Friday, January 31, 2014


The president inspired me, relatively speaking, in his State of the Union speech. He is a politician, after all. But, as politicians go, he is one of the best in my opinion. His speech writers did some clever things but the president can also turn a phrase on his own. I have always liked him, not agreeing on everything but think he is the smartest president we've  had in awhile. Maybe not as calculating as some but not afraid to tackle hard issues. He can laugh, joke, think on his feet. But mostly I judge him with, "would I like to hang out with him over a beer."  I WOULD. 

Monday, January 27, 2014



Every three months or so, the Autry cousins convene for a great barbecue luncheon and to be together. The luncheon is always dedicated to our older brother, Raz. He was the brother to die for. Always on top of every family crisis or perceived crises and for sure, family drama. Keeping his memory alive is a big thing to all of us. We know he's checking us out. A few of our stories about Raz are included in his book, "Brothers." He passed from this life to the next, as we say in NC, going on two years.       jda. 

"In one sense there is no death.  The life of a soul on earth lasts beyond their departure.  You will always feel that life touching yours, that voice speaking to you, that spirit looking out of other eyes, talking to you in the familiar things they touched, worked with, loved as familiar friends.  They live on in your life and in the lives of others that knew them."        Angelo Patri

Sunday, January 19, 2014

12 Years a Slave

"12 years a slave" is one of those movies that will stay with you for awhile. And it should. The most disturbing film I've seen, maybe ever. For Southerners like myself, makes me utterly ashamed that the slave owners are my possible ancestors. Although mine, as far as I know, didn't own slaves. We were poor and if you are poor, everybody is in a relative same situation. Still plenty of "white" people prejudice. 

Slavery was particularly brutal. Much basic violence in the movie: beatings, hangings. I think it will get the Academy Award and it should. I thought "Dallas Buyers Club" was good but no real comparison. Plus, I don't think anyone could beat the Chiwetel Ejiofor, the "lead" in "12 Years a Slave." With his eyes you could see the hurt. In fact, this film is a masterpiece and every actor fantastic. 

In a sense, 12 Years A Slave, should force us to reexamine our history and asked, "Are we doing enough with African Americans to make up for our history of slavery. I don't think so. I think this film should inspire us to figure out some way to lift blacks that are in poverty, out. How to do it? 

Maybe pay reparations. (We know how far that would get). If we can pay the Japanese for interning them, (And we should have) why not blacks. Maybe in the case of African Americans, figure out a formula: money for college, education, whatever it takes. 

Am I whistling Dixie or what! Here's the rub and I got this from my wife who is pretty much open to things. People make choices/decisions. An example. A single mother with three small children would like to get out of poverty, get an education, get a future. She can't do it. My wife's view: she made choices to have three children, maybe with different fathers. She has to live with it. She is probably taking politically a Republican view, although she would never admit it. My approach would be that an AA mother shouldn't be denied an opportunity just because she make stupid decisions possibly at one point in her life. Now she is at another point. 

We could solve many if this type of problems with the wealth of the 1% if they would help with individuals. And, I am convinced they would if we had a way to match them up with the single mother with three kids. It is worth discussing. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Gates, former SECDEF's publisher must be thrilled beyond happy. SALES, sales. 

I have listened to Gates on at least three or more interviews. I am seeing him a little more objective than I did initially. I don't blame these guys for writing books. As a writer myself (even though I am the only one who thinks so), I get it. You have this experience and you want to share it. What I do object too and especially with Gates is the  justification of their wrong headed decisions. By any objective view, Iraq and Afghanistan were major f..k ups and no amount of justifying is going to make it right. I haven't read Gates' book and don't intend too. It sounds like the media is doing their typical selective views. Seizing on sensational aspects, even sometimes taken out of context. They too need to be held accountable. 

What Gates saw as a "mess up" by the president, I see as strengths. A good military buddy of mine (the best leader I've known) agrees with this caveat. The Prez f..ked up by wanting to be inclusive, trying to do good by keeping Gates, a Republican, in his cabinet. 
Now it has come back to bite him in the ass in the form of Gates book. 

What I was struck with, however, was Gates avowed commitment to the troops. When I was in the Army, we had this little quip, "nothing is too good for the troops and that is what they get, nothing." This is not really true. In some ways, we go overboard. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the soldiers have Internet and TV and cell phones. Not sure this is helpful. (This can wait for another commentary). 

I think Gates is sincere about his feelings toward soldiers. I was moved when he told about writing condolences to families and crying. However, what Gates and those who have written their perceived story could have done is speak out about the futility of the wars we were fighting. By any stretch, Afghanistan and Iraq were a waste and Gates has to be held accountable for his complicity. The least he could do now is donate the proceeds from his book to some project like Wounded Warriors (Don't know anything about them, only what I've heard). 

Gates could be giving us some commentary now like, "get the hell out of Afghanistan as it, like Iraq, a fast train to nowhere. If we stay there a hundred years, we can not prevail." Gates could chide America. "We f..ked up. Now I want to right it." This is the real way he can support the troops.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

PHU BAI's Alright

Had a moving experience today at UCSF’s Mount Zion Hospital. A guy was sitting with a cap that indicated he was a Vietnam Vet. I did what I always do, “Where were you in Vietnam?” He said “Phu Bai.” 
I said. “Have you ever heard the expression, Phu Bai is alright.” Every GI who served in the northern part of Vietnam knows it. I go to the bathroom and when I come out, he is still there. I said to him, “Are you pretty sick?” 
“Yes. Anus cancer.” 
“Is it related to Vietnam? 
“I think so.” 
“What about VA?” They have turned me lose.” 
“What is your prognosis?” “Terminal.” 
“Sorry. God bless you brother. I will see you, if not on this side, the other side.” I saluted and he gave me a sharp salute back. God bless him.


That is what my wife said to me: "you could not vote for a fat person." She was referring to the Guv of NJ and verbally slapping me. Now, we discover that Christie is a bully and petty and a typical politician. He claims that it was the aide. (The one he threw under the bus). 

I did like him as Republicans go. I would hope that my wife is wrong and his girth would not keep me from voting for him. His bullying would, however. Here's what gets me, in the age of social media, the openness of everything, how a politician thinks he can get away with anything is beyond me. I thought he had the by-pass surgery. Clearly it did not work. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Robert Gates, SECDEF

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’ by Robert M. Gates

I never like the former SecDef, Robert Gates. Not just because he was a Republican but he bought all the bullshit of the previous crowd in the White House, i. e., . winning in Afghanistan/Iraq. Plus, the f..ker came from Texas A and M. What the F..K. I am mostly tongue in cheek but in Nam, I met several from A and M. Maybe I didn't give them enough time but in combat you don't have it to give. This is not about A and M but about an attitude. One platoon leader I remember specifically who was a disaster. Let's call him WaLt. The f..ker wouldn't listen. One night he was suppose to move his platoon but didn't, got his ass and some of his troops blown to hell. I hope they have a memorial to him at A and M. He probably did his best but took the wrong spot to learn. 

Gates put the mad mouth on the Prez and VP. Hell, these are his views. Personly I think what he said about the president is really a compliment--The president not seeing it as his war. F..king A. Roger that. The Prez not believing in the surge. In this case I think that the President let the generals influence him way too much anyway. The biggest mistake the president made was keeping Gates. What the f..k was he thinking? I personally think it makes Gates look bad. All these guys, Gates, Chaney, Rumsfelt write books justifying their actions. I guess it's human nature. However, doesn't make them right and doesn't bring back a single American life lost in a misbegotten wars. 


Denying helping out the long term unemployed is so unspeakable and so f..king unAmerican, I am speechless. The sorry congress, mostly the Republicans, are simply heartless. Listening to these sorry MFers is amazing. For all of you who support your congressmen and women and reelect them over and over, listening to this bullshit, you are more stupid than I thought. You think what has happened to this 1.5 million long term unemployed couldn't happen to you? It could or a loved one or someone you know. Put yourself in their place. What would you do. Do you think your Congressman is worried. He or she is getting his salary, $174,000. And that is just a start. Congressional perks are everywhere. Why does nobody bring this up? Primarily, they want to debate the measles $300 a week the unemployed might get. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


When I was a High School student, Elvis was just coming into his own. The time I remember most is in late summer and my school started early morning football practice. My dad was working on the second shift at the cotton mill and would get home before light. He would let me take the car which was a 48 Pontiac to early morning football practice. I would get to school before anybody and would listen to Elvis on the car radio. My favorite song of his was "Don't Be Cruel." 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Colonel Gene Hawkins

When I ride through the Presideo of San Francisco, I always think of Gene Hawkins. He was the last commander of the Post, I think. What Gene has to remembered for, however, is that he was the premium airborne soldier in the modern army. Gene was a mustang, meaning he came up through the ranks. From Private to Commander of the Presideo of San Francisco. 

My first encounter of Gene was when he was head of the airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. All who want to be paratroopers have to go to jump school to qualify. I tried to intervene with him over a slightly overweight priest that had failed out of jump school. Gene, a good Catholic himself, was unrelenting. If the priest can't make it through jump school, he has no business trying to serve paratroopers. We had a shouting match. He never relented. When we met up at the Presideo, we laughed about it. Gene was such a great guy. In the top three leaders in the Army ever, in my view. A renaissance  man through and through. A great honor to remember Colonel Gene Hawkins. Gene, "Airborne All the Way!"