More Snarky Snippets

The headline catches my eye …

Fox News: The Arrest Of Roger Stone Was Worse Than Benghazi

I ponder … dig through my dusty memory bank.  As I recall, there were a number of fatalities during the attack on the American diplomatic compound and the CIA annex, four of them U.S. citizens. And I seem to remember 11 non-fatal injuries, again four of them U.S. citizens, the rest Libyan.  So … were people killed when FBI agents pounded on Mr. Stone’s door, yelling, “Open up … FBI!”?  Who died?  I hadn’t heard that there were deaths and injuries, had you? fox-stone-raid

I read the article …thearticleI really liked both of the comments. Look, Fox people, Roger Stone is far from an innocent citizen peacefully minding his own business.  He is into the Trump-Russia scandal so deep that I’m surprised he can still breathe.  Stone has been a piece of trash for decades.  For once, he got a taste of what he deserves.  Enough said. Grow up and knock off with the Benghazi comparison, for there simply isn’t one.


Now, remember I cautioned you yesterday that while we are watching that giant Trump-a-ganza of a circus complete with clowns and elephants, there are things going on that we should be aware of?  Well, here is one of those things …

Trump plan to reclassify nuclear waste alarms environmental groups

The Trump administration wants to reclassify some radioactive waste left from the production of nuclear weapons to lower its threat level and make disposal cheaper and easier. The proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy would lower the status of some high-level radioactive waste in several places around the nation, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — the most contaminated nuclear site in the country. Reclassifying the material to low-level could save the agency billions of dollars and decades of work by essentially leaving the material in the ground, critics say. – Associated Press, 10 December 2018

hanfordsiteFacilities which would be affected include the country’s most highly contaminated: the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, which takes up an area half the size of Rhode Island. Opened in 1943, the site produced the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945, according to its website. The production of nuclear materials carried on until 1987, leaving behind waste that threatened the local environment, prompting the state and federal authorities — including the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to pledge in 1987 to clean up the site, without success.

Other facilities mentioned in the plans are the Savannah River Plant, South Carolina and the Idaho National Laboratory, according to the Associated Press.  Oh … and speaking of the Savannah River site …

US secretly shipped plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada

WTF???  According to the AP report …

The U.S. Department of Energy revealed on Wednesday that it secretly shipped weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to a nuclear security site in Nevada months ago despite the state’s protests.

The Justice Department notified a federal judge in Reno that the government trucked in the radioactive material to store at the site 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Las Vegas before Nevada first asked a court to block the move in November.

Department lawyers said in a nine-page filing that the previously classified information about the shipment from South Carolina can be disclosed now because enough time has passed to protect national security. They didn’t specify when the one-half metric ton of plutonium was transferred.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said he’s “beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception.” He announced at a hastily called news conference in Carson City late Wednesday the state is now seeking another court order to block any more shipments of plutonium as it pursues “any and all legal remedies,” including contempt of court orders against the federal government.

Secretary of Energy … Rick Perry … the same Rick Perry who, back in 2017, said that increased use of fossil fuels will lead to a reduction in sexual assaults.  Save a buck at the potential cost of ours and future generations lives.  What could possibly go wrong?


Here we go again …

Last week, the Trump administration announced it will allow a ministry in South Carolina that only works with heterosexual Christian families to participate in a federally funded foster care program.

That means Miracle Hill Ministries can receive federal funding to participate in the program while discriminating against non-Christians, as well as the LGBT community.

WTF???  When did it become okay for a religious organization to receive federal funds?  And when did it become okay to discriminate???

The organization was in violation of a regulation issued by the Obama administration that states organizations receiving funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can’t discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

But Trump’s HHS, under Secretary Alex Azar, issued an exemption for the ministry to participate in the program, writing that to force it out would be a violation of its religious freedom.  No, no it would not be a violation at all of its religious freedom, but it is a violation of the concept of separation of church and state to allow this bigoted religious organization to collect federal funding.  Period.  What is so damn hard to understand about that concept?


From the ‘You’ve Got To Be Kidding?’ Annals …

You remember Sebastian Gorka, right?  He served briefly as an ‘advisor’ to Trump in 2017, until his connections to an anti-Semitic group in Hungary became known.  He’s never quite gone away though, and is now a contributor to Fox News.  His latest …gorka-rbg

First of all, Gorky, Ruth Bader Ginsburg does NOT ‘have to’ attend the State of the Union address.  If you will look back to last year, she did not attend the State of the Union address then, for she was in Rhode Island for a late-morning “fireside chat” at Roger Williams University’s law school before speaking at a temple in Providence later that evening.  There is no ‘requirement’ that anybody attend!  And second of all, YOU cannot even spell her name right!

But there’s even more.  Remember that fringe group, Q-Anon?  They have put forth the conspiracy theory that RBG is hiding a secret illness, or she is dead.  FOR PETE’S SAKE — do these fools have nothing better to do than sit around and think up fairy tales???  Couldn’t they, perhaps, do something useful to contribute to this world?


Well, now that I’ve got all that out of my system, I’m going to bed.  G’day, my friends!

South Carolina Wants To Leave Home …

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860, and was one of the founding member states of the Confederacy in February 1861.  And now, they want to do it again.  According to an article in The Hill …

A group of Republican state legislators in South Carolina introduced a measure Thursday that would allow the state to secede from the United States if the federal government began to seize legally purchased firearms in the state.

The bill, which was referred to the state House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would allow South Carolina lawmakers to debate whether to secede from the United States if the federal government were to violate the Second Amendment.

It states that “the general assembly shall convene to consider whether to secede from the United States based upon the federal government’s unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution if the federal government confiscates legally purchased firearms in this state.”

Now, since the major secession of the Civil War, a number of states have gotten their knickers in a wad and tried to run away from home, but in each case the idea either failed to gain momentum or was struck down in the courts.  In 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry raised the issue of secession in disputed comments during a speech at a Tea Party protest saying “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that … My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.”  I have no idea what he was talking about, but remember that it was Rick Perry, the current and unlikely Secretary of Energy, and last November’s Idiot of the Week award winner.

The State of Alaska tried it in 2006, but the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that secession was illegal and refused to permit an initiative to be presented to the people of Alaska for a vote.  (See Kohlhaas v. State of Alaska)

Mike Pitts

Back to South Carolina … the measure was put together by three republican (go figure) state representatives – Mike Pitts, Jonathon Hill and Ashley Trantham – in response to anti-gun violence advocates who, in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida shooting in February, have stepped up demands for new gun control laws, calling for prohibitions on assault-style weapons and stronger background checks for gun buyers, among other measures.

Ralph Norman

If you doubt how seriously South Carolinians take their guns, consider this:  U.S. Representative from South Carolina, Ralph Norman, was holding a town hall style meeting with his constituents in a local restaurant last Friday, when, to the dismay of most in the audience, he pulled a loaded gun from his pocket and placed it on the table in front of him.  The idea, he later claimed, was to show that firearms are not dangerous.  He kept asking people if they felt safer, and many later said they did not feel safer and were very uncomfortable about it.  I would have gotten up and left.  One constituent said, “I was very angry. I felt like it was a move to intimidate.”

The likelihood that this bill to secede will go anywhere is near nil, but the idea that they would consider seceding from the union just to be able to own assault weapons should be lost on nobody.  In 1860, states began seceding because they wished to maintain their right to own other human beings.  Now, in 2018, at least one state is threatening to secede because they wish to maintain their right to own what I would call ‘weapons of mass destruction’, for assault weapons are made only for the purpose of mass killings.  There is a part of me that wants to send them on their way and wish them well, and then petition for a border wall, not on the U.S.-Mexican border, but around the state of South Carolina!

It is a sad statement when I tell you that, in all honesty, I am far less afraid of any Muslin or Mexican, anybody from any other country, than I am the citizens of my own country who are willing to go to any lengths for the right to own killing machines.  And it is a sad statement when, instead of working together to find compromises that are acceptable to all, that make our nation safer and better, we want to hurt others.  Whatever happened to putting human life above all else?  Whatever happened to reaching out to others and seeking to understand?  What ever happened to caring, to compassion?  And for that matter, where have gone intelligence and common sense?  Think about that one for a bit.

This t-shirt was seen at a recent rally in South Carolina.

Who Will Pay For This One???

Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions filed for bankruptcy this week.  I cannot say I’m sorry, for they brought it on themselves.  I’m sorry for the average-Joe who has money invested in FirstEnergy, sorry for the company’s employees who stand to lose their livelihood, but I have no empathy for the major shareholders, nor for the company’s executives.  Now, you might have seen this in the news, shrugged, and moved on to juicier news, like the latest about Stormy Daniels, figuring it doesn’t have much to do with you.  WRONG!

First things first.  The reason the power company is in self-inflicted financial trouble is its determination to tie itself to coal and nuclear plants instead of diversifying into renewable energy and other types of electric generation.  Whether Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt or Donald Trump choose to believe it, climate change is real and therefore the fossil fuel industry is a dying breed, being replaced by cleaner, cheaper renewable energy sources.  FirstEnergy failed to open its eyes, it beat a dead horse too long, and now it, too, is dying.

Worse yet, though, is the fact that FirstEnergy believed We The People should bail them out, despite their mortal wounds being self-inflicted. Two days before filing for bankruptcy, FirstEnergy asked Energy Secretary Rick Perry to use the department’s emergency powers to keep its coal and nuclear power plants open.  The company wanted Perry to declare an emergency in the power industry, saying the nation’s security would be jeopardized if the power plants were not kept open.  There is no national security threat here and industry officials and experts were largely angered by the request.

FirstEnergy Solutions’ coal and nuclear plants have been struggling to compete in the competitive power markets because of low wholesale power prices, a trend that has been sustained by low natural gas prices, rising renewable energy penetration, and relatively flat electricity demand — a result of consumer awareness and more energy-efficient appliances. For two years, FirstEnergy has realized they had problems, yet have done nothing more than warn that they might soon seek bankruptcy relief, assuming they would be bailed out by the taxpayers.

Back in January, Rick Perry came up with a plan to raise consumer energy bills in order to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants, in accordance with Trump’s determination to slow the progress of wind and solar energy.  Fortunately, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously rejected Perry’s plan (there are a few level heads left in Washington, it would seem).

In September 2017, Perry fabricated a threat to national security by saying that power grids using renewables were subject to instability and that FERC should force consumers to pay billions of extra dollars for coal and nuclear power plants that are already obsolete.

PJM Interconnection, the grid operator for FirstEnergy as well as others, said in September that there was no threat to national security and that “there was no need to use the agency’s emergency powers to keep FES’ five big power plants operating.”

In the bankruptcy suit, in addition for asking relief from the more than $1 billion owed to Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co., the company is seeking to be released from power purchase agreements with renewable energy producers.  The contracts were necessary at the time to acquire sufficient credits to meet state renewable portfolio standards, but they are no longer needed now, since the regulations have been largely gutted.

The upshot:

If Rick Perry decides to give in to the company’s request for the Department of Energy to declare an emergency, here’s what would happen.  The grid operator, PJM, would be forced to dispatch power from FirstEnergy’s coal and nuclear plants effectively before any other.  This means that while plants generating electricity through gas, wind or solar may be doing so much more economically, FirstEnergy would get to go to the head of the line.  The only good news is that it would protect the jobs of the nearly 3,000 employees of FirstEnergy.  The immediate downside is twofold:

  • It would hurt other energy companies, especially those who provide electricity from clean, renewable sources.
  • It would raise the price of electricity to consumers – both individuals and businesses – in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.

Obviously there are other, more long-range consequences.  The fossil fuel industry is dying, and no matter how much of our money they throw at it, Trump/Pruitt/Perry cannot revive it in the long run.  When businesses start having to pay more for their electricity … guess what, folks?  They start charging more for their goods & services.  And then there is the added damage to an already sick environment, the parameters of which I cannot even begin to quantify.

This bankruptcy is making other fossil fuel-based energy companies nervous.  Remember Murray Energy?  They issued a statement that reads, in part:

“Murray Energy Corporation expresses our sincere sympathies to the management and employees of FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. (“FES”), during this very difficult time.  Indeed, what makes this matter even more hurtful is that this bankruptcy could have been avoided, had the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) done its job and enacted the Department of Energy’s September 29, 2017 Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule, which sought to ensure the reliability, resiliency, and security of the electric power grids in our Country.  As a result of FERC’s failure, critical power plants will close, thousands of American jobs will be lost, and the reliability, resiliency, and security of our electric power grids will be forever compromised …”

Whatever happens, it is almost a given that the consumer will be on the raw end of this deal.  What I find more concerning is the blatant disregard of Rick Perry, as head of the Department of Energy, and Trump, as the leader of the nation, to see that they are beating a dead horse, and that it is we who will pay the price.

A Few Bits Of Good News On The Environment

Yesterday the high temperature where I live was 76° (F), 24° (C).  Yesterday was 20 February 2018.  It is never 76° in my area in February, nor in March.  The average high temperature for this time of year is 43°. Perhaps by mid-April we see temps in the 70s on occasion, but never, ever in February.  Now, admittedly I enjoyed the warmth of the day — Miss Goose and I went for a nice walk … I only managed 3.2 miles, but she went 5.6, and we both felt good about our accomplishments after a winter of inactivity, but … You don’t believe in global warming or in climate change?  Well, I do.

bumblebee on flowerFor one thing, when nearly all of the world’s climate scientists confirm the same data and draw the same conclusion, I am convinced, for they are the experts, not me, not Donald Trump, Rick Perry or Scott Pruitt.  For another thing, I can see and feel the difference from, say, ten years, or even five years ago.  There are fewer bees about in the springtime, the air is harder to breathe, the humidity levels in summer are much higher and the temperatures throughout the year, on average, much warmer.  The sky never looks as clear (okay, sure, I am half blind, but still …) I can observe these things on my own.

Sadly, we are governed by a bunch of stodgy and stupid men who deny or choose to ignore the evidence produced by scientists, and who do not leave their air-conditioned offices long enough to observe nature.  Rather than consider the work of the scientists, they simply dismiss the scientists and remove the words “climate change” from their new, alternative vocabulary.  Problem solved, right?  WRONG.

I don’t do a regular feature on the environment, but when news crosses my path that I think matters, I try to incorporate it into my work.  Today, there is some good news (and some bad news).  But just for today, let’s look at the good news, for that always makes us feel a little better, and I find hope in some of the steps being taken to defy the administration’s destructive environmental policies, or rather undoing of policies.seperator

One of Michigan’s largest public utilities, Consumers Energy — which provides power for more than 60 percent of the state’s residents — has promised to stop burning coal completely by 2040 in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The company plans to completely phase out coal and generate 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar.

wind turbinesIn 2016, Consumers Energy closed down 7 of its 12 coal-fired power plants, which reduced its emissions by 38%.  They currently get 24% of their energy from coal and 10% from renewable sources.

“We believe that climate change is real and we can do our part by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we also believe it doesn’t have to cost more to do it,” Consumers Energy president and CEO Patti Poppe said, adding that coal has become less cost competitive as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall.

Michigan’s other major energy company, DTE Energy, has also pledged to shutter its coal plants by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

According to a recent cost analysis from the financial firm Lazard Ltd., it is currently cheaper to build and operate renewable energy projects than to operate coal and nuclear plants in many parts of the United States.

Despite Trump and Pruitt’s best efforts, many more power plants are steering away from coal and into cleaner, less costly renewable energy sources. seperatorJust the words “oil pipeline” raise the hackles of those of us who care about the environment.  Keystone, Dakota Access.  New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, is saying “hold on just a minute there …” in response to the 120-mile PennEast Pipeline. PennEast is seeking eminent domain over nearly 147 parcels of land in New Jersey and has started proceedings to condemn, or gain legal permission to take control of these areas.  Grewal, acting on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting information from PennEast regarding site-specific information detailing how environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized.  Thus far, the company has not provided any such information to DEP.

The pipeline would cross some 30 streams, and no information has been provided for how that would be safely done.  Additionally, there has been no study performed to determine whether the properties PennEast wants to condemn would even qualify for permits under the Clean Water Act.  February 1, the New Jersey DEP rejected PennEast’s application for a water quality permit pending provision of the requested information.

This is one to watch, and will speak volumes about whether FERC is serving to protect our environment or to lick Donald Trump’s boots, but I am pleased to see the DEP and New Jersey Attorney General taking a stand.seperator

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

Last week, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California took a stand against Trump’s destructive moves.  For 30 years, federal standards governing the efficiency of home appliances and commercial equipment have been updated with bipartisan approval, producing major cuts in energy usage and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers also have saved money on their utility bills by using highly energy-efficient appliances. But in the Trump administration, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, has missed several deadlines for updating appliance efficiency standards and is expected to miss several more in 2018.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ordered the Trump administration to end its hold on rules that would strengthen appliance energy efficiency standards and help consumers save money on their energy bills.  According to Kit Kennedy, a senior director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) …

“The Trump administration’s baffling decision to block the final procedural step could have cost Americans $8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers. Today’s ruling reaffirms that the Trump administration must follow the laws designed to ensure America’s consumers and businesses aren’t forced to pay needlessly higher energy bills.”

Score another one for We The People.seperatorSmall victories, of course, but victories nonetheless.  It is encouraging to see states, energy companies and the courts standing for protections for our planet, not afraid of Trump and his minions.

Finally … Some Good Sense!!!

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power struggling in competitive electricity markets.

The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding.

– The Washington Post, 08 January 2018

Paul Bledsoe, a former Energy Department consultant under President Obama, said, “This outright rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear shows that Commissioners of both parties have little interest in manipulating electricity markets in favor of any fuel source,”

As with most things, there is a caveat.  The commission said that it shared Perry’s stated goal of strengthening the “resilience” of the electricity grid, and as such directed regional transmission operators to provide information to help the commission examine the matter “holistically.” Holistically, apparently meaning outside mainstream science? Perry’s proposal favored power plants being able to store 90 days fuel supply on site in case of emergency, unlike renewable energy or natural gas plants.

John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project Coalition, said, “The law and common sense prevailed over special interests today. The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy’s proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act. Secretary Perry’s plan would have subsidized coal and nuclear plants with a 90-day fuel supply yet Perry never explained why those plants were inherently more reliable or resilient.”

Although FERC could issue a new order after submissions by regional grid operators, the language in the current order suggested it would stand by the trend toward free competitive electricity markets. For once, common sense protection of the environment won the day.  Let us hope this is only the first of many such moments.

And The Winner Is …

The results are in and have been tallied, and I will share them with you in just a moment.  But first, there was a bit of a problem with the poll this year.  I left off the most obviously qualified contender for the award, Donald Trump.  Now, I had good reason, as when I first established the Idiot of the Week, and subsequent Idiot of the Year awards, I made a few rules, one of which was that nobody could be given the award more than once.  Since Donald Trump won hands down in 2016, I did not for a moment consider putting him in the running in 2017.  But many readers were disappointed and asked me to reconsider, or to give him some special award.  I try always to be open-minded, and allow things to evolve as they will.  So, I added a ‘write in’ space, and said that if Trump got the most votes, I would give him the award.  Sadly, the write in worked for some readers, but not for many others, and I was unable to fix that problem, so Donald Trump received only two write-in votes, though I believe he would have topped the list if everyone had been able to write in his name.

I thought long and hard, and what I have come up with is a special award to be given to Donald Trump, which I will do after I present the regular awards. So, without further ado …

The Grand Prize Idiot of the Year award goes to none other than

Idiot of the YEARMs. Kellyanne Conway!!!

kellyanneKellyanne earned 31% of the votes, and there is, perhaps, no more prominent defender of Donald Trump. She is ubiquitous on TV, explaining Trump’s tweet du jour, even if Trump contradicts her hours later. I will do a more in-depth analysis of the many things that have led to this moment of glory in Conway’s career, but for today, suffice it to say that she more than deserves this award.

Tied for 2nd place, with 13% of the votes each, are U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania, Mike Kelly, and Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. I was torn as to which was the bigger idiot, but given his longer history of idiocy, I have awarded 2nd place to Mr. Rick Perry ….

And the 3rd place prize goes to Mr. Mike Kelly …

 

The three write in votes were:

  • Donald Trump – 2 votes, 6% of total
  • Sarah, the Huckster, Sanders – 1 vote, 3% of total

And now to the special award.  By popular demand, I present a special award, Filosofa’s Lifetime of Idiocy Award, to

 

Mr. Donald Trump!

My resident artiste did not have time to create a new medal for this event, so I am using one I came across.  I am certain that Mr. Trump will appreciate this award and be bragging about how great he is.

Thanks to all who took time to vote, and I am sure that a year from now we will have an entire new batch of idiots from whom to choose.

Filosofa’s Idiot of the YEAR Award — 2017

It is finally here … the moment you’ve all been waiting for … the selection of an Idiot of the Year!!!  This year, just as last, there are so many superb specimens from which to choose that it will be a difficult call, but I encourage you all to join in the fun and cast your votes!  I have put a listing of all the candidates with links to their Idiot of the Week award post, in case you need to refresh your memory.  There will be three winners, the Grand  Prize, and second and third runners up, so you may vote for three candidates.  Just go to the poll at the bottom of the page and click in the square next to the name … it’s that simple.  Results will be published on Monday, January 1st 2018, in order to give everybody a chance to vote.  Voting closes at midnight on December 31st.

Rep. Mike Kelly

Rick Perry

Sen. Chuck Grassley

Julie Gunlock

Paula White

Jeffrey Lord

Wayne Allyn Root

Sean Spicer  I actually felt rather bad for including poor Sean, but he did win the weekly award …

Mike Cernovich

Jason Rapert

Steve King

Dr. Ben Carson

Kellyanne Conway

I can’t believe I only did 13 of these all year!  It’s not as if they are hard to find.  Remind me next year to do a better job on this.  Now go vote for your favourite idiots!!!

 

A Story With A Happy Ending

I’m in the mood for a happier story today … hope you are too!

It was a chance meeting of two politicians at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, and it went largely unnoticed, lost in the noise and bluster that defined the convention.  However, it may just have been the most, if not the only, shining moment of the entire convention.

The two men, Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell and candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana, Rob Maness, would appear to have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are both republicans and both just happened to be attending the convention.  Mr. Maness was meeting with former Texas governor Rick Perry, discussing Mr. Maness’ current campaign, when Mr. Perry suggested that he meet with Mr. Birdwell.  An aide was dispatched to bring Mr. Birdwell to the meeting.

maness

Rob Maness

birdwell

Brian Birdwell

 

 

 

 

 

Upon introducing the two men, Rick Perry, who was aware that Maness had been in the Pentagon on 9/11, said “Rob, I want you to meet somebody. He was in the Pentagon on 9/11, too.”  Naturally, a common bond had been formed with those few words, and the men began to share their stories.

In 2001, Birdwell worked for the Army and, on the morning of Sept. 11, was in an office in the Pentagon with two colleagues watching the live footage of the Twin Towers burning. At 9:35 he stepped out to go to the bathroom, telling his co-workers he’d be right back. It was the last time he ever spoke to them.

Less than 10 minutes later, as Birdwell left the bathroom, American Airlines Flight 77 barreled into the side of the building, the nose of the aircraft less than 20 yards from where Birdwell stood. He was engulfed in flames, parts of his polyester Army pants melted to his skin, his arms were skinned, and he collapsed with blood and black soot caked to his charred body. He lay there in the burning hall thinking of his wife and his teenage son and their goodbyes that morning. He tried to accept that he was dying.

Yet, minutes later, he was being carried out of the building and a medic on site quickly hooked him up to an IV. An Air Force officer who was helping the wounded held his leaking IV line and tried to keep him awake.  Birdwell was eventually taken to the hospital where he would spend 26 days in intensive care. More than 60 percent of his body was severely burned, and he would have 39 operations during his excruciating recovery, which took about four years.

pentago-911As Birdwell told his story, Maness recalled that day, remembered holding a leaky IV line, assuring the wounded man that he would be okay, despite the fact that appearances said otherwise. And suddenly he knew that here stood the man he had thought about every day for 15 years.  Here stood the man whose fate he had wondered about for so very long.  “When I realized that I was looking at the same gentleman, I started to cry and told him I was so grateful that he was still alive. We hugged each other and neither of us could believe that we were talking again. What are the odds?”

Both Maness and Birdwell say they will stay in touch now that they have re-connected.  This bond formed in the middle of chaos has strength that most of us will never completely understand, but that we can all appreciate.  Both men say not a day has passed that they did not think of the other.  Both have given back to the world as a result of their experiences that day.  Birdwell started a nonprofit, Face the Fire Ministries, that supports burn victims and wounded service men and women. Maness helped found an advocacy organization to prevent veteran suicides.  Out of the rubble of that day have come some amazing stories like this one, and out of the darkness of the convention last week came this one shining moment.