Since this is Thanksgiving week, I will only post this one short Captain’s Comment.

Thanksgiving Day — the day we sit down and gorge like pigs on turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, rolls and pie. This is the day America unbuttons its collective pants and sits around watching football, while complaining about how we overate again after we promised ourselves last year we would not do it. But hidden in this day of gluttony is the idea of actually giving thanks for what we have.

I am first and foremost thankful for my family. I have two wonderful parents who raised me well and taught me many invaluable principles that have served me well in life. The more I model my life around their teachings and the gospel of Christ, the better my life becomes. I am thankful for two brothers whom I love but do not see often enough. I am thankful for a loving wife. As my father says, we three boys all married above us, and I can see how this is true in my wife. I am thankful for her family. Her mother has welcomed me into her family with open arms. I am so glad that we do not have a stilted in-law relationship. I call her “Mom,” and I love her.

I am thankful for this country. The United States is not perfect, but it is by far the best country in the world. I have spent about a third of my life living outside the U.S., and while I have loved living in many countries, I remain an American. As de Tocqueville said, “America is great because it is good. When it ceases being good, it will no longer be great.” I am thankful for a President who understands that we first need to be good to be a nation that is great. I am thankful that we are free, and I am thankful for the brave men and women who bear arms to keep this nation free.

As you sit down at your table and get ready to feast, spend a few minutes and thank God for your many blessings.

And now for a rant. I love the holidays. I love the food and the family get-togethers that come with them. But I really dislike the way people try to rush holidays. Specifically, I am talking about Christmas. One of my pet peeves is the way some stores and cities will put out Christmas decorations waaaaaaay before December. I believe this year’s winner of the dubious honor of being first was Rite Aid. I noticed two aisles of Christmas decorations were in place near the end of August. Yes, I understand that Christmas is a prime money-maker for stores and businesses, but this is not helped in any way by putting out the Christmas stuff early in the year. I have made a personal decision not to patronize a store that pushes Christmas items too early.

It’s very simple. Halloween decorations should not appear before the first of October. Thanksgiving themes apply to the month of November. Christmas and all its associated trappings should not start appearing in stores or on TV until the Friday after Thanksgiving at the earliest. Learn to savor each holiday as it comes, but please do not rush headlong into the next holiday before the first has passed.

OK, I feel better now. Time to get things ready for Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003, Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah made history as he became the first Utah governor to resign from office. On that same day, Lieutenant Governor Olene Walker also made history as she became Utah’s first woman governor. Leavitt had been nominated by President Bush to head up the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C., and his recent confirmation by the Senate meant he had to quit his day job.

The EPA is not an agency without controversy. In my geography class, a student expressed her appalled outrage at the selection of Leavitt to head the EPA. She did not tell us why she disliked the appointment, but to be honest, there was no time to really discuss this issue. Since this student is a native Californian, I ask myself why she did not like Pres. Bush’s choice. I doubt she has followed Leavitt’s terms of office in Utah, so what was the source of her distress? Could it have been the liberal major media, or the even more liberal National Public Radio? If you had only listen to these biased sources, you would probably hold the same image of Leavitt dining on spotted owl after a hard day of clear-cutting forests and spilling oil into streams. And the Democrat senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee took Leavitt’s nomination as an invitation to start complaining about Pres. Bush’s environmental policies, as if Leavitt had any say in them.

Now do not get me wrong — I love a nice clean environment as much as the next man. Who does not favor a beautiful forest over a city dump? Who wants to live in his own filth? OK, so having seen some teenagers’ bedrooms, I can imagine some people do, but most of us do not want to live like that. While we love the environment, there are people who take this love a bit too far. As much as I miss the wonderful green forests of the Pacific Northwest, I do not reverence them as others do. Where a rabid environmentalist sees a forest and dreams of ways to keep people out of it, I appreciate the beauty of that same forest and imagine how many homes could be created from those trees. After all, trees can be replanted.

Weyerhaeuser, the wood and paper magnate, plants over 100 million trees each year — many more than they cut down. It is in their best interest to ensure there are plenty of trees available. But how many trees does the Sierra Club plant each year? You may be assured that it is not near as many as Weyerhaeuser plants. This is a good example of the difference between a company that sees trees as a useful and renewable resource and a group of tree-huggers who worship the trees more than they appreciate what trees can do for people. The Sierra Club wants to “save” the environment by using the ham-fisted force of government, while Weyerhaeuser actually does more for the environment because it wants to keep making money. Weyerhaeuser’s self-interest does more for the forests than all of the environmentalists’ self-righteous actions.

One of the big news items in the last month was the huge forest fires that destroyed almost 3,000 buildings and about 110,000 hectares of land in California. As tragic as these fires were, they could have been prevented easily. People both in and out of government had been petitioning for permission to go in and clear out the forests. This does not mean clear-cutting every tree; it means selectively harvesting the dead trees. A forest that is kept clean in this way will not be devastated by fire as we saw in California. Any wildfires will not be as big if all the deadwood has been removed. No fuel means no fire, or at least not the roaring fires we witnessed. With the deadwood cleared away, a forest fire will merely clear out the dead underbrush.

As I mentioned, people have petitioned for permission to clear out the forests, but environmental groups have succeeded in their fight to prevent this from happening. They claim to operate from the notion that any clearing and maintenance of the forest is a bad thing, but I wonder if they secretly cannot stand the idea that someone might gain financial benefit from clearing the forests. I do not have a problem with people clearing the deadwood, selling it, and benefitting from their hard labor. It is true that the forests are public lands, but if these people put in the hard work, they should reap the rewards. Yet it is clear that groups who claim to champion the environment are usually more anti-capitalism than pro-environment.

The anti-logging ecofreaks are not the only ones who claim to be for the environment, but whose actions cause more harm than good. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a radical pro-animal rights group that has caused its own share of damage in the name of helping the environment. In northern Utah, members of the ALF broke into a mink ranch, freed the minks and set fire to the buildings. Minks were meant to live free, according to the ALF. But since these minks had been raised in captivity, they had no skills to survive in the wild. Many either stayed in the burning buildings or ran back into them, burning to death. Others were killed by predators. Many ran headlong onto a nearby freeway and were mowed down by trucks. The ALF wanted to save the minks, but they ended up being responsible for their deaths. This is a common error in the actions of environmental groups. They want to free “captive” animals, but they usually cause more problems than they solve. ALF does not confine its activities to just Utah. You can read a self-congratulatory description of its recent activities here or here. Thankfully, the government is starting to recognize ALF activities for the terrorist actions that they are. Clinton Colby Ellerman was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in bombing a Utah mink farm. The actions of ALF are a great example of how liberal nut-jobs, believing that they are somehow protecting the environment, are spreading death and destruction among the very creatures they claim to be protecting.

In the years that Mike Leavitt serves as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the environment will be better served if it is treated more like Weyerhaeuser and less like the Sierra Club or ALF.

In my last comment, I wrote about diversity and how the liberal Left views diversity as a worthy goal. The Left has a very monolithic view of race that is outright racist: people are lumped into a group and are expected to behave as part of that group. How narrow-minded! You are not an individual in their view; you are nothing more than a tag: Black, Conservative, Latino, Gay, Southern, Woman, Man.

This is why Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown are so vilified by the Democrat senators. Here are two people who ought to be marching lock-step to the liberal view of what a Latino and a Black should be. How dare they have independent thoughts! Let’s look a little closer at these two nominees put forward by Pres. Bush and blocked by the liberal Democrat senators.

Justice Miguel Estrada spent over two years before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In fact, it took over 16 months before Estrada was granted his first hearing before the committee after his nomination. This is a prime example of the Democrat foot-dragging President Bush has endured during his time in office — something that the liberal Democrats refuse to acknowledge even today. Estrada had the gold seal of approval from the American Bar Association with their “well-qualified” rating. But this was not sufficient for the Democrats on the committee. Why are the liberals so afraid of letting Estrada’s nomination be voted on by the whole body of the Senate? It is simple — he would get the 51 votes needed to be confirmed a member of the D.C. Court of Appeals, and this would put him on the short list for a Supreme Court position when one comes open. Had he been approved, Estrada might have been the first Hispanic judge to sit on the nation’s highest court, but the liberals, ever-faithful champions of the minorities, have blocked his nomination. You see, he isn’t “Latino” enough for them. He does not fit their narrow-minded vision of what a Hispanic person should be, and so they refused to even give him the decency of a full Senate vote. In September, tired of the 28 months of partisan wranglings of the sanctimonious liberal Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Estrada withdrew his name from consideration for this judgeship.

Pete Martinez summed up the liberal Democrats’ position in his post to “We have found nothing negative in Mr. Estrada’s past. He is by all accounts a brilliant attorney. Was a brilliant student, has led an exemplary life and is a bona fide role model not only to Latinos, but indeed to all Americans — but he refuses to answer our questions on how he would decide cases that may come before the court — he refuses to tell us that he would decide as we the Democrats believe he should decide, so it can only mean he would use either his independent thinking or follow the philosophy of the Republican party — so we cannot allow him to be confirmed.”

Justice Janice Rogers Brown is another well-qualified nominee for a high court position. But she is also being blocked by the liberal Democrats sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They view her as being far out of the mainstream, so she should not sit on the D.C. Court of Appeals. It is interesting to note that she was reelected to her California judgeship with 76% of the vote. How can she be so far out of the mainstream when a pretty liberal state like California is so firmly behind her? The answer is simple: she is not out of the mainstream, but she is too conservative for the far-left liberal Democrats in the committee. She isn’t acting Black enough in their viewpoint to be a good judge. Sen. Kennedy called Brown and the other nominees “Neanderthals,” but this racist comment barely made a ripple in the news. But the message is clear: if you are a minority, you had better conform to the Democrat concept of how you should behave. If you dare to think or act differently than the way liberals think you should, then you are somehow not Latino or Black enough. If you are Black, you must be the liberal stereotype of Black. If you are Hispanic, you must be the liberal stereotype of Hispanic. If you are female, you must be the liberal stereotype of female. What a bunch of pig-headed, racist nonsense!

The problem with this static liberal view of race is that race in America is far from static. People have called Tiger Woods, the championship winning golfer, Black or African-American. But they do so by ignoring the rest of his heritage. Newsweek, in December 1996, reported that “Tiger is one-eighth Native American, one-eighth African-American, one-quarter white, one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai.” Tiger himself explained in a press release, “On my father’s side, I am African-American. On my mother’s side, I am Thai. Truthfully, I feel very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African-American and Asian!” We can see that regardless of percentages, Tiger identifies himself the way he wishes. He sees himself as both Black and Thai while these identities are 12.5% and 25% of his makeup, respectively. He could just as validly claim to be Native American and White, also 12.5% and 25%. Does his race matter? Only to people who like to pigeonhole other people.

At what point do we tell someone that he or she cannot be called Black/White/Purple/whatever because he or she is less than 25%/10%/5% of that race? Years ago, this was a major issue for society. The following breakdown of races comes from a 1884 book with a truly long name: The People’s Cyclopedia of Universal Knowledge, with numerous appendixes invaluable for reference in all departments of industrial life. The whole brought down to the year 1884 with the Pronunciation and Orthography Conformed to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. Illustrated with More than Five Thousand Engravings, and Fifty-two Handsomely Colored Double-Page Maps., by W.H. De Puy, A.M., D.D.

Father Mother Half-Caste
White Negro Mulatto
White Indian Mestizo
Indian Negro Chino
White Mulatta Cuarteron
White Mestiza Creole, only distinguished from the white by a pale brown complexion.
White Chinese Chino-blanco
White Cuarterona Quintero
White Quintera White
Negro N.A. Indian Zambo or Cariboco
Negro S.A. Indian Mameluco
Negro Mulatta Zambo-negro or Cubra
Negro Mestiza Mulatto-oscuro
Negro Chinese Zambo-chino
Negro Zamba Zambo-negro (perfectly black.)
Negro Cuarterona Mulatto (rather dark.)
Negro Quinterona Pardoc
Indian Mulatta Chino-oscuro
Indian Mestiza Mestizo-claro (frequently very beautiful.)
Indian China Chino-cholo
Indian Zamba Zambo-claro
Indian China-cholo Indian (with short frizzy hair.)
Indian Cuarterona Mestizo (rather brown.)
Indian Quintera Mestizo
Mulatto Zamba Zambo
Mulatto Mestiza Chino (of rather clear complexion.)
Mulatto China Chino (rather dark.)

According to the definition of the late 19th Century, someone who is only 6.25% Black is considered White. Judging from his Black heritage, Tiger Woods would be classified a Quintero (12.5% Black) had he lived in the 1880s. But all this hyper-sensitivity over race misses the whole point now that we live in the 21st Century. Regardless of the race of the mother and father, the resulting child is an American.

Isn’t that much simpler?

A common catch-phrase among certain crowds is “Our strength is our diversity,” or the reverse, “Our diversity is our strength.” It has become a self-evident, unquestioned concept in recent years. But is this really a hard and fast rule that we should use to govern our lives?

Certainly there are some valid reasons to seek out diversity. Lack of diversity, for instance, is one objection to cloning animals on a large scale. If one animal in the cloned herd is susceptible to a disease, then all of the animals are susceptible. One nasty contagious bug and you have lost your entire flock of cloned sheep. In this case, the flock’s diversity is definitely the flock’s strength. Does this concept apply to other aspects of human life?

The University of Michigan has hit the news twice this year regarding Supreme Court decisions dealing with diversity. The Supreme Court rulings did not make sense to me, since they tossed out a clearly-defined form of discrimination but upheld a sneaky and underhanded form of discrimination. I figure if we must have discrimination to provide diversity, it would be better to know beforehand how that discrimination will work. That may make sense to me, but not to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s opinion basically stated that the need for diversity in our society outweighed the 14th Amendment’s right to equal treatment under the law. Is diversity really that important? Will I learn chemistry better if the person sitting next to me in class is a different race, age, or gender? How, exactly, does the different skin color of the person next to me make me a better student of inorganic chemistry?

In a scene from the movie Joe vs. the Volcano, Joe’s boss Mr. Waturi asks repeatedly in a phone conversation, “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” Since the University of Michigan was favoring minority applicants over those with higher GPAs and test scores, the university was in essence saying that it valued enrollment of minority students more than it was concerned with their preparedness and readiness to succeed in college — that it was more concerned about minority students “getting the job” than being able to “do the job.” And yes, minority drop-out rates are greater in schools that give preference to race over ability. Do you notice the racism the University of Michigan is displaying? It is not asking for the best and brightest students. If you happen to be a minority, you are not held to the same standard as others who apply. The University believes that you cannot possibly do as well as other students, so it condescendingly lowers the bar to allow you in. Are you comfortable with the thought that the University of Michigan believes you are incapable of competing with other students because you are part of a minority group? This is racism.

I am not saying minority students are any less able, but if a school sets a standard of a cumulative SAT score of 1300 for entrance and lowers the requirement to 1000 for a specific group, then we should not be surprised to see that second group struggling with performance in school. This bar-lowering does not have to be associated with race. For instance, most prospective firefighters are required to lift a 150-pound load and carry it at least 500 yards; if that requirement is lowered or ignored for female firefighters, the end result will be a number of firefighters who could not successfully pick you up and carry you out of a burning building. Would you be comfortable with that if you were trapped in a burning house? Has a sexually diverse workplace made the firefighters better at their jobs? It has not if the basic requirements have been lowered just to promote diversity. The principle is sound — if you lower expectations, you will get less skilled people.

Since the last paragraph discusses generalities, let me use a specific example of diversity run amok. Opinion writer Michelle Malkin wrote about how discrimination in the name of diversity has affected two people. Patrick Chavis was admitted to the University of California-Davis medical school under a special quota program for minorities. Allan Bakke, who had higher scores than Chavis, was not admitted because he did not have the right skin color. Both Sen. Ted Kennedy and Jane Fonda’s ex-husband Tom Hayden stood up for Chavis and praised the decision to admit him over some other guy because of his minority status. Sen. Kennedy proclaimed that Chavis was “making a difference in the lives of scores of poor families.” And what a difference he made.

Malkin proceeds to describe the nature of the “difference” Chavis made: “An administrative law judge found Chavis guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in the treatment of three patients. Yolanda Mukhalian lost 70 percent of her blood after Chavis hid her in his home for 40 hours following a bungled liposuction; she miraculously survived. The other survivor, Valerie Lawrence, also experienced severe bleeding following the surgery; after Lawrence’s sister took her to a hospital emergency room, Chavis barged in and discharged his suffering patient — still hooked up to her IV and catheter — and also stashed her in his home. Tammaria Cotton bled to death and suffered full cardiac arrest after Chavis performed fly-by-night liposuction on her and then disappeared …. In 1997, the Medical Board of California suspended Chavis’ license, warning of his ‘inability to perform some of the most basic duties required of a physician.’”

Here is the liberal Left’s poster boy for diversity through discrimination, performing horribly. Chavis has since died, the victim of a shooting, but who knows how many people continue to suffer or who bear the scars of his ineptitude? Tell me honestly, which doctor would you choose to perform emergency open-heart surgery on you: the surgeon who was top of the graduating class, or the one who got into medical school not because of fine skills or good grades, but because of skin color or gender?

I like diversity. Without it, my life would be one boring continuous slog through sameness. I love different foods, different people, different scenery, different experiences. But this diversity comes because I desire it — there is no need for some bureaucrat to mandate it into my life. True diversity comes from the freedom to choose the best. During the years I worked for Microsoft, I became friends with team members from Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Ireland, Italy, England, Syria, Canada, and all over the United States. These talented men and women were picked because they excelled in their chosen profession, not because of their looks or background. And because the best people were picked for the job, the natural outcome was a wide diversity of people, ideas and backgrounds. It was freedom, not the underground racist cry for diversity at all costs, which made this possible.

Addendum: In November Sen. Edward Kennedy, booze-hound, bad driver, and liberal Democrat from Massachusetts said that the Democrats will “continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president.” When Sen. Trent Lott made some off-the-cuff joking words about Sen. Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday celebration, the liberal Left burst a major artery with outrage. Oh, the venom that dripped from leftist pens and lips as they attacked Lott for praising someone who was once a segragationalist. Oh, the humanity! So Lott, as Republicans tend to do, fell on his own sword and stepped down as the Majority Leader of the Senate.

Now we have some hateful words spoken in dead earnest, and you barely hear a comment about it. Here is a quick and dirty search I did on “Lott Thurmond” and “Neanderthal Kennedy” looking just for these issues:

Kennedy Lott
CNN 0 40+
CBS News 0 1
ABC News 0 20+
FOX News 2 20+

Notice the trend here? I thought you might.

November 11th is Veterans Day in the United States. This is the day we remember our servicemen and women who have placed their bodies “between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.” This is the day when everyone should buy some poppies from those old guys wearing the funny hats, who hang around at stores and street corners. Buy a few, shake their hands and thank them for their service. Look them in the eye when you do this, and then thank God that your eyes have been spared the horrors that these grey-haired gentlemen have witnessed. They do not know you, but they did it for you.

I am thinking of an elderly man whom I never had the chance to meet, but who was a friend of my father for many decades. Homer lied about his age so he could enlist in the Oklahoma National Guard at 16. Later, when the Army discovered that he had not finished high school, they discharged him so he could complete his education. But then it was December 7th, 1941, and Homer turned right around and went back to his unit. During his five years of service, he fought in Africa, the island of Sicily, mainland Italy, Austria, and Germany. On his first day of combat, his entire regiment was held down by some artillery on the near hillside. Homer and his brother crept up the hillside under cover of darkness, assaulting and killing the 12 to 14 soldiers who were manning the artillery there. He was wounded in this encounter and in many others, but he never sought attention from the medical corps. Homer knew that if he did, they would pull him from the front lines, and he could not desert his friends in the 45th Infantry Division. His last combat was in Munich, fighting room to room and to the last man in SS headquarters. He was awarded both the Silver and Bronze Stars for his actions, but it was only a short time before his death as a very old man that he was finally awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. You did not know him, but he served to protect your freedom.

I am thinking of my grandfather, Virgil. He was part of the 1st Cavalry, 7th Division, the same in which Custer served. During World War II, this division went island-hopping through the Pacific, liberating civilians from the Japanese. Virgil was called “Pops” by the troops since, at 33, he was by far the oldest one there. He did not need to serve in the military–he had been working for Shell Oil, and jobs in the petroleum industry were just as vital to the war effort as front-line soldiers. Virgil wanted to serve, but he explained to his bosses that he could not care for his family with a private’s pay. Shell told him that they would make up the difference if he wanted to serve, so he went and signed right up. Virgil volunteered for the Navy, but when the final assignment came he was tapped for service in the Army. He was part of the forces that landed on the islands of Leyte and Luzon, in the Philippines. At one point on Luzon Island, Virgil was asked to go and retrieve a wounded soldier. Since he didn’t have his boots on at the time, his friend James Jory jumped up and went instead. James ended up dying on this mission, having gone in my grandfather’s place. Later a telegram arrived at home indicating Virgil was missing and presumed dead, followed shortly by a telegram with the news that he was wounded and in the hospital. He was decorated for his two years of service. You did not know him, but he served to protect your freedom.

I am thinking of my wife’s grandfather, Karl. For many years, all that his family knew about his military experiences was that he had served honorably in World War II. It was not until the early 1980s, when his file was finally declassified, that Karl was free to tell his family that he had served in the 10th Mountain Division. He was part of the elite ski troops, but his most important missions were covert and deep behind enemy lines in Italy and Germany. During one of these missions, he was wounded in the leg; it was later amputated. He remained reticent to discuss most of his service to the end of his days; he died a month before Veterans Day 2004. While he was most likely worthy of being decorated, he did not seek for any medals. If you had visited his study, you would immediately have noticed his love of sailing ships, books, and family photographs, but there was nothing on display to indicate that he even served in the military. Those were memories he would rather have forgotten. You did not know him, but he served to protect your freedom.

I am thinking of my father, Bob. He had a love of flying from his earliest days, and this propelled him into a career in the Air Force. I grew up with the knowledge that the only good pilots were fighter pilots, and I was glad to hear the sonic booms of fast-flying planes. That one could be my Dad’s plane! Shortly after completing his training for the F-4, he was called to serve away from home. His squadron was based in Thailand, but his flights took him over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. On Bob’s twenty-third mission, his plane was shot up on the way to his bombing run, as was another F-4. After completing their bombing runs, the two planes headed back to base, looking for refueling tankers and safety. Bob’s airplane was leaking fuel badly and shortly would have flamed out over hostile territory. The pilot of the other F-4, Bob Pardo, suggested an untried feat that would later be known as
Pardo’s Push. Pardo managed to push the other damaged fighter jet for over ten minutes. He succeeded in pushing Bob’s airplane out of Vietnam airspace and into Laos. The four airmen ejected from their damaged, failing planes, and were picked up by a trained rescue crew. After recovering from his wounds from this mission, my father went back to complete one hundred missions. Bob, and the other three pilots involved in Pardo’s Push, were eventually awarded the Silver Star. You do not know him, but he served to protect your freedom

So today, when you see someone standing by the grocery store holding out some plastic poppies, shake that hero’s hand and thank him with all your heart for the service he gave so you could be free. And buy a poppy, and remember why they sell them today.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, Canadian Army
(pictured above)