has garnered a whopping 2,660 followers.  If you ask 15 people if they know about the 'Let's Move' initiative, 14 of them aren't likely to associate it with diet, exercise or the 'Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act'

He Who Does Not Need To Be Named launched his Twitter on March 1st and has 2,762,838 followers, two sold out live shows, a house full of 'healthy'-looking women and has redefined and popularized a dozen or more words and phrases that are instantly attributable to him and his 'movement'.  A sad commentary on the general public's interests, but it does help explain how 'we' elected some of the leaders that are in office now.  HWDNNTBN has no apparent issue with weight loss, has much more entertaining meal preparation tips:



and...a sense of humor.  Perhaps FLOTUS and company could try to disguise their ham-handed efforts to control us by interjecting some manic comedy into their routine.  If nothing else, I think those who voted for the Wookie's husband should take some advice from HWDNNTBN:
"So just shut your traps and put down your McDonald's, your magazines, your TMZ and the rest of it, and focus on something that matters. But you can't focus on things that matter if all you've been is asleep for 40 years. Funny how sleep rhymes with sheep."

March 13, 2011

Bleak photos of Japan - UPDATED

This ABC site overlays before and after satellite photos of the destruction in Japan.  If you roll over it with your mouse, it reveals the 'after'.

I can't imagine the horror and despair.  God Bless the people of Japan.

UPDATE:  I wanted to add this link to a story about NOT getting scammed, if you desire to contribute to the Japan relief effort.  Most of the article is common sense, but bears repeating as so many of us feel such helplessness and despair and want to do something.

Canadian Border Fence

Of course, this is a spoof, with the paper and author both fictional elements of some creative - and funny - person's imagination.  Fun read, though, with apologies to my Canadian friends...

Canadians: “Build a Damn Fence!"
From The Manitoba Herald , Canada ; “Reported" by Clive Runnels

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield , whose acreage borders North Dakota . The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves."  A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age." an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them." an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"

March 12, 2011

Line jumping karma

Last night my family headed out with the intent of eating at one of our favorite restaurants.  We no sooner got to the end of our street, than I remembered that there was a music festival of sorts going on in the area, making the restaurant's street inaccessible and parking a nightmare.  We made an on-the-fly decision to go to Freebirds instead.  If you are unfamiliar, it is a make-your-own burrito restaurant, similar to Chipotle.  Bang says that make your own burrito places are like a Mexican Subway.

6:15 pm on Friday seemed to be the exact time when everyone else in the area also decided that they needed a giant custom made burrito, as the line was long, yet most of the tables were empty.  This contributes to one of my outstanding restaurant pet peeves, the table 'holders'.  I have no freakin' patience or respect for people that walk in the door, see open tables and twenty people in line ahead of them, and think that they have some right to usurp those in line and run save a table.  Most of Freebirds' seating is small two-top tables that are easily pushed together for larger groups.  The concrete floor creates a shrill squeak when tables are moved, highlighting each person who is staking their claim for people in line.

It's not that I couldn't do the same - there are six of us, and one or more could easily go squat at an empty table.  Not everyone has that luxury.  Despite that, I just think it is rude.  Why the sense of entitlement?  Why the assumption that the 20 people ahead of you are just too stupid to save a table?  Do the table holding type not realize that some people were raised to WAIT THEIR TURN?! I understand if people are older and need to sit, or have small children that would be better off at a table instead of in line - but the considerate 'just sitting here to stay out of the way' types aren't the ones claiming every available table and basically laying spread eagle across as much bench space as they can, to save it for their fat assed friends.

Some restaurants take charge of the situation with signs and an employee in the dining area, helping with table arrangement and seating.  Not that this sort of person would read or heed a sign, but I would love for a Freebirds employee, with their hip-quirky sense of humor, to call them on it,
'...Dude!  Where's your food?  Oh, you are just holding the table...for the people at the back of the line...'cause a group of 6 able bodied young people needs to stake out a table while that elderly couple that waited in line for 15 minutes, has their food and has paid, is left juggling their burrito baskets and drink cups looking for a table...yeah, I guess that's cool...'
A walk-along-the-line-as-your-food-is-assembled place would seem to demand that the order giver is front and center with the burrito maker.  Unless you are part of a group of crass table-savers who are content to yell the choices and decisions back and forth across the restaurant.  

What really set me off last night was a family consisting of two college aged boys, their older sister and her toddler, and their parents.  Mom had on about half a bottle of overpowering perfume, which really added to my dining experience when they shoved in to the table next to ours.  They came in the door, surveyed the room, and put the young woman and her toddler in line, while mom and the boys staked out the tables.  Then dad jumped the line and demanded water cups for the three at the table.  Followed by dad and the boys jumping up from the table to join woman and toddler in line, once she was at the front.  The people in line behind them were ticked!  Then, they yelled back and forth to the mom about what she did and did not want on her burrito.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but it wasn't and isn't.  In prime passive-aggressive mode, I made several comments loud enough for them to hear and got verbal agreement from several surrounding tables. 

Luckily we were done eating when a family came in the door with kid's meals from another restaurant.  Mr. Harper knows that this is another pet peeve of mine and shuffled me out the door before I could say something to them. But we had sat there just long enough to be able to turn our table over to a nice family that had worked their way through the line as God and restaurant protocol intended - and NOT to the snotty people who had just come through the door and were headed our way.

March 11, 2011

Spring Fever

Each day this week I have had a kid home sick.  Hard to determine if it is a head cold or allergies.  The Bradford Pear trees have been in full bloom, so it has been one stinky (have you ever smelled a Bradford Pear tree bloom?) pollen-laden mess around here.  We don't have any in our yard, but as the favorite (cheap) builder installed landscaping tree in North Texas, they are heavily populated around school and every shopping area.  Our oak trees are starting to show signs of imminent bloom - they tend to hold onto some leaves until the next year's bloom pushes them off, causing a spring leaf fall, which we have seen this week.  That means a world coated in yellow-green dust in the next couple of weeks.

The pleasant weather has me wanting to get outside and dig in to spring yard and house chores.  Sick kids means I am mostly inside, making detailed lists of all the things that need to be done once we can get outside.  Adding to the fun, I received a postcard from our electric provider, that they would be in the neighborhood next week, trimming trees under power lines and will need access to the back fence line.  The card also noted that if there are trees beneath the power lines that we would like completely removed, they would be happy to do it for us.  Woo hoo!  Free dead tree removal!  Plus, they mulch it up on site and will give you as much of the freshly churned hardwood mulch as you can handle. 

The weather flirted with the freezing mark overnight, a couple of times earlier in the week.  We discovered yesterday that our bluebird couple had returned to a porch bird house, and this morning Crash and I took a peek to discover that we already have 5 gorgeous little blue eggs being incubated.  That leads me to believe the cold weather is surely on its way out. 

What we really need now is some rain.  It is miserably dry and dusty, plus the rain washes the pollen away.  We have been under a burn ban for weeks, and I really need to burn some brush and leaves.

I might not have made it outside to take advantage of the weather this week, but next week looks promising.  Since it is Spring Break for the kids, I will also have free labor!

March 10, 2011

A little life saving common sense, if you please

Everyone in my family knows that I am an organ donor.  I don't have a touching or sad story about how organ donation has affected my life or that of someone I love, I just think that if I am done with something that can benefit someone else, why the hell not?  I have a little red 'DONOR' sticker on my driver's license and a card in my wallet, to inform emergency responders and also reinforce my wishes - since, apparently, the decision will still belong to my survivors.

There is a bit of a controversy brewing in Oregon.  A death row inmate, Christian Longo, wants to donate his organs.  He has said that he wants to do it to try to make amends for the lives he took and has been seeking permission to donate since 2009.  I really don't care what his reasons are.  If he has usable organs, let him donate, let God judge him for his reasons.

Oregon law, and the laws of every other state that enforces a death penalty, are very specific in their requirement that death results from a specific action (lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging or firing squad) depending on the state.  Oregon state law specifies that death be by lethal injection and that the execution must take place in a prison.  Therein lies the problem.

Oregon is refusing Longo's request to donate organs, because his 'death', by law, must be caused by lethal injection.  If he dies by the injection of the legally mandated three-drug combination, his organs would be unusable.  Setting that aside, if Longo was allowed to donate organs, his death would take place in a hospital, not in a prison, as mandated by law.

This seems like an absolute no-brainer to me:

Change the law to allow for condemned inmates to donate their organs prior to execution and allow their death to occur in a hospital.

I actually like the idea of anesthetizing an inmate, recovering their organs and then pulling the plug.  Is there any sane argument against this?  Let the victim's family watch the surgery and consequent death, if they wish, just like they would watch the execution.

Is anyone on the transplant list going to refuse a donor organ just because it came from a convicted criminal?  If so, okay, let donor centers put an extra form in their stack that states that wish and anyone opposed won't even be bothered if the 'incoming' organs are on their 'do not want' list.  Both donor and recipient identities are protected by law, unless both sides agree to be contacted.  Make it part of the law that the 'donor' doesn't agree to be contacted under any circumstance and legally prohibit the inmate's family from having any sort of contact rights.  Done.

I heard a couple of asinine (read:liberal) comments on a radio show about this topic yesterday.  Some guy actually insisted that allowing inmate organ donation would cause an increase in the number of death penalty sentences.   Some suggested that allowing organ donation would make convicted criminals into heroes.  Some believe the urban myth that recipients take on the personality of the donor (if someone has a scientifically proven study of this, please enlighten me).  And, finally, some idiots say that no part of a condemned criminal should 'live' after execution. 

It's funny that the type of people that would make the above arguments, and yes I am making a mass generalization, are the same type of people that would jump on board for litigation and protests claiming that the state was killing innocent people for denying willing organ donors.

I can't fix stupid, but I can hope that death penalty states will amend their laws to allow for a common sense resolution to inmate organ donation.  

March 9, 2011

Shoes and Condoms for Charity

Do you ever start typing a post knowing that you will lose at least half of your core audience due to the subject matter? This in one of those posts, but if you stick with it (guys), there is kind of a sex-themed part at the end.

When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. I always choose comfort over fashion and my wardrobe has many duplicate items - same shirt, different color, the same New Balance tennis shoes replace the worn out pair, etc.

A couple of years ago, I received a pair of TOMS shoes.  They were cute and comfortable.  Really comfortable.  They feel like a perfectly broken-in pair of slippers.  I soon bought another pair and now have four pairs.

In case you haven't heard, the TOMS company's business model is that they give away a pair of shoes for every pair that they sell.  I don't really know or care how they determine where the free shoes go.  I wouldn't buy the shoes just for that purpose, anyway. But, the charitable side of the transaction is a bonus. 

Escaping my notice last fall, Skechers' launched a new line of shoes called (ever so creatively) 'BOBS'.  BOBS look eerily similar to TOMS and, surprise, surprise, Skecher's' matched their charitable model, pledging to give away a pair for each pair sold.  Some will say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Some companies, like CROCS, haven't been so flattered, filing and settling infringement lawsuits against Skechers for blatant rip offs of their shoe styles. I think it is lazy and unoriginal at best, and exploitation at worst.  At least Blake Mycoskie (the founder of TOMS) has actually met 'children in need' and has a true heart for charitable movements. 

At the time of release, there was quite an uproar over the copy cat design and charity model of the BOBS line.  There is no seemingly no end to the number of blog posts about it, this one is the most current.  There was apparently such an uproar that Skechers quickly pulled the shoe from market.

As I said, I was unaware of the BOBS shoe, until I got a Famous Footwear sales ad in the mail yesterday.   So, what do you do when you are publicly skewered over a knock off shoe and pull it from the market, but have already had millions of them manufactured?  You sell them to the secondary discount shoe market and change your charitable model to 'buy one and we give two away'!  Still skeezy and still questionable.  It isn't clear if the BOBS line is done and being liquidated, or just shelved until the backlash clears.  The shoes aren't anywhere to be found on the Skechers website.  I hope the whole thing is one big shit bomb that Skechers takes up the ass.

So while I am against completely ripping off another company's design and business model, I am all for companies fashioning part of their business after a successful one.  Enter 'Sir Richard's Condom Company'.   Their motto is 'Doing Good Never Felt Better'.  Similar to TOMS, their business model is to provide one condom to someone in need in a 'developing country' for each condom sold.  Plus they are vegan, so all the tree huggers can be happy while practicing safe sex.  Now that is the kind of Earth friendly charity I can get behind, er, support.

March 8, 2011

Picking on a Criplet

CD's plan to drink slower:

My economic report

My 'job' revolves around a once a year event, a music festival of sorts, which took place this past weekend. Our venue is quite large and spread out. Each year I regret that I forget to strap on a pedometer to see how many steps I actually take and how far I travel over the course of the weekend. What I do know is that I can barely walk when it is over, having spent about 45 hours on my feet, walking between the key areas of the venue.

We were quite worried about how the economic situation would affect our attendance. Normally we sell out of tickets and we also, generally, have a large number of unticketed attendees on site, as there are things to do on the campus that we don't require a ticket for. We didn't sell out, having about 100 tickets left and we didn't have the number of unticketed people that we normally do. I suppose that people who wouldn't normally buy a ticket weren't too keen on spending $3.30-something in gas just to come jam and visit with friends. We used a Will Call only system for ticket pick up, which highlighted the number of people who bought advance tickets but didn't show. Makes no difference to us, since they were paid for, but it is surprising how many people spent a decent chunk of change and didn't get anything for it.

We had people travel significant distances to get here.  I spoke to people from California, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi and every neighboring state.  They did mention that they have been more selective and have had to reduce the number of places they travel to.   

Our food court did exceedingly well, as it seemed that most of the attendees chose to stay on site for meals, rather than travel to a local restaurant. We like that, since all of our food vendors are local non-profit groups. We give them the space for free and let them keep all of their proceeds. For most of them, this is their largest fund raiser of the year.

This was our seventh festival, so we have pretty much nailed the operational aspects of how to execute it. That side of things went amazingly well. No major hiccups.

Even though we haven't changed anything operationally that should have increased our costs, everything cost significantly more this year. Printing, rental items, lease cost and labor all went up. We budgeted for incremental increases, but some things nearly doubled in cost, even though we got less in product. I would be interested to know if this is a trickle down sort of cost increase, or if it is price inflation based on fear of the current economy and/or fear of what may still be coming.

The other thing I noticed is how some pricing changed. Vendors seem to be manipulating their advertised prices through either including or separating out surcharges and fuel costs. Delivery charges have increased, and are always tacked on, though none of the delivered items are of a nature that they could be procured any other way. I think they should just roll that into their price, but that isn't the American way.  Our vendor invoices are starting to look like a phone bill, with a dozen small charges for various items, instead of flat rate pricing. 

I am anxious to get all the bills paid and all the deposits made, to see how the numbers shake out. 

I can almost walk without limping today.  My dining room is a dumping ground of all the signage and other festival detritus that needs to be sorted through and dealt with.  My email inbox is overflowing with comments from the festival.  My house is a disaster that I ignored for the past two weeks as 'work' took precedence.  Ah, no rest for the weary.

March 6, 2011

Final Salute by Jim Sheeler, fifth and final part

On the tarmac in Reno, the white glove reached into the limousine, but Katherine Cathey couldn't move.

"Katherine," Beck said, "it's time."

"I'm not ready for this," she said. "I'll never be ready."

Her mother leaned into the car and spoke to her daughter.

"Katherine," she said. "Jim would want you to see this."

Katherine looked at her mother, then at Beck, and took his hand. After climbing from the car, she steadied herself, her arm intertwined with Beck's. Then she looked toward the plane.

At the sight of the flag-draped casket, Katherine let loose a shrill, full-body wail that gave way to moans of distilled, contagious grief.

"NO! NO! Noooooo! Not him! Noooooo!"

She screamed as the casket moved slowly down the conveyor belt. She screamed until she nearly collapsed, clutching Beck around the neck, her legs almost giving way.

At the base of the luggage ramp, the screams hit the pallbearers.

Of all the Marines they had met or trained with, Jim Cathey was the one they considered invincible, built with steel-cable arms and endless endurance - a kid who had made sergeant at 19 and seemed destined to leapfrog through the ranks.

Most of the Marines who would serve as pallbearers had first met "Cat" at the University of Colorado, while enrolled in an elite scholarship program for enlisted infantrymen taking the difficult path to becoming officers. They partied with him, occasionally got into trouble with him, then watched him graduate with honors in anthropology and history in only three years.

When they lifted his casket, they struggled visibly with the weight, their eyes filling with tears as they shuffled to the white hearse.

After they placed the flag-drapped coffin inside, Katherine fell onto one corner, pressing her face into the blue field of stars.

Beck put a hand on her back as she held the casket tight. By then, he was close enough to her to know that she wouldn't let go. He kept his hand on her back until he found a solution.

"Would you like to ride with him?" he finally asked. She looked up, dazed, and replied with a sniffling nod. She took his hand again as he guided her to the front seat of the hearse, where the surprised funeral directors quickly moved papers to make room for her.

Jim Cathey's mother, father and sister took their own time with the casket, caressing the flag, remembering.

His mother, Caroline, thought of the baby who used to reach out to her from the crib. His father, Jeff, saw the boy he watched grow into a man on long hunting trips through the barren landscape nearby.

His sister, Joyce, saw the kid who became her protector. The day after she learned of his death, she had his face tattooed on the back of her neck, so "he will always be watching my back."

Last of all, the young Marine who had escorted his friend home walked up to the casket and came to attention.

Only a few months before, Gavin Conley had stood before his best friend at the formal commissioning ceremony in Boulder, where Cathey received his brass lieutenant's bars.

For Cathey, it was one of the most important days of his life, and Conley knew the best way to share his pride.

At the end of the ceremony, Conley walked up to the new lieutenant and snapped his arm to his brow, giving the new officer his first salute.

In front of the casket on the tarmac, Conley again brought his hand to his face, this time in one slow, sweeping movement. As the family wept, his hand fell to his side.

His job as escort was officially over.

Before climbing into the hearse with Katherine, Beck took one last look at the scene, fixing on the plane. By then, the passengers had moved on, leaving the Marines and the family alone with the casket - and everything that was about to follow.

*

Five days before Jim Cathey returned home, two uniformed men sat in a government SUV, several blocks from Katherine Cathey's home in Brighton, and bowed their heads.

Beck and Navy chaplain Jim Chapman closed their eyes in prayer as the chaplain asked for "words that will bring the family peace."

This time, Beck was dressed in a drab green uniform in accordance with a controversial new mandate from the top brass not to wear dress blue uniforms to notifications, based on concerns that the distinctive blues had become too associated with tragedy.

It was a warm, blue-sky Sunday afternoon. Nearby, a neighbor mowed his lawn.

When the knock came, Katherine Cathey was taking a nap. Her stepfather saw the Marines first and opened the door.

"We're here for Katherine," Beck said quietly.

"Oh, no," Vic Leonard said.

At first, Katherine's mother thought it was someone trying to sell something. Then she saw her husband walking backward and the two men in uniform.

"Oh, no," she said.

"She's pregnant!"

Leonard suggested to his wife that she wake up Katherine. Vicki Leonard shook her head. She couldn't speak.

When her stepfather opened the door to her bedroom, Katherine could hear her mother crying. She thought something had happened to someone in her mother's family. She had never heard her mother cry like that.

"What's going on?" Katherine asked her stepfather.

"It's not good," he told her. "Come with me."

Her own screams began as soon as she saw the uniforms.

Katherine ran to the back of the living room and collapsed on the floor, holding her stomach, thinking of the man who would never see their baby. Finally she stood, but still couldn't speak.

As Beck and the chaplain remained on their feet, she glared at them. She ran to the back of the house and drew a hot bath. For the next hour, she sat in the tub, dissolving.

Shortly after their arrival, Beck had ducked back outside to make a quick phone call.

Inside a government SUV in Reno, just around the corner from the home where Jim Cathey grew up, another phone rang.

*

The toolbox was a mess.

Jim Cathey's mother stood in the garage, trying to find the right wrench to fix a sprinkler head in her front yard.

What a frustrating morning, she thought.

As she prepared to leave for the hardware store, the family dog started to howl - a howl like she had never heard before. She put the dog in the house and drove off.

When the silver SUV pulled up, the Marines inside assumed someone was home. A lawn mower sat outside and it looked as if someone was doing yardwork.

No one answered the door.

A neighbor drove up, looked at them and pulled into an adjacent driveway. The Marines started to get nervous. The neighbor looked out a window at them. Their orders were to remain parked at the house until the parents returned.

When Caroline Cathey drove up, she saw the strange government vehicle, then fixed her eyes on the man in the driver's seat.

"She saw me; she pulled in," Capt. Winston Tierney said. "And I hate this, but I think she might have suspected when she saw me. She got out of her vehicle and I told my guys, 'Time to go.' "

Caroline Cathey's hands went to her face.

"As I made my way up the driveway, we didn't say anything," Tierney said. "I wanted to wait until I was there. She looked at me and it looked like she was going to collapse. I supported her and tried to give her a hug."

He recounted the conversation from there:

"Please don't let it be," she said.

"I'm sorry to have to be here today. Can we go inside and sit down? There are some things we need to confirm."

"Please tell me it's not Jimmy, please tell me it's not my son."

The Marines stayed with the Catheys for the next 10 hours. With Caroline's help, they contacted Jim Cathey's 9-year-old daughter, Casey, who was born while he was still in high school. Casey, along with Katherine, had pinned the lieutenant's bars on her father only a few months before.

Casey's mother and stepfather drove the little girl from Carson City, Nev., to Reno, where another one of the Marines - an operations chief who had children of his own - told her that her daddy had been hurt in the war and wouldn't be able to come back. He asked her if she understood. She answered with tears.

The Marines held fast until Jim Cathey's father, Jeff, returned from a trip he had taken to his son's favorite hunting grounds, where he was scouting for game birds.

When it was all over, the Marines climbed back into the silver SUV. A staff sergeant looked at Tierney.

"Sir," he said. "Please don't take me on another one of these."

*

The flag never left Jim Cathey.

From the moment his body departed Iraq, the sturdy, heavyweight cotton flag remained nearby, following him from the desert to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where a mortuary affairs team received his body.

According to the Department of Defense, Cathey was killed in Al Karmah, Iraq, on Aug. 21. Members of his unit later told family members that Cathey was leading the search of an abandoned building when a booby-trapped door exploded. The explosion was so fierce it blew off an arm and leg of the Marine directly behind Cathey.

That man, now in recovery, credits his lieutenant with saving his life.

Once Cathey's remains arrived at Dover, the mortuary affairs team began the delicate task of readying his body for the final trip home. When possible, military morticians prepare a body for viewing by the family. In Cathey's case, that wasn't an option.

Specialists at Dover wrapped his body in a white shroud and covered it with a satin body-length pillow and his dress blue uniform before closing the casket lid and securing the flag nearby.

When the plane landed in Reno, the same flag was draped over the casket, which was loaded into the hearse to continue its journey to the funeral home.

After all the noise at the airport - the screaming, the crying, the whining of jet engines - inside the funeral home each footstep echoed.

The pallbearers carried their friend's body to the front of an enormous empty room, then faded into the background. Beck posted himself at the head of the casket, his face frozen in the Marine stare.

His eyes trained forward, he still saw everything.

Inside the room, Cathey's mother, Caroline, bent down to hug Katherine. They squeezed each other for a long time.

"You give me strength," the young widow said.

Other family members sat on couches and some sat on the floor - hugging, holding hands, their eyes locked on the casket, for nearly half an hour.

Finally, Beck broke the silence.

"I'm sorry," he said, excusing the family from the room. "There are some things I need to do."

*

Beck motioned to the pallbearers and began the instructions that would hold for the next three days.

Although the Marines are required to stand watch over a comrade's body, once the casket is safely inside a locked mortuary or church, they usually leave at night and return when the mortuary reopens.

This time, however, the watch would not end.

"Katherine and Caroline have both expressed concerns about Jim being left alone," Beck told the Marines. "So we won't leave him alone."

He then explained how to guard the casket. They all had posted watch before. They had stood at attention for hours as part of basic training, but nothing like this.

They were to take shifts of about an hour at a time, Beck instructed, standing watch 24 hours a day. When changing the guard, they were to salute Cathey's casket first, then relieve the other Marine the same way.

He showed them the slow salute - the one they aren't taught in basic training - three seconds up, hold for three seconds and three seconds down.

"A salute to your fallen comrade should take time," he said.

For Beck, that salute embodies more than the movement itself. Earlier in the day, someone had asked him about the arrival of "the body." He held up his hand with a
firm correction.

" 'The body' has a name." he said. "His name is Jim."

In the room, he walked up to the casket and paused.

"Now, this is important, too," he said. "If a family member wants you to break, you can break. They may want to hug you or kiss you. That's OK. Hug them. If someone wants to shake your hand, shake their hand. I'll take my glove off when I shake their hand - you don't have to, it's up to you. But then go back to position.

"Everyone understand?"

"Yes, sir," they responded. "Roger that."

"This is a serious business," he said. "Jim is watching you."

As the other Marines filed into the hallway, closing the door behind them, Beck walked back to the casket. For the first time, he and Jim Cathey were alone.

It was time for the final inspection.

*

Beck walked up to the casket and lifted the flag back, tucking it into neat pleats and leaving just enough room to open the heavy wooden lid. He walked around the flag several times, making sure each stripe lined up straight, smoothing the thick stitching with his soft white gloves.

Then he lifted the lid.

For the past five days, Beck had spent hours looking at pictures of Jim Cathey, listening to the family's stories, dabbing their tears. When he looked inside, they were no longer strangers.

For the next 10 minutes, Beck leaned over the open casket, checking the empty uniform that lay atop the tightly-shrouded body, making sure every ribbon and medal was in place. Occasionally, he pulled off a piece of lint or a stray thread and flicked it away.

Although casualty assistance officers receive an advisory from military morticians about whether a body is "viewable," some families insist on looking. The casualty assistance officer is often the one to make last-minute recommendations, since by then he knows the family and - after the final inspection - knows exactly what the family will see.

Whether or not the family decides on a viewing, Beck said, the procedure is no less meticulous.

In Cathey's case, the family decided not to look under the shroud. But Katherine wanted a few minutes alone with the open casket, to give her husband a few of the things they had shared - and one he never got to see.

Beck ran his hand alongside the shroud, taking one last look at the uniform.
He closed the lid and turned toward the door.

*

Katherine draped her body over the smooth wood, pressing her pregnant belly to the casket, as close to a hug as she could get.

Beck placed a hand on her back.

"Tell me when you're ready," he said. "Take your time."

He stepped back.

The air conditioner clicked on, filling the room with a low hum. Ten minutes passed. It clicked off, leaving the room to her soft moans.

She moved only to adjust her feet, continuing to rub her belly against the wood.

She closed her eyes and whispered something.

Then she looked up at Beck.

"OK," she said.

As she stood at his arm, he opened the casket.

She didn't cry. She didn't speak. He gave her a few seconds, then took her hand and brought it to the middle of the empty uniform. He held her hand there and pressed down.

"He's here," he told her. "Feel right here."

She held her hand on the spot, pressing the uniform into the shrouded body beneath. She dragged her hand the length of all that was there.

Beck walked back to get the personal belongings Katherine had brought with her from Colorado.

"Where do you want to start?" he asked.

"With the picture of us kissing," she said.

She placed the picture at the top of the casket, above the neck of the uniform.

She bent down and pressed her lips to it.

"I'm always kissing you, baby," she whispered.

She took several other photos of their lives together and placed them around the uniform. She gently added a bottle of her perfume, then picked up the dried, fragile flowers of her wedding bouquet.

Before Jim Cathey had left for officer training, they were married by a justice of the peace in Denver, planning a big wedding on his return from Iraq. Her wedding dress still hangs in her closet at home, unworn.

She placed the flowers alongside the uniform, then turned again to the major.

"The ultrasound," she said.

The fuzzy image was taken two days after her husband's death. Katherine had scheduled the appointment for a day when Jim was supposed to call, so they could both learn the baby's gender together. He had a feeling it was a boy, he had told her. If it was, she suggested they name the child after him.

She stood cradling the ultrasound, then moved forward and placed it on the pillow at the head of the casket. She stood there, watching for several minutes, then removed it.

She walked the length of the casket, then stepped back, still holding the only image of James J. Cathey Jr.

She leaned in and placed it over her husband's heart.

*

In the house where Jim Cathey grew up, a tattered stuffed animal still peers from a heavy wooden chest.

"This is Floppy Floyd," his mother said. "The last time he was here he said he wanted to take Floyd back, for the baby."

She held the stuffed animal to her face. Elsewhere in the house, she still has all of Jim's baby teeth and every award he ever won.

On his bookshelf, encyclopedias are shelved near the Louis L'Amour novels she used to read to him, next to a collection of Thucydides' writings.

"These are the things that made him who he is today," she said, then caught herself in present tense.

"Who he was today," she corrected herself softly.

Later, in the kitchen, she paused at a note that has hung on the refrigerator since the day Jim left home.

"See you all later. You know I love you and will be thinking about you every minute of every day. I miss you. Don't worry about me too much. I'll be back May 8th as a Marine! Write as much as you can. I will look forward to the letters. With all my love, J.C."

She looked away from the note and at the things that made Jim Cathey who he was.
"Maybe now I know why my son was always in a hurry," she said.

*

Jeff Cathey almost didn't make it to his son's funeral. From the moment he saw the Marines at the door, he was thinking of his own.

Jeff, who suffers from clinical depression, spiraled deeper the day the Marines came to the house, to the point where his family worried more about him than their own grief. His wife hid all of his guns. Even so, the day after he found out about his son's death, he insisted on going back to the hunting grounds where he and Jim had spent their best times together.

"Before he left, I made him swear on his son's life that he would come back to me," Caroline said.

"I thought about doing it. Ending it," Jeff said, breaking into tears. "I really did. I want to be with him."

As he sat on the couch, he tried to compose himself.

"Good thoughts," he told himself. "Good thoughts."

And then found plenty.

"One of my finest memories was when we were hunting and he came back to the car, overturned a pail, sat down and started doing his homework.

"I wish I had a picture of that."

"You do," his wife said, rubbing his back, pointing to his head. "Right up here."

*

Inside the mortuary the night before Cathey's funeral, two Marines stood near the casket, unfurling sheets on a makeshift bed.

"Make it look nice, dude, make it look nice," one of them said.

"Who are you, Martha Stewart?" the other shot back with a grin.

Another looked at the blanket.

"If you're pregnant, do you get hot or cold?"

One of the Marines who has a child of his own looked at the bed.

"She's going to need another pillow," he said. "Since she's pregnant, she'll need to put a pillow between her legs."

Then they saw car lights outside and took their positions.

Earlier that day, Katherine had told them she couldn't bear to spend the last night away from her husband. She said she would sleep on a pew if she had to. The Marines found her an air mattress instead and promised to be ready.

Arriving exhausted, she almost immediately crawled onto the bed they had made for her. Her stepfather helped tuck her in.

"Do you have another pillow?" she asked. "I need one to put between my legs."

One of the Marines crouched down and asked if they should continue to post guard in the room.

"We can do whatever you want," he said. "We can stay or we can give you some privacy."

"I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it," she said. "I think that's what he would have wanted."

Photo by Todd Heisler

After one of the Marines dimmed the lights, Katherine opened a laptop computer on the floor. In the blue glow of the screen, she listened to the songs they would have played at the wedding they never held.

She swayed, then closed her eyes.

As drowsiness set in, she picked up an old T-shirt - the last shirt Jim Cathey wore before changing into his cammies to leave for Iraq. She hadn't washed it. It still smelled like him.

She held the shirt to her face and breathed in.

*

Just past midnight, Staff Sgt. Andrew Price walked to the back of the room and, like a watchful parent, dimmed the lights further. Then he closed Katherine's computer.

For the next hour he stood, barely illuminated by the light behind the altar, until another Marine approached from the shadows, paused before the makeshift bed and raised his hand in slow salute.

As each man was relieved, he walked into a spare room next to the chapel. In the darkness, one by one they spoke:

1:37 a.m. Staff Sgt. Andrew Price

The lanky Marine had stood watch at dozens of funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, but none prepared him for this.

"We would have stayed as long as Katherine wanted us there tonight. Even if she wanted us to go, I would have stayed there for her. I would have walked around in the shadows. Some way or another, we're always going to try to take care of her."

Of all the hours he has walked sentry, the last hour and a half was the hardest.

"It's almost selfish of us to die. James won't have to see her like that. They train us as warriors. They don't teach us how to take the pain away."

2:28 a.m. 2nd Lt. Charlie Loya Jr.

They call him the joker of the group: a massive man with a massive laugh.

"(After Cathey got killed) People would ask me how I'm doing and I'd say, 'I'm fine.' And I was. Then (at the airport) . . . we picked the casket up off the conveyor belt and all I heard was Katherine screaming. I thought, 'My wife would be doing the same thing.' Then all I could think about was my son."

When he heard about Cathey's death, he was scheduled to leave for Iraq in two weeks. Inside the room, he realized there were only eight days left.

"(Before Cathey died) people would ask how I felt about going over there. I'd say, 'I'm confident, I'm prepared and my boys are ready.'

"Now I'm f---ing scared."

3:19 a.m. Staff Sgt. David Rubio

"Cat" would have wanted them to laugh, he said, so he did.

"He was the smartest dumb guy I knew. I used to always tell him that. He was just a big oaf. I keep seeing that face, that big cheesy face."

He got up, paced the floor, holding the grin, the way the big oaf would have wanted.

"I got a call from him a couple months ago . . . The last thing he said was, 'Mark time, dude. Mark time. I'll see you in the fleet.'

"It just basically means, 'I'll be waiting for you.' "

4:23 a.m. 2nd Lt. Jon Mueller

He looked at the dark wall and thought of the casket on the other side.

"I'm still going to go when they ask me to go. But I also want people to know what I am doing. I'm not a very emotional guy. I don't show emotion, but I know that it's important for people to know how much you care for them. I'm not the kind of guy who can say, 'I love you.' It's not easy for me.

"I'll make it so that my loved ones know that I love them."

5:19 a.m. 2nd Lt. Jason Lindauer

"Cat was doing what he loved. I suppose that makes it a little easier, but . . . I called my (4-year-old) son on the phone, and he said, 'Daddy, my friend Cat got killed.' (My wife had told him.)

"I said, 'Yeah, I know buddy. Cat's in heaven.' "

The Marine began to cry.

"(My son) said, 'Well, when's he coming back?' "

He lowered his head.

"I said, 'He's not, buddy.' "

*

As the sun rose in Reno, the casinos continued to chime. Diners began to fill. In the newspapers that hit the porches, Iraq had been pushed to the back pages again.

While the city churned, the sun found the building where Katherine Cathey awoke.

"It's the best night of sleep I've had," she said, surprised. "I really slept."

As she sat, wrapped in a blanket, her eyes bleary, she looked at the casket.

"You take for granted the last night you spend with them," she said. "I think I took it for granted. This was the last night I'll have to sleep next to him."

Behind her, the next Marine approached, preparing to take over the watch.

"I feel like they're my angels looking over me," Katherine said.

She placed her hand on her belly.

"Looking over us," she said.

It starts in slow motion.

At a windswept cemetery near 2nd Lt. Jim Cathey's favorite hunting grounds, the Marines moved as if underwater, a precision slowness, allowing everyone in the cemetery to study each move, each frame, holding it as long as possible until it's gone.

Beck stood back and started the ritual again.

"Present military honors," he commanded.

In the distance, seven members of the rifle guard from Reno readied their weapons. Because the Reno unit was so small - with many of its members in Iraq - they called in recruiters and other Marines from across the state to help with the duty.

"Ready. Aim. Fire."

With each volley, almost everyone in the shelter flinched.

"Ready. Aim. Fire."

The Marines at the casket held steady.

"Ready. Aim. Fire."

They knew the hard part was still to come:

Taps.

As the bugler played, the Marines held onto the flag. Second Lt. Loya blinked almost continuously, trying to hold back the tears.

After the last note, they began to fold.

The afternoon before, the pallbearers spent more than an hour with Beck as he instructed them on how to fold the flag. For such a seemingly simple task, there are hundreds of ways to get it wrong. Especially when you're folding it for your friend's pregnant wife - especially when you're folding his flag for the last time.

The Marines took their time, stretching one fold after another, until the flag strained, a permanent triangle. A sergeant walked up and slipped the still-hot shells from the rifle salute into the folded flag.

Beck took the flag, cradling it with one hand on top, one hand below, and carried it to Katherine.

He bent down on one knee, looking at his hands, at the flag, his eyes reddening.

Before his tears could spill, his face snapped up and he looked her in the eyes.

"Katherine," he said.

Then he said the words meant only for her - words he had composed. When he was done, he stepped back, into the blank stare.

Capt. Winston Tierney walked forward, carrying another flag for Caroline Cathey.

The night before, the Marines had used the flag to practice, draping it over the casket - not only for themselves, but also so that Jim Cathey's mother would know that it had covered her son.

The captain bent down on one knee, passed the flag into Caroline Cathey's hands, then faded into the background.

For a group of Cathey's friends, there was one more task.

The Marines, many of whom had flown in from Okinawa the night before, walked up to the casket. One by one, they removed their white gloves and placed them on the smooth wood. Then they reached into a bag of sand the same dark gray shade as gunpowder.

A few years ago, while stationed in the infantry in Hawaii, Jim Cathey and his friends had taken a trip to Iwo Jima, where nearly 6,000 Marines had lost their lives almost 60 years before. They slept on the beach, thinking about all that had happened there. The day before they left, they each collected a bag of sand.

Those bags of sand sat in their rooms for years. Girlfriends questioned them.

Wives wondered what they would ever do with them.

One by one, the young Marines poured a handful of sand onto the gloves atop the casket, then stepped back.

Sgt. Gavin Conley, who had escorted his friend's body to Reno, reached into the bag, made a fist and drizzled the grains onto the casket.

Once again, he slowly brought his bare hand to his brow.

A final salute.

"(The day after sleeping on the beach), we all did a hike up Mount Suribachi, where our battalion commander spoke, and we rendered honors to all the fallen on Iwo Jima," Conley said.

He looked over at the sand.

"Now they can be part of him, too."

Minutes after the ceremony ended, a windstorm blew into the cemetery, swirling the high desert dust.

Beck was one of the last to leave, giving his final commands to the cemetery caretakers in the funeral shelter: Make sure the sand on the casket doesn't blow away.

"It's important," he told them.

As he drove away from the cemetery, Beck replayed the last few hours in his mind, looking for lessons for the next time, hoping there wouldn't be one, but knowing there would.

He thought back to the latest funeral - from the moment he rang the doorbell in Brighton until he handed the flag to Katherine and said those words that usually begin, "On behalf of a grateful nation . . ."

"You know, everyone always wants to know what the words are, what it is that I say," he said. "I don't say it loud enough for everyone to hear."

There are scripted words written for the Marines to follow. Beck has long since learned that he doesn't always have to follow a script.

"I'm basically looking into that mother, father or spouse's eyes and letting them know that everyone cares about them," he said. "But the words are nothing compared to the flag."

He then drove several miles without speaking.

In his mind, the subject had not changed.

"You think about the field of cotton somewhere in Mississippi, and out of all of it comes this thread that becomes this flag that covers our brave. Think about it.

"I had a cotton field right behind the house when I was going to command and staff college. Imagine being that farmer who owned the cotton field. Imagine if one of these parents was able to take a flag back to him and say, 'That flag came out of your field and escorted my son home.'"

He shook his head.

"The things you think about," he said.

It's usually on these long drives that he allows himself to step back from it all, or at least tries to. He still hasn't learned how to step back far enough.

"One morning after burying a lance corporal, all I wanted to do was come home and play with my children. Just take them into a corner with all their things and play with them," he said. "But you know, all I was thinking about while I was playing with them were all those guys out there in harm's way, making all that possible.

"Here we are, while they're out there. Someone could be under attack right now.

Someone could be calling for an airstrike . . ."

Someone could be standing at a door, preparing to knock.

"This experience has changed me in fundamental ways," Beck said. "I would not wish it on anyone, but at the same time, I think that it's important that it happened to me. I know it's going to have an impact on someone's life that I'm going to meet years from now."

In a year, he said, so many scenes return. The doors - and doorbells. The first time he completed a final inspection. Sand on a casket.

The scene he sees the most, however, is not of a single moment but the entire journey, viewed through someone else's eyes.

"One thing keeps coming back to me," he said. "It was during the memorial service for Kyle Burns."

The service came only a week after Beck first parked in front of that little white house in Laramie, watching the perfect snow, preparing to walk through it all.

During that memorial service, Kyle Burns's uncle, George Elsom, recounted the call from his devastated sister, who phoned him after she first saw the Marines at the door.

"At Kyle's memorial service, his uncle talked about all they had learned since that night." Beck said. "Then he looked at us and said something I'll never forget."

"He said, 'If these men ever come to your door, don't turn them away.'

"He said, 'If these men come to your door . . .

" 'Let them in.' "