Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Render to Caesar

(Source)
If you put your faith in the doings of men, in the things of this world, you are bound to fail.

I grow increasingly weary of the negativity in the world, on this blog and others, on Facebook, even in my very soul. It it time to say, "Enough."

Do not speak to me of politics, nor the economy, nor of the many evils which you perceive in the world. There is much to be thankful for, far more than we see in the negativity which surrounds us.

Politicians and businessmen will not save you, they never could, they never will.

Lighten up Francis, enough with the negative waves already.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Matthew 14:28-31 (KJV)
Have a little faith, neh? Your time here will end soon enough, the sky is not falling. It will fall when He wills it.

And not one single day before.

The wind is boisterous as of late...

This too shall pass.

Amen.



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Let's Talk Turkey

Image result for F-14 Tomcat Turkey
The National Interest


No, not that kind of Turkey

Full disclosure here, this is not really a Thanksgiving post.  Sure, I'll sprinkle in a little bit of holiday seasoning, but this is brass tacks time again for me.  

Related image
DailySabah.com

So it's not about this Turkey either.

The Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions defines the "Talk Turkey" phrase like this:  To talk serious business; to talk frankly. We've got to sit down and talk turkey—get this thing wrapped up. It's time to talk turkey and quit messing around.

Ok, that works.  So let's talk.




Just after the mid-term elections, Sarge titled a post “Life, It's Too Short to Worry About Politics.”  While I am in violent agreement with that statement, that doesn’t actually help me not worry about it.  I’ve just been too attentive to current events throughout my life to not be interested and invested in politics.  I’m fascinated by the role of government and the workings of the economy, but I’ve recently realized that I’m thoroughly disgusted by actual politics.  I once thought I’d find my way into the political game as a career, but haven’t felt that way for 25 years.  There’s too much selling of your soul and putting your principles aside for me to want to even consider it.

Sure, I would like to be very happy with blissful ignorance- watching no news, working only for a paycheck, plus vacations and time with family, but I care too much to avoid the news.  I have a few friends that are almost completely unplugged- no TV, no newspaper, just the internet for whatever they do on there, which doesn’t include much email, since I rarely get a timely response.  I don’t know how they do it.  I’m too invested in the state of the union to not worry about the state of our economy, our political discourse, the path our country is on, how one side treats the other, etc.  The reason for this is two-fold.  The first and most obvious reason is my past military service, during which I put my life on the line for our country.  When you sacrifice your time with family, not being there for countless birthdays and anniversaries, as well as possibly sacrificing your actual life, one tends to believe strongly in what you’re standing up for.  Another reason for investing heavily into the health and welfare of our country is because I’m not going to leave this earth with nothing to my name or with my name.  I have sired two children who deserve the same opportunities, freedoms, and joys that I have had.  So I continue to fight, one pithy political post at a time, in an attempt to perpetuate those freedoms.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe my kids will live in a world that was the same one I grew up in. 


The kids are why I tend to pay close attention to current events, despite it being a challenge. The news can make you angry, frustrated, and upset if you let it.  I often do.  Anger might be too strong of a word, but frustrated, perturbed, and a little scared are good alternative adjectives.  Although, after the Kavanaugh hearings, and those amazing gains by certain Dems after the elections were over, ones that didn’t track at all like all the previous results, anger isn’t far behind.

What I’m afraid of, is that those horrible political tactics, the constant bashing in the never unbiased media, the media and politicians perpetuating lies and accusations, even when they are known to be false, the claims of racism everywhere, people playing the victim, identity politics, and a political platform that is based solely on those tenets, all of this rings true and loudly with so much of our population these days.  Our youth are indoctrinated and brainwashed early, and college kids get absolutely no critical debate or thought, nor a healthy exposure to different opinions  They are slammed with the idea that the right is evil and racist, that the rich must pay, and absolutely nothing about how conservative policies are good.  They only ask if something makes them feel good, not whether or not it does good.  They believe in instant gratification, but not that hard work is something good, moral and effective, resulting in making themselves and society better.  They only see the far left side of the political spectrum, where social issues are paramount, and the right isn’t permitted.  That’s where anyone that doesn’t view things in the same narrowly defined way, is wrong, heartless, and evil.  They are not taught that personal responsibility is a moral and upstanding concept, blaming only others for the negative consequences that they see.  They are told they can be whatever they want to be, despite the fact that there are no jobs at the end of that dream, or that the cost to get there, via out-of-control tuition, is not worth the return on that investment. 

Yeah, I'm totally killing the pre-Thanksgiving buzz here, but waxing political here is my shtick.  This is Sarge's blog, not mine, and I don't write here daily, so I can't very well show pictures of my yard (it's a steep overgrown canyon) or discuss my trip up to Oregon to visit relatives, like Sarge does with Old Vermonter posts.  You and I just don't have that kind of relationship.  Besides, visiting Vermont is like a 30 minute drive for him.  For me, visiting my Oregon family involves four solid days of driving, or two grand in plane tickets, so it doesn't happen often.  So bear with me a little while longer.  I'll get to my point eventually and it'll all make sense.  Or not.

Thanksgiving Buzz

By the way, I'm pretty excited about Thanksgiving this year, and not just for the food.  My niece and the Grants Pass High School Marching Band, winners of the Oregon State Band Competition, were invited to participate in the Macy's Turkey Day Parade.  I'll have to ensure I'm up early enough to see it.  She's short and plays the Trumpet Trombone French Horn Baritone if you can pick her out.  She actually plays all of them, but she traveled with the Baritone.

Back to the point of our youth indoctrination.  Because of this, they are easily susceptible to far left ideologies that support their views.  They listen to politicians that repeat the same empty promises over and over that make them feel good, but do nothing for the real problems of the world.  While they truly want to help solve those problems, making the lives of people better, they have no understanding of fundamentals, of what it really takes to develop and effect solutions to our toughest challenges.  They only believe that big government and taxing the rich is a panacea.

The result is that we now have a populace that sees themselves as having absolutely nothing in common with anyone on the right.  To be honest, because of their views, I see myself as having nothing in common with them either, but I’ve been ranting for two pages now and I need to get on with it.  When there’s no common ground, it’s us versus them, right vs. wrong, black against white.  So we're left with a political system that does nothing to help keep the other side truly in check.  It’s now brute force politics, demanding absolute consensus of one party just to get a single simple thing done, since the opposing party is absolutely opposed to anything the other side says or does.  There’s no room for bipartisanship when the left is so full of hatred for our President, that they can’t even see how people are actually doing better than they were even two years ago.  I’m not enamored by our President, but I can’t deny the results.  Does he need to STFU sometimes?  Sure, but the conservative policies and their outcomes speak for themselves, and pretty loudly at that.   

Feds Collect Record Taxes in October; Still Run $100B Deficit

Did you see that headline?  Probably not, but anyhoo, let's think this one through for a minute. The Federal Government collected more in taxes last month than it ever has, a new record. So what does that mean? It means that the tax cuts put in place have spurred the economy and now businesses are keeping more of their money to reinvest in themselves, therefore making more money and thus the Government is taking in more in taxes. Even though it's a smaller portion of the pie, the pie is now bigger. Art Laffer is now taking a bow.

Ooh, I talked about pie!  It's my second-most favorite part of Thanksgiving, my most favorite holiday.  What's my topper?  Stuffing.  Not the dry stuff, just the cooked-in-the-bird moist stuff, which my mom prepped in what was probably a pound of butter.   




Sorry, I got hungry and had to get a snack.  The second part of this story is that the Government is still running a $100B deficit. So, despite the fact that they've never had so much money coming in, they still have too much going out. I'm no economic genius, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and it sounds to me like a spending problem, not an income problem. Stop spending so much money! There, I just fixed our country.


However, but, alas... the other shoe is about to drop, the reason I think my kids will grow old in a world vastly different than the one I grew up in is that I believe we're heading for an inevitable collapse of our economic system.   Why?  Because we cannot stop spending!  We're addicted to deficit spending and all that comes with it- the big defense budgets, the entitlement programs, ever growing government salaries, Obamacare, etc.  Everybody wants their free stuff and "How dare you cut my program?"  Meanwhile, both Russia and China are gobbling up gold and the dollar to attempt take over as the world's top currency. We've relied on the strength of the almighty Dollar forever,  and the rest of the world wanted it, so we could float those bonds at leisure.  At some point though, we will not be able to continue selling (at bond auctions) the current account deficit in bonds (currently over a trillion), which includes new debt, and the expiring bonds. And politicians are finding that they can't get elected by promising to make those tough decisions on our finances.  Especially when the other side just says "I have a better plan, and we don't have to buckle down!"  Nor do we hold them accountable- either party.  The personal responsibility, the adult decisions, the paying now for what you buy now, etc. are not politically expedient and won't happen until we collapse.  

Welcome to to Greece, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Last Raider's Parade.



The Burg did it up right for the 100th Anniversary Armistice/Veterans Day parade. (OT, I agree with Sarge, it should be Armistice, or maybe Memorial day and Memorial day should be Veteran's Day. YMMV).  It was held Sunday on the actual day, rather than the Federal Holiday.  Given that it was a long weekend, the town was pretty well packed.

Little did they know they were in for a big Surprise.

It was a little cool, high 40's with ceiling and vis at EXACTLY 1500' and 3 miles.

Mrs J and I arrived quite early and so walked the magic mile, stopping in at our old place of business (the wine store, not the women's wear store, that wound is too fresh).  Quite a bit of changes, quite a bit of the same.  Hey, Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys.

Walked around people watching, and employed one of Mrs J's tells for how the weekend is going financially. That would be noting how many people are carrying bags.  Lots of People, not many bags.

Sat outside the Ice Cream store, (No, I had a bottle of water, thank you for askin. The Ice Cream Store had benches) and soon were joined by 3 guys my age.  Two retired Marines and a retired Air Force MSgt.  They had Sarge Hats which told me that.  They seemed to perceive that Mrs J and I were also members of the Pack.

Anyhow, we got to talking, the Air Force Guy was Civil Engineer AFSC, I'd mentioned that my Dad had finished out his career in that field and we did the usual When...Where...Did you know... sequence that every person that's ever been in the military plays.

In any case, he'd been with the Civil Engineer Squadron, in '72-'73.  My Dad was the Squadron Commander during that period.  Cue "It's a Small World". Which prompted the Marines to mention that they'd been at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive.  Check and Mate.

We had a good conversation, as there wives gradually made it through the shopping jungle to their positions.  We then said our good byes and made our way to the Parade watching position we had reconnoitered prior, on the Courtyard grounds across the street from the starting position.
Getting final directions from the Captain.  Flt Cap in the Back Row

The JROTC detachment would lead off.
A little attention from the First Sergeant




Followed by the Parade Marshall.


His name is Lt Col Dick Cole.  He is the last surviving Doolittle Raider and had been General Doolittle's Co-Pilot.

The Parade is about to start and I know there's going to be a flyover as I had seen AT-6's on the ramp at the airport on the way in.  But we were in for a treat.

I hear a drone of multiple reciprocating engines coming from behind the building across the street.  Lt Col Cole's vehicle is directly in front of me.

The JROTC commander gives the command "Forward March", and a B-25 flashes overhead at precisely the minimum altitude of 500'.


Yes, I know....I'm still trying to master the iPhone Camera




It's a subsequent pass, but it was cool. Very, Very, Cool!

Lot's of floats in the parade, all loaded with local vets, or their descendants in the case of the WWI vets.














Veteran organizations representing vets all the way back to the civil war were present.


Who knew the howler monkeys wouldn't scurry straight to their safe space at the site of a Confederate Flag?

As the Vietnam Vet floats approached the jumping off point, there was a whop, whop, whopping noise from behind the building and as they rounded the corner, a Huey came overhead.  (Also EXACTLY at 500')







The parade only lasted about 30 minutes.  TxDOT has rules about blocking US Highways, doncha' know.  But it was a very meaningful parade.

Loved it!

Ran across this at Insty's place earlier this week.  I've been wanting one of these for years (well maybe not this particular model, but the concept).  Now, apparently, they're available.  Christmas is coming guys, just sayin'.






Sunday, November 18, 2018

This Blogging Thing


So, I took that opening photo Friday near sunset. I was getting something out of the fridge when I noticed the light shining through those vases The Missus Herself has stowed up there. To my eye at the time (and in my memory) the light had a more reddish tinge to it. But the camera in my cell phone captured it as you see it. I found it most pleasing in real life, and it ain't that bad reproduced electronically.

It's been an odd week. Most of you may remember that I was feeling rather out of sorts the week before, I even took a day away from work (a Thursday) in the hopes of recovering from a rather vicious cold. Well, I also felt bad for the lads and lasses in the lab at work, we were all a bit concerned that I'd infect the lot of 'em. One of the lads did develop a runny nose but as he himself said, he could have picked that up from his wife.

Still and all, I felt like crap last weekend. Though by the time Monday rolled around, I was feeling much better, thank you very much. Then had a bout of that wretched insomnia which has plagued me on and off for years.

Seems that once the gears and wheels in my head get to spinning, I have trouble shutting them down. It's not a too much caffeine thing, it's not a too much to drink thing (non-alcoholic mind you) which has the result of getting up to commune with nature periodically, that's more of an age thing. I swear that I could have a sip of water at noon, and naught else all day, and still need to get up and "water the flowers" every couple of hours. And dinna be concerned about my prostate, my doc says I'm fine and all the tests confirm that.

But I confess to having a pretty weak bladder, if I may be so bold. On a day long tour of the Ardennes in December of 1998, my two fellow sergeants did remark on my need to "mark my territory" nearly every hour on the hour. In truth though, when nature calls, one cannot but answer.

But the insomnia thing comes and goes. When my mind starts trying to puzzle something out, there's no stopping it. Usually though, my subconscious will be churning through a problem and leave my conscious mind out of it. But from time to time both brain cells deem it necessary to work in concert on something.

And it keeps me awake, or, and this is far worse, I wake up at some absurd hour and can't go back to sleep. Tuesday night was such a night. Woke up at 0230, 0330, finally at 0430 I said the heck with it, got up and went to work before 0700. Usually I get there at half past that hour.

When it happened again on Wednesday night, even the guards at work were a bit surprised to see me twice in one week at such an uncharacteristically early hour for Your Humble Scribe.

Succumbing to the need for sleep Thursday night, I took something for my lingering head cold, and slept like a log. (The Missus Herself said it sounded like someone was sawing on that log, all bloody night. Yes, I snore, probably because I could stand to lose a pound, or twenty. But hey, I'll work on that. Someday.)


The picture above was the scene out the kitchen door on Thursday night. The Missus Herself had gone to put the trash out when she cried out that I should, "come see this!" Which I did. While it seems a bit early for the white stuff in Little Rhody, it isn't that unusual, so the inhabitants assure me. I've been here nineteen years and still feel like an outsider at times. I guess my 24 years in the military tore up my need to have roots in one spot. I have no idea where I'm "from." Vermont has changed so much since I left that I don't recognize it anymore. I guess I'm just a "child of the regiment." So to speak.


The light pole, its shadow, and the corkscrew tree combine to confuse my eye every single time I look at this picture, taken shortly after the preceding one. This one is out the front door, which we had open and which excited the feline staff. Until they felt the cold air blowing in, weather not fit for man nor beast I tell ya!

By Friday afternoon most of the snow was gone, except where it had been plowed into big piles at the local shopping emporiums.

Talked to the DIL on Saturday, while the fires in California are miles from where she and my son and grandkids live, the smoke in the air make it seem as if the fires were very close by. The air quality has been so bad that my grandson's school has recess indoors. It's too unhealthy to breathe that crap for very long.

Way to go, dumbass California government and their idiot "environmentalists." When humans mess with things they don't understand, they make it worse. Settled science, I'm sure. A pox on their houses.


Oh yeah, the post title, what's up with that you may ask? Well, truth be told, I was thinking of going sinker for a week, maybe more. But, whenever I think of doing that, the Muse hangs out and insists on giving me good ideas for things to write about. But this is a holiday week coming up, we'll be busy, as I'm sure most of you will be.

I might write, I might not. I haven't really decided yet. As with most things, I'll just play it by ear. Also, I'm going out of town, to the land of no Internet, the land that time forgot, Yes, my Mom's house. So that will keep the posts to a minimum

But we shall see, y'all have been wicked awesome in the comments lately and I enjoy that. There are days I want to chuck it, but I'm not ready to hang up my electric quill just yet. I have more stories to tell and more history to cover.

But ya know, that book ain't gonna write itself and if I'm digitally scribbling here, it takes time away from other things. Sigh, somehow, I'll strike a balance.

Until then, I soldier on.



Saturday, November 17, 2018

The American Revolution*

The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781
John Singleton Copley
Little is inevitable in history, and even less in warfare. God may be thought to be on the side with the largest battalions, and quite often it works out in that manner, but wars often turn on an untold number of factors, including strategic and tactical decisions, good or bad leadership, the experience of the soldiery, the availability of resources, success in getting supplies when and where they are needed, the conduct of foreign policy, ideological zeal, willpower, and a fair measure of good luck. - Almost a Miracle, John Ferling, page 563
In the middle part of the 18th century, Great Britain and France were in the midst of yet another conflict. The two nations had been fighting each other for centuries. In North America the French possessions in Canada looked to be on the way to encircling the thirteen colonies of the British.

The French were penetrating deep into the wilderness, setting up trading posts, trapping for furs, making friends (and customers) of the natives, and gradually pressing down towards the Mississippi valley. The British were rather alarmed. Here was this vast continent and their colonists clung to a fairly narrow strip along the Atlantic coast, while the French seemed to be on the verge of taking over the rest of the continent.

Of course, greed was involved as well. A number of wealthy landowners had their eyes on the lands to the west of the colonies, lands in which the inhabitants were being overly influenced by the French (as the English saw it). They wanted the land, and they wanted the Crown to shoo the French away.

What came about is something that we know as the French and Indian War, which was but a part of a larger conflict known as the Seven Years War, which was also being waged in Europe and as far away as India. One thing led to another and eventually the French were driven from North America. But wars cost a lot of money and the British Crown felt that the colonists, who would directly benefit from all this new territory, should help pay for it. Taxes were levied and people got mad.

An unruly mob in Boston, taunting British soldiers going about their lawful duties, were fired upon and several were killed. What we call the Boston Massacre. What the British called a "righteous shoot." But to be fair to the Crown, the soldiers involved were actually brought to trial, and acquitted! They were, I must note, ably defended by a fellow named John Adams. Yes, that John Adams.

Things were getting nasty in the colonies, so the British rolled back a number of the new taxes. But not all of them. Long story short, British tea gets dumped in Boston Harbor, British troops occupy Boston. Effectively putting the city under martial law and cutting the city off from the rest of the continent.

The British, knowing there were a certain number of colonists who were bound and determined to fight back, and not by negotiating, were arming themselves. Well, in point of fact, they had always been armed. The militia were a fact of life back in those days. The native inhabitants of North America weren't all that happy with these land hungry Europeans running around, scarfing up the choice bits of terrain and making all sorts of rules for everyone to follow.

So the natives would make their displeasure known, by raiding and killing. Hoping, no doubt, that if they made the neighborhood unsafe for the Euros, they might just pack up their stuff and go back from whence they had come.

So militia companies were formed. Many of them had seen action on the side of the British (as technically and officially they were also British) during the French and Indian War. (The French had Indians on their side, as did the British. The native inhabitants of the continent weren't above getting after their enemies while the whites were mixing it up as well.)

Anyhoo, now the British were rather concerned that those militiamen might give them a problem. Best solution? Disarm them. Which they tried, which led to the messy running fights of Lexington and Concord and the bloodbath at Bunker Hill. (Yes, yes, it was fought on Breed's Hill. But did you know that Waterloo wasn't fought at Waterloo? Yup, that battle occurred some miles south of that village.)

Eventually the skirmishing around Boston got serious (as if the fighting up until then had been in jest), The redcoats were besieged in Boston, mostly because their commanders weren't trying to escalate the whole mess, whereas the colonists were more than happy to do so.

The rebels captured a fort in upstate New York (Ticonderoga) and they invaded Canada! While the Canadian adventure was a miserable failure, the fort yielded a number of cannon plus the powder and shot to fire those cannons. Which a certain George Washington sent a Boston bookseller, Henry Knox, to go fetch. In the dead of winter.

Knox did bring the guns, the rebels put them on a hill in Dorchester, overlooking Boston, and the British realized that this was going to go badly and soon. So they agreed to pull out of Boston. Eventually they wound up in New York City (the island of Manhattan to be precise) which they held for the entire war. The same city that one George Washington really, really wanted to attack and capture. But he never did have the manpower, nor the seapower which the British had on call. Remember, Manhattan is an island.

The war was the British Empire's to win for damn near the entire contest. Even though they pissed away an army under Burgoyne at Saratoga and kept a whole lot of troops occupying New York, they still had enough to beat Washington. Oh yes, the Brits were also very keen to keep Little Rhody under their thumbs as well. Narragansett Bay will hold a lot of ships and is fairly sheltered.

The British defeated Washington on Long Island, chased him south and out of New Jersey, and pretty much were winning all of the battles. The day after Christmas in 1776, Washington led his ragtag army over the Delaware River and beat up on a German detachment (Hessians) quartered in the town of Trenton. Washington's boys bagged damned near the whole lot. (No, they weren't hung over from partying on Christmas Day, the weather was so bad they figured that no one in their right minds would attack. We Yanks are a bit daft, aren't we?) They also drove on to Princeton afterwards and beat up on a bunch of redcoats as well. Before sliding back over the river. They didn't win out but the redcoats were battered and bloodied.

Though the British were winning most of the battles, Washington would just not quit. In the meantime, guys like Ben Franklin were negotiating with the French (who are itching to get back at the British for the French and Indian War). At first it was a lot of money flowing the rebels' way. Then arms and other supplies.

Soon enough the French sent warships and troops.

Now all of this was costing the British and the French a lot of money. Boatloads (literally in some cases), which had to come from somewhere. They sure weren't getting any tax money from North America. The French government was taking out loans left and right to finance our Revolution.

Eventually, as often happens with a country trying to quell a rebellion a long way from home, the British were running out of ideas, money, and the will to keep going. Though General Cornwallis chased the rebels out of the south, and if he had stayed put, Britain might have kept the colonies of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. But he didn't, he chased the rebels into Virginia where he dug in at a small village on the Chesapeake called Yorktown.

Washington (who was finally convinced to forget about New York) went south with Rochambeau to besiege Cornwallis at Yorktown. Cannonaded to red ruin, and running out of everything, Cornwallis agreed to capitulate. He didn't show up for the ceremony and the British bandsmen actually didn't play The World Turned Upside Down, though from their point of view it most certainly had. Now the war didn't end there, though the fighting was over, for the most part.

While the diplomats negotiated, the British still held New York. But when the treaty was done, the British sailed away. As they left, Washington and the remnants of his army (establishing the old, and stupid, American custom of disbanding the army as soon as the war is over) marched onto Manhattan from the end opposite to the one the lobsterbacks were leaving from.

Many thousands of Loyalists went with them, never again to see the land they loved as much as the rebels did. Problem was, their love for their King wasn't really enough to get them into the field and actually fight. When they did try to form effective units, the British, for the most part, didn't take them seriously. The Royal Army felt the same disdain for the Loyalist troops as they did for the Continental troops.

So the British went home, home to figure out how they were going to pay for all that. Across the Channel, not even ten years after our Revolution was over, the French had one of their own. Our Revolution had pretty much bankrupted France. The people rose up and the French got to spend another twenty years fighting the British, and damned near everybody else in Europe.

Louis XVI and his queen lost their heads, as did a bunch of other people. While that didn't come about as a direct result of tea getting thrown into Boston Harbor, it pretty much sealed the fate of the French monarchy.

Funny thing history, you never know where it will lead...

Gravure illustrant la décapitation de Louis XVI.



This being the second installment of Sarge's "Off the top of my head" History Lectures. Meaning which, I don't do a lot of research before writing, picture me answering a question about a topic while you are sitting down, face to face, avec moi, perhaps over an adult-type beverage. Hopefully which the questioner is buying. (Hint.) Reader suggestions for future topics along these lines are welcome. Of course, the post might wind up being. "Hhmm, I know next to nothing about that." Hey, it happens.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Block Not Do

(Source)
(Source)
So is it just me, or does anyone else read those signs painted on the road from top to bottom, or do you read them from bottom to top as some government type thought proper? I mean, I get the logic, you see the closest word first, then the next, then the next, etc.

But do people really do that? I see something painted on the roadway and I immediately take in the entire thing, all of the words, I mean it's not like this -


A lot of words, but you read it just like everything else, top to bottom.

Has there been a study done on why they paint this stuff on the road like that? I find it baffling. While it's true that I've been told that my mind (what there is of it) works in funny ways, the reason for this escapes me.

I've tried driving over the signs at near light speeds to determine if it makes more sense, if it is easier to read the signs at high speed. But the local constabulary really frowns on that sort of thing.

So which of the following makes sense to you?


A is how a turn arrow appears on the road. B is just silly.


But if you paint the message in words, A is how they do it. To me B makes more sense. I dunno, perhaps I'm overthinking this. But in truth, here's how I read those first two road signs:

AHEAD STOP

XING SCHOOL SLOW

That's how I read those things, am I weird? (About that, I know in other things I am weird, but we're talking about reading things painted on streets. Not to mention that XING just sets me off in so many ways...)

To make my point, they got this one right.

(Source)
Why isn't it written out as -

LANE

BUS

Just curious. (Yes, that last one is from the UK.)

And the title, I got that from the street near where I turn towards my neighborhood. Back in 2012 there was a sign indicating that traffic stopped for the traffic light shouldn't block the turn into the senior housing area. Apparently that was too confusing for folks in Little Rhody...

Google Maps
In the past couple of years they just had to paint BLOCK NOT DO, er, sorry, DO NOT BLOCK on the street next to the sign.

And the Little Rhodians still block the intersection.

Ah what do I know? I'm from Vermont...

The things that go through my mind.



Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jeezum Crow!

(Source)
The Nuke has always been a straight shooter, a teller of truths, oft ready to throw the BS flag. When she was young I thought her the most logical being I had ever met. I knew she was of my blood due to the family resemblance (which I will get to in a moment), but I also knew that she got her forthrightness from her Mom, The Missus Herself.

Once upon a time, no, that's how one starts a fairy tale, this is (mostly) a true story. So let's just say...

Back in the day -

I had received a much desired assignment to Germany, to NATO as a matter of fact. As we were to report there no later than the 6th of January, in the year 19 and 92, I thought it would be wondrous to head back to the homeland for an entire month.

The Missus Herself suggested that ten days might be easier on both her and my Dad. Her, because as a native born and raised Korean lady, she was encouraged, nay, required!, by her upbringing to be exceedingly polite to my parents. She often thought that I was, perhaps, a bit flippant and too much the free spirit around her parents. Now I, being American born and raised in an older tradition than these modern times, was taught to respect my elders. Though I, as a great goofball and sometime oaf (amateur, I never went pro) tend to see many things in this world as somehow amusing. Which reminds me of a story...

Interlude

When we were newlyweds, still living in Korea, my mother-in-law was visiting and expressed the thought that she was feeling a bit peckish. It was rather late but there was a takeout place just down the street which was still open. I, of course, was given the task of fetching the victuals and returning to the domicile with same.

Just before heading out, my mother-in-law said, in Korean, that I should also purchase some ice cream. I nodded then said, in English with a devilish grin, "So oma, fried chicken and ice cream? Are you pregnant?" (Mind you, my mother-in-law was in her sixties at the time.)

Now The Missus Herself's jaw dropped nearly to the floor as she stared at me, her mother was asking for a translation, which my wife was somewhat reluctant to give. But dear oma asked again, what did the big goofy round-eye say?

After the translation, she sat there for a moment, then burst out laughing. I do believe that while she was wiping the tears from her eyes, she may have mentioned that I was an idiot.

Which I am.

End Interlude

So yeah, she didn't really want to be on pins and needles for a whole month around her in-laws. As for my Dad, let's just say that as he got older, he was a bit high strung around young people. He was now set in his ways and grandkids should be out of the house at the end of the day. As we were between houses...

Yes, much later I saw her point. I may be slow, but I get it, eventually. So, with a ten day visit planned, we left Nebraska to head back to New England.

As I recall, we departed Omaha on the 19th of December, 19 and 91 for the roughly 1,400 mile drive to New Hampshire. When I had last been in New England, Mom and Dad still lived at the ancestral manse in Vermont. Since heading for Omaha, the parental units had done a stint in Connecticut whilst Ye Olde Vermonter and his brood took over the old homestead.

Dad's gig in Connecticut, having ended, they were desirous of moving back to Vermont. Mom, IIRC, thought it would be nice to live near her Mom in New Hampshire, same neighborhood and all that, just down the street as it were. Dad, reluctantly I gather, consented. It was a "seniors only" community, so he liked that. (The original owners eventually bailed and the "seniors only" community turned into a rather low rent trailer park, open to all comers. No, Dad was not pleased, but that's a story for another day.)

Anyhoo, our trip back to the ancestral lands was to their new place, not the place where I had grown up. But the new place was a mere seven miles from the old. I figured I could find it alright, though it had been a number of years since I'd lived in the area, I remembered the major bits enough to find my way to the general vicinity. Dad's very fine directions got me into the target quite nicely.

Mind you, boys and girls, this was in the days before cell phones and inexpensive GPS systems were available to the population at large (what the funniest lady on the Internet likes to call the GenPop). So yes, we navigated by paper maps and a compass. No seriously, I carried a compass in the car. For one day, deep in the heart of Oklahoma, the love of my life accused me of being lost.

"We're not lost, my love, we are in Oklahoma."

"Where in Oklahoma?"

"Somewhere in the middle I fancy."

"We're lost, I knew it. Let's stop and ask for directions."

"Negative Ghostrider (pulling out my compass), Mississippi is that way (I said while gesturing in a southeasterly direction). We just keep going in this general direction. If we hit salt water we're close."

"Dad, how will you know if we've come to the Atlantic or the Gulf Of Mexico?" asked one of the progeny, might have been The Naviguesser, no doubt making notes for his future job in the Navy.

"I'm sure there will be road signs between here and there."

I was ultimately vindicated when I saw the sign saying "Welcome to Arkansas!"

"See, we're not lost, back on track, back on glideslope."

"What?"

"Never mind, I know exactly where we are."

Which I did, we made it to our destination as planned.

Anyhoo.

We made it to New Hampshire after three days on the road. Fun? Not really, winter, snow everywhere, young kids making embarrassing observations about my driving, their hunger, their thirst, etc., etc. But we made it.

Me enjoying Christmas with the family. Though my bathrobe is longer...
(Source)
On the first full day of our Christmas vacation (me feeling all Clark Griswold-ish, but no doubt appearing rather Eddie-ish to the love of my life) my Mom dropped something in the kitchen. Where she was heard to exclaim...

"Jeezum Crow!"

At which point The Nuke said...

"Grandma, God knows what you mean, he knows you meant 'Jesus Christ,' he invented euphemisms, you're not fooling anyone."

Well, Mom just sort of stood there for a moment, kind of flabbergasted, then from the living room I heard...

"Jesus H. Christ, we have a lawyer in the family." From dear old Dad.

At which point The Nuke let him know that "at least Grandma is trying to be nice."

It was an interesting Christmas, I can tell you. That was also the Christmas where The WSO told my brother, Ye Olde Vermonter, to "get a life, Uncle Rob" after he'd made some cute remark that most seven year olds would have found amusing.

I thought at the time, "I'm raising a lawyer and a fighter pilot." I was close on the latter, way off on the former.

The Missus Herself was wise to insist on ten days, not a month.

She's smart like that.


Oh, I almost forgot, the family resemblance thing regarding The Nuke. At some point after my retirement from Uncle Sam's Aerial Follies, The Nuke and The WSO were home from college. Somehow the subject of "who do I look like" came up, from The Nuke.

The Missus Herself responded by telling her that "You look just like your Dad when you're sleeping." Meaning it as a compliment, I think. But The WSO was all over that, immediately...

"Yup, you look just like Dad, mouth open, hair sticking up all over, drooling, yup, just like Dad."

The Nuke was less than amused, I was laughing my ass off until it hit me.

Wasn't that funny really. I don't drool when I sleep.

Much.



Wednesday, November 14, 2018

War Sucks

Chivalry
Frank Dicksee
So far this week we've talked about (or read a mention of): the Italian theater in World War II, nasty terrain (and weather) to fight in, supply issues, the Pacific theater, the CBI (China-Burma-India), the Navy's private war against Japan. Whether it was better to fight in France against the Germans or in the Pacific against the Japanese (well, if I had my druthers...) but all in all, one thing stands clear - war sucks.

That opening painting (which is also the cover art on my copy of Bernard Cornwell's most excellent novel, Enemy of God) is a prime example of how some folks (the one's who have never seen it) glorify combat and, of course, by extension, war itself. But look closely at that painting of the damsel in distress.

She looks a bit apprehensive, doesn't she? I mean she's tied up and bound to a tree, the implication is that the guy on the ground (who looks a lot like he's just resting after getting knocked down) is obviously the "bad guy." I mean his armor is dark and we should assume that he's the guy who tied the lady to the tree. (What kind of sick bastard ties a lady to a tree?)

Now the chap who appears to be sheathing his sword, I mean his left hand holds the scabbard steady, has just skewered the chap upon the ground. I mean it's all very decorous innit? The bad guy has been bested and the lady is about to be rescued, we hope. (No doubt she's wondering if she's exchanged one brute for another.)

Now in reality I'm assuming that the bad guy has been stabbed in the throat, the sword the "good guy" is in the act of sheathing is a long pointy type. Good for poking things, like throats through gaps in someone's armor. So I have to guess that the guy on the ground is already dead, otherwise he'd been grasping at his neck with both hands trying, in vain usually, to staunch the bleeding.

But where is the blood? Ah, romantic paintings of chivalrous combat never show bleeding, or disembowelment, or missing limbs, and missing heads. They never show people being split open like overripe gourds. Nope, no one (other than some sick bastard who ties damsels to trees and such) would be interested in purchasing or commissioning such a painting.

Besides which, the old bastards who send people to war, they seldom go themselves, don't want the youth to think that war is dangerous or anything now, do they? Heck, no one would ever volunteer ever again if they knew the truth of the thing. Need a particularly nasty objective taken? Send in the inexperienced troops, they don't know any better. The wily old veterans? Their objective is to stay alive, they do know better.

War is nasty, it is brutal, it is uncomfortable, it is dirty, it is loud, you meet some very nasty people on the battlefield, on both sides.

Unfortunately though, war is sometimes necessary. I doubt anyone alive today (who isn't clinically insane or profoundly stupid) would think that letting the Nazis control Europe would be a good thing. There is always (pardon my French) some asshole, or group of assholes, who want somebody else's stuff. Either they themselves don't have enough of their own stuff, or they're just greedy for more stuff. Really, that's the bottom line.

Okay, there is another sort of warfare, in this sort of warfare (again pardon my French) some asshole, or group of assholes, thinks that the way they think is just really awesome and wonderful, and that the way you think is really disgusting and deplorable. So they're going to make you think like them. Or kill you. Ideological wars are like that, think Commies, Fascists, Nazis, most wars of religion as well.

It's always somebody who wants somebody else's stuff, or they just want to be in charge. In reality, it doesn't matter where you fight, it all sucks because someone is trying to kill you.

War. Sometimes necessary.

Always sucks.

Just my two cents...

But don't take my word for it, ask these guys...

(Source)
I'll climb down from my soapbox now...



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tough Old Gut

A machine gunner and two riflemen of Co K, 87th Mountain Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, cover an assault squad routing Germans out of a building
in the background. Sassomolare Area, Italy. Porretta Moderna Highway. 4 March 1945.
(U.S.Army Signal Corps Photo)
I can see Churchill now at his map with his pointer pointing out the soft belly of the Mediterranean and after I got there I often thought what a tough old gut it was, instead of the soft belly that he had led us to believe. - General Mark W. Clark
Welcome to the first installment of Sarge's "Off the top of my head" History Lectures*...

Juvat's tale of the leadership of 1LT Raymond L Knight on Monday got me to pondering about the Italian Campaign in World War II. It was brutal, it was nasty, and great heroism was shown on both sides. But truth be told, it was a fairly easy task for a defender to keep the Allies bottled up as long as they did, and it wasn't just the terrain that aided the defense.

Google Maps
See the map above? Look at Italy, then look at Germany, what's between the two? A crap ton of very big mountains, that's what. Why Churchill (who I admire greatly) thought that attacking Germany via the Mediterranean (Italy or Greece, oh look, Greece has mountains too) is beyond me. Especially when one thinks back to World War I where Sir Winston's big plan to knock Turkey out of the war gave us Gallipoli. A disaster of truly epic proportions. (Which also got Winnie kicked out of the government and sent packing to command a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in France. Oddly enough, my Great Uncle Robert was at Gallipoli in a different battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, he survived that one. Though he didn't survive the war. And yes, someday I should sit down and explain military organizations and hierarchies, perhaps in a new page on the sidebar, but not today. Gomen nasai.)

Truth be told, many in Britain were a bit "on edge" about the American desire to land troops on the shore of France and then drive into Germany. The Brits had already tried that, on a small scale, at a place called Dieppe. Where, like at Gallipoli, they had their asses handed to them by the Germans. (Though technically it was called a raid, it was, in essence, a rehearsal of sorts for the later landing in Normandy. Needless to say, the British were not very sanguine about the prospects of a larger landing in 1944. Out of approximately 10,500 men involved, over 4,000 became casualties. That right there, that's an ass whupping in anyone's book. Mind you, this was also against a fairly low quality German unit.)

The Dieppe Raid occurred in August of 1942, now as I recollect, the Americans were pretty hot to trot on getting ashore in Europe at the earliest opportunity. Like 1943, certainly we can do that General Marshal (back in DC, a fine staff officer but a man who had never led troops in combat) thought. Many American generals thought so as well. But those party poopers, the Brits, said, "Let's clear Jerry out of Africa first, I mean we've got him on the run, what-ho, now would be a jolly good time to bag the fox, dontcha think?"

Where in our first run in with the Jerries, we got our asses handed to us at Kasserine.

Yes, yes, Patton fixed everything (well him and a lot of other people) and the Germans gave up in Africa in 1943. So now what?

"Hey, let's invade Europe! We're ready!" Sayeth the Americans.

"Um, no, not so fast, we should, ya know, plan things first." Sayeth the Brits.

What to do, what to do. That's when Churchill said (yes, I'm paraphrasing), "Hey, the Italians have a terrible military, let's kick their butts and that will put us in the Germans' backyard!"

Well sure, while the individual Italians were magnificent soldiers, they had to be the most poorly led military on the planet. Hell, even the French made fun of them. (No, seriously. In 1940 when the Italians invaded Albania, yes, Albania, and got their asses kicked, the French allegedly put signs up along their border with Italy advising the Italian Army they should stop retreating as they were now in France. Or something to that effect. After the Germans had crushed the French Army, the Italians, no doubt remembering the insult, declared war on a defeated France. Talk about kicking a fellow when he's down!)

Anyhoo. So yes, Italians weak, Allies strong. However, the Germans, not being idiots, also knew that their ally was weak. They had a plan to occupy Italy should the Italians decide to quit. Yes, it was a very well thought out plan, as many German plans tended to be back then. Well, except for the "let's invade Russia" thing.

So, long story short, Allies jump from North Africa to Sicily. Some hard fighting, Germans scurry across the strait to the "toe" of the Italian "boot." Italians decide they've had enough (basically the King fired Mussolini, who's buddies decided that enough was enough and looked at Benito and essentially said, "Bye now!" Germans pour into Italy, just liked they planned to, and send their scar faced commando guy, Skorzeny, to rescue Il Douchebag, er, I mean Il Duce, while the Allies jump over the Straits of Messina onto the Italian mainland.

Which no one is defending, as near as I can recall. I mean, not much worth defending there, is there? I mean it's not like it's on the road to Rome now is it? Nope, the Germans are farther north, barring the way to Rome. The plan is to keep the Allies as far south in Italy as possible. With just a few divisions the Germans can hold for months. (Which they did.)

So the Allies are ashore in the toe (and eventually the whole foot of the boot), what's next? Well, build some airbases of course. Then what? Hey, rather than fight our way up the boot, let's do an amphibious invasion. Like, I know, here, at Salerno! (See the map below for the location of Salerno, and other places. Also note the rivers, something else that made Italy "easy" to defend for the Germans. This rivers had to be crossed. One American division, the 36th Infantry, a Guard unit from Texas, lost two regiments - out of three - attempting to cross one of the smaller rivers, not shown, near Cassino. A Congressional investigation after the war exonerated all of the big shots involved. Back then things weren't all that different than they are now.)

(Source)
Why Salerno? Well, it is near a big port (Napoli, or Naples if you prefer) which was needed to supply the armies fighting their way up Italy. So yeah, we land south of the port. I guess the Germans never expected that. In truth, they probably didn't care as their first defensive line was north of Napoli, the Gustav Line running through Cassino.

Yes, Monte Cassino, ancient monastery which the Germans were not using as a defensive position. But hey, generals are smart, so ours figured they must be using it, we would. So we bomb the living crap out of it. (As I recall, the Germans actually moved - "liberated" - many of the priceless works of art there. But we still leveled an ancient building belonging to the Catholic Church. In Italy. I'm sure that won us many fans.)

After we blasted it, the Germans said, "Oh look at all the lovely rubble our troops can take cover in." Which they did. While we were losing 55,000 men taking the place, and the Germans were losing 20,000, we landed at Anzio, to flank the Gustav Line. Thing is, General Clark told the guy leading the landing (a Major General Lucas as I recall) to "be careful, don't stick your neck out." Which apparently he took literally. The landing was made, then they sat there and watched the Germans reinforce.

Which led Churchill to quip (remember this entire mess was his bloody idea) "I had hoped that we were hurling a wildcat onto the shore, but all we got was a stranded whale."

Gee, thanks Sir Winston. (By the way, the Brits were fighting on the Adriatic shore of Italy, think east coast, while the Americans, and a host of others, were fighting up the Tyrrhenian shore, think west coast.)

Eventually we did take Rome. HUZZAH!! Must be big news right?

Nope, that happened on the 6th of June, 1944. The same day the "real" invasion landed in Normandy. So the whole thing went rather unnoticed. The fighting in Italy lasted until the war ended in May of 1945. As I recall, not a single Allied soldier made it into the Reich from the Italian campaign. At least not while the Germans were still resisting. But it wasn't for lack of trying.

The Italian campaign really damaged Mark Clark's reputation with many historians. I've talked to guys who served in Italy, they weren't big fans of the guy. But hey, Marshal liked him, so did Ike (but apparently not enough to have him in France). So like the French say, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." The more things change...

Anyhoo. One more thing, all those guys fighting in Italy, all that equipment? Well, after D-Day, in August of 1944, someone decided that Italy wasn't enough of a sideshow, no, we had to land in southern France as well. Using men and equipment taken from Italy.

My personal opinion? Fighting in Italy was to please an ally, i.e. Churchill. I suppose the British 8th and the American 5th Armies had to be employed somewhere. While Churchill would have liked Greece as well as Italy, we had to pick one. At least we were mad at the Italians. It did tie down a number of German divisions, but so did Norway, and we didn't bother attacking there. Heck, a feint at Italy probably would have had Hitler sending those divisions there anyway. Who knows?

But it was a bitter fight in the mountains, in the rain and cold of the Apennines. Terrain well suited for defense, which the Germans were really, really good at. A lot of nations fought in Italy: Brazilians (a whole division!), Brits, Canadians, Indians, Poles, South Africans, and New Zealanders. There were also Free French units, some from North Africa, I recall especially the mountain tribesmen, Goumiers from Morocco, some pretty fierce guys. There was even a Greek brigade and a Jewish brigade! I think it was the Poles who actually finally captured Monte Cassino, after paying a heavy price in blood.

Back in the day Avalon Hill had an interesting game covering the campaign, Anzio. I've played it a few times, as the Allies I would struggle to make it north of Rome. As the Germans my biggest headache was having to send units back to the Reich for refitting and eventual dispatch to the Eastern Front!

And that is the Italian Campaign in World War II, off the top of my head.

A tough old gut, that's for sure!




* Meaning which, I don't do a lot of research before writing, picture me answering a question about a topic while sitting down, face to face, avec moi, perhaps over an adult-type beverage. Hopefully which the questioner is buying. (Hint.) Reader suggestions for future topics along these lines are welcome. Of course, the post might wind up being. "Hhmm, I know next to nothing about that." Hey, it happens.