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    History Friday: MacArthur’s Human Porter Logistics

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th December 2013 (All posts by )

    When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. One of the least explored aspects of MacArthur’s fighting style was his highly flexible approach to logistics, which he described as “We are doing what we can with what we have.” Logistics being the ability to transport and supply military forces. In describing MacArthur’s flexibility, and poor documentation of same, I wrote previously:

    “One of the maddening things about researching General Douglas MacArthur’s fighting style in WW2 was the way he created, used and discarded military institutions, both logistical and intelligence, in the course of his South West Pacific Area (SWPA) operations. Institutions that had little wartime publicity and have no direct organizational descendent to tell their stories in the modern American military.”

    The importance of logistics is the reason for the adage, “Amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics.”

    Today’s column is the story of one of those many “throw away” logistical institutions. In this case, it was MacArthur’s “human porter logistics” — native workers provided by the Australian and Dutch East Indies colonial authorities — married to the 5th Air Force’s primitive bootleg radio beacon navigation. A mid-20th century great-great-grandfather of today’s Global Positioning System radio beacon satellites.

    American and Australian casualties, with Papuan Stretcher Bearers.

    American and Australian casualties, with Papuan Stretcher Bearers. Men like the ones pictured were key in moving supplies from forward air drop zones to Australian and American troops in New Guinea.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Transportation, Uncategorized, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    History Friday: Curtis SC-1 Seahawk – A Case Study of U.S. ‘Materialschlacht’ vs. Samurai ‘Spirit’

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th November 2013 (All posts by )

    One of the focal points in writing this History Friday column has been trying to answer the question “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 had the A-bomb failed?” Today’s column is focusing on an almost unknown aircraft, the Curtis SC-1 Seahawk light patrol seaplane as one of many “reality lives in the detail” changes in material, training and doctrine that the US military was making for the invasion of Japan. Then placing the Seahawk in the wider context of the contrasting US versus Imperial Japanese fighting styles, of American “matériel battle” aka “Materialsclacht” versus Japanese “Samurai spirit.”

    Curtis SC-1 Seahawk floatplane -- National Archives #80-G-399644

    Curtis SC-1 Seahawk floatplane — National Archives #80-G-399644

    This is what Wikipedia has to say about the Curtis SC-1 Seahawk

    “While only intended to seat the pilot, a bunk was provided in the aft fuselage for rescue or personnel transfer. Two 0.5 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns were fitted in the wings, and two underwing hardpoints allowed carriage of 250 lb (113 kg) bombs or, on the right wing, surface-scan radar. The main float, designed to incorporate a bomb bay, suffered substantial leaks when used in that fashion, and was modified to carry an auxiliary fuel tank.

    You can see a nice You Tube video titled “SC-1 SeaHawk Seaplane Fighters in Combat Operations!” at this link:

    The Seahawk served the US Navy from 1944 through 1948 and was replaced by helicopters. It is at best a footnote in the most detailed histories of World War 2. It is also a perfect metaphor for the fighting that would have happened, but didn’t, thanks to the ultimate in WW2 Materialsclacht…the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Okinawa 65, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    DoD Back to Work Monday, Mostly

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th October 2013 (All posts by )

    Secretary of Defense Hagal has recalled most Department of Defense (DoD) civilians back to work Monday. The legal reasons why were in the NY Times Sunday 6 Oct 2013 edition this morning.

    The following is the fine print behind the “Mostly” –

    “I expect us to be able to significantly reduce — but not eliminate — civilian furloughs under this process,” Mr. Hagel said.
    .
    Mr. Hagel warned that “many important activities remain curtailed while the shutdown goes on,” and he cited disruptions across the armed services.
    .
    Late Saturday, the Defense Department comptroller, Robert F. Hale, said that Mr. Hagel’s order would recall Pentagon employees who work in health care, family programs, commissaries and training or maintenance.
    .
    Additionally, the order will recall to work those civilian Pentagon employees whose jobs, if interrupted, would cause future problems for the military; those categories include contracting, logistics, supply and financial management.
    .
    While the numbers have not been finalized, officials estimated that only 10 percent of the furloughed employees would not be recalled, including Defense Department civilian employees who work in auditing, some in legislative and public affairs, and Pentagon employees who service other government agencies.

    Most of DCMA will be back to work Monday, as will DFAS, DCAA and DLA.

    The DoD Inspector General (I.G.), civilians in the various uniformed Service I.G. offices and DoD civilians involved in things like planning DoD assistance to disaster relief efforts are still going to stay home.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    History Friday: MacArthur, JANAC, and the Politics of Military Historical Narrative

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th September 2013 (All posts by )

    When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. One of the themes that has developed, and that I intend to explore in this and future columns, is that the “military historical narrative” of World War 2 (WW2) has roughly the same relationship with historical truth that “Gerrymandering” of political district boundaries has to do with US Constitution driven 10-year census redistricting. The objective of both is incumbent protection of the most powerful poltical factions with safe districts, at the expense of accountability to voters, with a secondary objective being the punishment of those who do not stick to the party line. Where I have found this most blatantly is with the 1943-1947 Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee or (JANAC), which you can find at this link:

    Cover from Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee Report -- NAVEXOS P 468

    Cover from Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee Report — NAVEXOS P 468

    http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/japaneseshiploss.htm

    Where JANAC drew it’s “gerrymander line” after WW2 was at ships and craft of below 500 tons of displacement. This had a huge effect on on the historical record of WW2 and particularly on MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area and the Southern Pacific theater prior to the start of the Central Pacific Campaign at Tarawa. In other words, the entire Operation Cartwheel offensive of 1943-1944.

    Operation Cartwheel Encirclement 1943-1944

    Operation Cartwheel Encirclement 1943-1944

    Here is a simple logistical thumbnail of why that is the case:

    1) One large Japanese powered barge below 500 tons could supply a 6,300 man Imperial Japanese Army independent regiment for a day.

    2) Three large Japanese powered barges below 500 tons could supply a triangular Imperial Japanese Army infantry division for a day.

    3) Fifty large Japanese powered barges below 500 tons could supply a triangular Imperial Japanese Army infantry division at a distance of 300 miles.

    4) There were 250 such barges shuttling between Rabaul and northern New Guinea in late August 1943.

    5) During the month of September 1943 MacArthur’s Fifth Air Force destroyed 90 of those barges.

    Because those barges were all 499 tons or less displacement, JANAC stripped that data from the US Military historical narrative as if they did not exist.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: Technological Surprise & the Defeat of the 193rd Tank Battalion at Kakuza Ridge

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 30th August 2013 (All posts by )

    In April 1945 the US Army’s 27th Infantry Division launched an attack against the Kakuza Ridge position held by the Imperial Japanese Army on Okinawa with the 193rd Tank Battalions 30 thirty tanks, self-propelled assault guns, and attached armored flame throwers from the 713th Flame Tank Battalion. When the battle was over, 22 of the 30 armored fighting had been destroyed in a coordinated ambush by Japanese anti-tank guns, artillery, mortars and suicide close assault teams. Among the dead was the battalion commander of the 193rd, on whom blame was laid for attacking without American infantry in close support. This battle is referenced in almost every narrative account of Okinawa as proof of the tougher defenses American soldiers and marines would face in an invasion of Japan.

    This is a M4 Sherman Tank after striking an aircraft bomb land mine in front of Kakuza Ridge

    This is a M4 Sherman Tank after striking an aircraft bomb land mine in front of Kakuza Ridge

    It turns out that while this particular narrative has a great deal of truth, it isn’t the whole truth and hides the most important one. In a photo film negative image of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s comment that “In war, The Truth must have a bodyguard of lies,” This narrative has a huge lie buried in a bodyguard of truth.

    The most important truth of this battle was that American troops suffered a technological surprise. The Japanese were listening to the SCR-300, SCR-500 and SCR-600 series frequency modulated (FM) radios of American infsntry, tanks and artillery forward observers at Kakuza Ridge (and other battles through out the Pacific in 1945) with Japanese Type 94 (1934) Mark 6 walkie-talkie radio that was issued to every Japanese infantry battalion.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Okinawa 65, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    History Friday: 81st ID’s Peleliu Lessons for MacArthur’s Invasion of Japan

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    I have written in my columns on the end of WW2 in the Pacific about institutional or personally motivated false narratives, hagiography narratives, forgotten via classification narratives and forgotten via extinct organization narratives. Today’s column is on how generational changes in every day technology make it almost impossible to understand what the WW2 generation is telling us about it’s times without a lot of research.

    Consider the difference between using a rotary phone land line communications and wireless smart phone internet device simply in terms of daily conversation and ability to know things. It is hard for the “100 texts a day smart phone generation” to get in the head of someone who has such a radically different, available daily, tool set.

    Now take for a second example how we deal with computers in the 21st century versus how they dealt with them in 1940′s. World War 2 (WW2) computers were mechanical analog devices that predicted ballistic trajectories. How friction worked was very important to their use. Friction is the amount of force needed to start and keep something moving when in contact with something else. If you look further into the world of friction, you will see it categorized as either “static friction” or “dynamic friction.” It takes more force to overcome a “static friction” than a “dynamic friction.” In other words, a slight vibration made WW2 computers work better. The name for doing this is “Dither.” When you check out the word “Dither” in Wikipedia, you will see a reference to mechanical analog computers in aircraft. The vibrations of planes while airborne reduced the friction between all the gears in the mechanical analog computer making it run smother. This was taken advantage of with the Norden bomb site. Which was a 1940′s high tech mechanical analog computer.

    “Dither” also showed up in the case of WW2 anti-aircraft (AA) guns. There was a small electric device with an off center weight on it that kept the gun platform jiggling to reduce the friction, so when gunners were aiming the gun, it could respond faster. A similar device was added to the mechanical analog fire control computers — also called “directors” — that aimed the guns. All that induced vibration was “dither.” Having the gun platform and associated directors jiggling just a little with a “dither” was important to improving AA gun system performance.

    In the age of electronic digital computers, the term “dither” and it’s meaning in context with its associated technology has been largely forgotten. (See the once common phrase “Quit dithering!”) That “dither” and analog mechanical computer example is one of the things I am running into in my WW2 writing project.

    81st Infantry Division's Aerial Tramway Moving Supplies on Peleliu, Sept - Nov 1944

    81st Infantry Division’s Aerial Tramway Moving Supplies on Peleliu, Sept – Nov 1944

    The fact is that many of the technologies used in late WW2, like the “Aerial Tramway” device in the photo above were taken for granted in the reports of the time, but have huge differences in understanding today when “the smart phone generation” looks at what the “slide rule generation” is talking about.

    Recently, my understanding of both the logistics and how fighting would have unfolded in General Douglas MacArthur’s proposed Kyushu land campaign, had the A-bomb failed to get Japanese surrender in August 1945, just changed radically away from the established narrative — “It would have been a mutual blood bath the Japanese had a chance to win.”

    When I got the 81st Infantry Division’s 1944 Peleliu and 1945 post-Peleliu Operation reports and then looked up the military history of WW2 Tramway and Cableway technology. That research changed my understanding of what the “Slide-rule generation” was saying. A completely different narrative of possible events emerged, simply from understanding what that technological tool kit meant in context.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Okinawa 65, USA, War and Peace | 46 Comments »

    History Friday: MacArthur’s Amphibious Fighting Style & Operation Olympic

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 16th August 2013 (All posts by )

    One of the biggest problems with World War II (WW2) military histories is the issue of “lanes.” WW2 history writers tend to focus on their one thing, use the institutional historical narratives of their particular military theater and service and then make some appalling inaccurate statements of fact without understanding the wider background. Yet, they are in the generally understood narrative limits of the historical “lane” and everyone nods in agreement. This is an especially difficult problem with understanding MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area (SWPA) institutional culture and amphibious fighting style, as compared to the both the the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operation (ETO and MTO) and the Central Pacific style that dominates the post-war amphibious operations narrative.

    For example, there were more and larger US Army run amphibious landings in WW2 than US Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) Central Pacific Drive, yet there is very little real examination or understanding of them as amphibious operations compared to the US Navy’s Central Pacific drive. Very few WW2 history writers try and trace the development of a military concept across several military theaters and see how it is expressed in various theaters’ institutional culture and war fighting styles. This is a vital methodology in understanding the ground truth of what happened.

    For the research I am doing on the canceled invasion of Japan, knowing that US Army amphibious experience is absolutely essential to understand the orders for Kyushu invasion, since the US land based air forces were planning to replicate and improve on the Normandy D-Day aerial bombardment by dropping 200,000 tons of bombs on Kyushu in Oct 1945 plus another 80,000 tons of conventional bombs (180KT total!) on the Nov 1, 1945 X-day landing. (By way of comparison, Hiroshima was a 15KT nuclear blast.) US Army Air Force Generals Spaatz & Doolittle were commanding 20th & 8th Air Force to deliver that tonnage. That tonnage was in General Hap Arnold’s diary as a promise to MacArthur in the summer of 1945, yet USMC historians investigating Operation Olympic speak of the low density of naval fire support there would be on X-day compared to Okinawa and Iwo Jima, like that aerial bombardment didn’t exist!

    SWPA M-18 Hellcat Landing in the Philippines

    SWPA M-18 Hellcat Landing in the Philippines

    This column on “MacArthur’s Amphibious Fighting Style” will use that “tracing an idea across historical lanes” methodology to compare and contrast the various American WW2 amphibious fighting styles with short “thumb nail” descriptions so you can understand this problem with the WW2 historical narrative and appreciate the coordination issues for the “canceled by atomic bomb” Operation Olympic landing in Japan.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, USA, War and Peace | 20 Comments »

    History Friday: MacArthur’s Mission X

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th July 2013 (All posts by )

    I have stated in an earlier Chicago Boyz column that:
    One of the maddening things about researching General Douglas MacArthur’s fighting style in WW2 was the way he created, used and discarded military institutions, both logistical and intelligence, in the course of his South West Pacific Area (SWPA) operations. Institutions that had little wartime publicity and have no direct organizational descendent to tell their stories in the modern American military.

    Today’s column is the story of one of those “throw away” logistical institutions, one that started as MacArthur’s “Mission X”, what became the small boats and coastal freighter fleet that served MacArthur from 1942 through 1947 as Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP) in post-war Japan.

    Mission X Small Boats Moving Supplies Forward from a Liberty Ship
    A Liberty ship and two captured Japanese sampans discharge and load cargo at an unnamed advanced base.

    Small Boats and Coastal Freighters

    General Douglas MacArthur had three more or less distinct types of coastal shipping pools operating with the World War II (WW2) Southwest Pacific Area (SPWA) theater’s 7th Fleet:

    1) Large vessels that were US Army or War Shipping Administration vessels assigned to Army including Dutch East Indies tramp steamers and Vichie French vessels (along with freighters commandeered by MacArthur as floating storage when they arrived with intentions of return). These were the Army Transport Service (ATS) vessels that were, under a 1941 reorganization, integrated into the Water Division of the US Army Transportation Corps. They were manned by American and; Australian merchant seamen in part, but primarily by the US Coast Guard on newer ship after mid-1944.
    .

    2) The small ships and boats section with watercraft of less than 1,000 tons displacement, almost exclusively of local SWPA origin with some built for the U.S. Army in Australia’s small boatyards, that were essential for operating in the coral filled waters of Northern Australia, the Coral Sea, Papua/New Guinea and the scattered islands of the Philippines. They were crewed primarily by a mix of citizens from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, some as young as 15-years old after February 1943, due to a world wide merchant seaman shortage.
    .

    3) The US Army Engineer Special Brigades (ESB) in LCVP and LCM landing craft. Each US Army Engineer Special Brigade — and MacArthur had three in the Philippines, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Brigades — was equipped to transport and land a division in a “Shore to shore” operation of under 135 miles. (which was the practical maximum overnight range of a LCM combat loaded with a M4 Sherman tank.) These brigades required a force of 7340 men, 540 LCMs and LCVPs, and 104 command and support boats to move that division. You can find an excellent site dedicated to the ESB’s here — http://ebsr.net/ESBhistory.htm

    Of the three coastal shipping pools, the second was the only one MacArthur had for the first 18 months after he came to Australia. It was made up primarily of anything the Australians would let “Mission X”, what later became the US Army Small Ship Service (USASS), impress from Australian harbors. Two and three mast sailing ships, tugs, fishing boats and 40 year old coal powered tramp steamers less than 1,000 tons fit to be hulks were the main components of that fleet.

    This small boat “fleet” operated in the face of Japanese air superiority without even Destroyers for escort — the USN did not allow any US Navy warships past Milne Bay. If these small watercraft had escorts, they were Australian motor launches, US Navy PT-Boats and US Army ESB landing craft gunboats.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Uncategorized, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Considerations on the N-Word

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th June 2013 (All posts by )

    The injudicious use of which has led to Paula Deen being booted from the Food Network, never mind that she was speaking under oath, and is a lady of a certain age and of a background where the n-word was … well, I honestly can’t say how current was the use of that word back in Paula Deen’s early days. It’s certainly scattered generously all over 19th century literary works like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn like chocolate sprinkles on a frosted Krispy Kreme donut, and piled on by the handful in the 20th century oeuvre of rap artists and edgy comedians of color… Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Miscellaneous, Society, Uncategorized, USA | 31 Comments »

    History Friday: MacArthur’s Sioux Code Talkers

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 21st June 2013 (All posts by )

    I have mentioned in a previous column (http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/36669.html) that researching and understanding MacArthur’s WW2 fighting style was an exercise in frustration due to existing institutional historic narratives plus the patchwork and mayfly-like lives of some of the institutions MacArthur created and used to fight in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). Organizations that were discarded by the US Army after WW2 and then hidden behind bureaucratic walls of classification for decades. One of my internet searches stumbled across another example of these many, small, ‘here today and gone tomorrow’, narrative busting organizations in MacArthur’s South West Pacific Theater, his Sioux Indian Code Talkers.

    Unlike the much more publicized US Marine Corps Navajo Code Talker program, this smaller “Code Talker” program used Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Sioux Native American soldiers in MacArthur’s South West Pacific Theater and in Europe. The program was not declassified until the mid-1970′s and the US Army has never seen fit to publicly recognize their Sioux code talkers to the extent that the USMC has with its Navajos. It does not fit the narrative on MacArthur.

    MacArthur’s Code Talker program was smaller than both the USMC program and the European Theater Comanche code talker program with the 4th Infantry Division (whose cover was blown to the Axis by the NY Times in 1940!) and was centered around the US Army’s 302nd Reconnaissance Squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division, a battalion sized horse cavalry Reconnaissance unit, that was reorganized into two company sized units, the 302nd Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized) and the 603rd Independent Tank Company. Some of the 302nd code talkers graduated from the same course that the 6th Army Alamo Scout infiltration teams were selected from.

    See this 1st Cavalry Division Association link (http://www.first-team.us/tableaux/chapt_02/) on the 1st Cav’s “Sioux Code Talkers” –

    “During the fall of 1943, more changes came to the Division. On 11 October, the firepower of the Division was improved by the activation of the 271st Field Artillery. In the reorganization of 04 December, weapons troops “D” and “H” were added to each of the regiments. The 7th Reconnaissance Squadron was reorganized into the 603rd Light Tank Company and the 302nd Reconnaissance Troop (Mech). The 302nd had a specific Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) which incorporated a unique radio unit with troops of Lakota and Dakota Indian Tribes who used their ancient tribal Sioux language to communicate with other divisional headquarters troops. This secret organization, formed in the foothills of Australia and later to be known as “The Code Talkers” was recruited at the direction of General MacArthur. The close-knit group of individuals, Phillip Stoney LeBlanc, Edmund St. John, Baptiste Pumkinseed, Eddie Eagle Boy, Guy Rondell, and John Bear King took their task seriously. They saved many American lives using their language as an unbreakable code to fool the Japanese throughout the subsequent Island Campaigns.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    For Dan – The Guardian of Granny’s Recipe Box

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th March 2013 (All posts by )

    Among the recipes in the box is one for dandelion wine.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Miscellaneous, Photos | 7 Comments »

    High Ground in Chicago at the Siskel Center 2/21- 2/23

    Posted by Zenpundit on 20th February 2013 (All posts by )

    HIGH GROUND 

    Hat tip to Kanani Fong of Kitchen Dispatch 

    At the Siskel Center, 164 N State St, Chicago. IL. 60601
    (312) 846-2600

    The award -winning film HIGH GROUND :
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Announcements, Arts & Letters, Film, Iraq, Miscellaneous, Society, USA, War and Peace | Comments Off

    Gessler’s Hat

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th February 2013 (All posts by )

    In the foundation-legend of the Swiss confederacy, Alberect Gessler was a cruel and tyrannical overlord installed by the Austrians, who installed his hat atop a pole in the public marketplace and decreed that all should bow to it … to his hat, not merely his person. Such a declaration was, I think, a way of rubbing in his authority over the common citizens – indeed, rubbing their noses in the fact that he could make them do so, and do so in front of everyone else.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Customer Service, Miscellaneous, Religion, USA | 27 Comments »

    The Wages of Partisan News Reporting

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st January 2013 (All posts by )

    I have noted recent news reports decrying incidents of Sandy Hook trutherism with a certain degree of cynical un-surprise. This then, is the fruit of modern journalism; now we have news consumers who are absolutely convinced that the mass murders either didn’t happen, didn’t happen as most reports have it, or believe that it was a put-up job entirely. Of course there have been conspiracy buffs since human history began; wherever there was a tragic or shocking event there have always been unexplained details, dangling loose ends and things which just seemed to convenient, too coincidental for some observers. Supposing the existence of a conspiracy explains shattering and usually random events all very neatly, which is why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in the first place. Since I was in grade school, I’ve been hearing about the plot, or plots which supposedly took down JFK. It’s to the point where I can paint myself as a radical just by insisting that Oswald was a lone radical nut-case and no, it wasn’t that hard a shot. And sometimes suspicion of a conspiracy has been very well based; look at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Media, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Tea Party, The Press, USA | 18 Comments »

    Archive – Oh!! Christmas Tree!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th December 2012 (All posts by )

    (From the old SSDB archive – a reminiscence about the search for the perfect Christmas tree, December, 1981.)

    It really takes a gift to find yourself on a soggy-wet mountainside in on a Sunday afternoon in December, with a fine drizzle coagulating out of the fog in the higher altitudes, slipping and sliding on a muddy deer track with a tree saw in one hand, and leading a sniffling and wet (inside and out) toddler with the other.
    Yep, it’s a gift all right, born of spontaneous optimism and an assumption based on the map on the back page of the Sacra-Tomato bloody-f#$*%^g Bee newspaper, and a promise to Mom. Said map made the %$#*ing Christmas tree farm look like it was a couple of blocks, a mere hop-skip-and-jump from the back gate of Mather AFB’s housing area, an easy jaunt on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, a lovely and traditional Christmas pastime, choosing your own tree from the place they were growing in!
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Holidays, Humor, Miscellaneous, North America | 6 Comments »

    History Friday – The Legend of Sally Skull

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th November 2012 (All posts by )

    It was said of Texas that it was a splendid place for men and dogs, but hell for women and horses. Every now and again though, there were women who embraced the adventure with the same verve and energy that their menfolk did; and one of them was a rancher, freight-boss and horse trader in the years before the Civil War. She is still popularly known as Sally Skull to local historians. There were many legends attached to her life, some of them even backed up by public records. Her full given name was actually Sarah Jane Newman Robinson Scull Doyle Wadkins Horsdorff. She married – or at least co-habited – five times. Apparently, she was more a woman than any one of her husbands could handle for long.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Miscellaneous, USA | 1 Comment »

    Re-Run: Therapy Culture

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th October 2012 (All posts by )

    Among one of the small stories that I remember hearing, or reading after the monster tsunami that struck South-East Asia on the day after Christmas several years ago was the one about the clouds of mental-health professionals, breathlessly hurrying in to offer grief and trauma counseling to the understandably traumatized survivors – only to discover that – well, most of them were getting along fine. And if not fine, at least reasonably OK, Yes, they were grieving, they were traumatized by all sorts of losses, their lives and livelihoods, their communities and their families had been brutally ripped apart, but a large number of the survivors seemed inclined to be rather stoic about it all. They seemed to be more interested in pulling up their socks, metaphorically speaking, and getting on with it. It appeared that, according to the story, their culture and religion predisposed them to a mind-set that said: the incomprehensible does indeed happen, wheel of life, turn of fate and all that, and when it happens, pull up your socks and get on with it.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative | 21 Comments »

    In the Post

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th August 2012 (All posts by )

    I’ve been thinking for a while – based on my own use of the service – that the good old US Post Office is something well past its best-if-used-by date. Oh, no – not that it should be done away with as a government service entirely. But I can contemplate delivery of the mail only two or three times a week with perfect equanimity … which is at least a little tragic for there were times when the daily arrival of the mail was a much-looked-forward-to thing. When I was overseas, or in a remote location – like Greenland (and in military outposts today I am certain) the arrival of the mail (three times a week) was anticipated with keen interest, since it was our lifeline to the outside world. There were letters from family, loved ones, magazines, catalogues and packages with goodies in them – sometimes gifts, sometimes items ordered … the whole world, crammed into a tiny box with a locking door in the central post office; the magical envelopes, the catalogues and magazines in a tight-packed roll, the little pink slips that meant a package … and then, between one or two decades, it all changed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Customer Service, Miscellaneous, North America, Politics, Tea Party, Unions | 6 Comments »

    Trees: Phototropic Simplexities

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 25th June 2012 (All posts by )

    [ Cross-posted from Zenpundit -- this one's a prose poem: it begins with a statement so tight it needs to be unwound, & unwinds it ]
    .

    I wrote this urgently starting when it “woke” me at 4am one morning in the late 1990s or 2000, and as soon as it was out, I found myself writing another piece in the series, a game design. Together, the pair of them represent a stage in my games and education thinking intermediate between Myst-like Universities of 1996 and my vision today of games in education. In this posting, I have added the words “figuratively speaking” for absolute clarity: otherwise, the piece remains as written all those years ago.

    ***


    A copse. Photo credit: Ian Britton via FreePhoto.com under CC license. Note how the wind sweeps the trees into a group shape.

    ***

    Trees: Phototropic Simplexities

    Trees are phototropic simplexities, no wonder we like them they cowork so well too: copses, see.

    *

    Meaning:

    Trees we know: I as writer can refer you, reader, safely to them, “trees”, in trust that the word I use will signal to you too — triggering for you, also — pretty much the assortment of branching organic thingies about which I’m hoping to communicate that they are complex entities whose complexity comes from a simplicity of rule — branching — repeated with variations, said variants doing their branching in thirst of light, each trunk rising, limb outpushing, branch diverging, twig evading other twig much as one who seeks in a crowd a clear view of a distant celebrity shifts and cranes and peers — branching, thus, by the finding of light in avoidance of nearby shadow and moving into it, into light as position, that light, that position, growing, and thus in the overall “unified yet various”, we, seekers of the various and unified love them, to see them in greens themselves various in their simplexity is to say “tree” with a quiet warmth; while they themselves also, by the necessity of their branching seeking, if clumped together seek in an avoidance of each other’s seeking, growing, thus space-sharing in ways which as the wind sweeps and conforms them to its own simplex flows, shapes them to a common curve we call aerodynamic, highlit against the sky huddled together as “copse” — this, in the mind’s eyes and in your wanderings, see…

    *

    Meaning:

    Trees we can talk about. Simplexity is a useful term for forms — like trees — which are neither simple only nor complex only, but as varied as complexity suggests with a manner of variation as simple as simplicity implies.

    Trees? Their simplexity is conveyed in principle by the word “branching”. Its necessity lies in the need of each “reaching end” of the organism to ascertain from its own position and within the bounds of its possible growing movement, some “available” light — this light-seeking having the name “phototropism”.

    Simplexities — and thus by way of example, trees — we like, we call them beautiful.

    Clustered together, too, and shaped by the winds’ patterns of flow, these individual simplexities combine on an English hilltop (or where you will) to form yet other beauties.

    *

    Thus:

    Trees are phototropic simplexities, no wonder we like them they cowork so well too: copses, see.

    *

    Meaning:

    I love trees. Want to talk about simplexities, beauty.

    I wish to talk about beauty because it is beauty that I love, if I love it, that is beauty: love is kalotropic, a beauty-seeking. I am erotropic, love seeking — you can find in this my own simplexity, my own varieties of seeking, of the growths that are my growth, and clumping me with others under the winds, the pressures that form and conform us, you can find also the mutual shapes that we adopt, beautiful.

    Simplexity, then, is a key to beauty, variety, self, character, cohabitation… Tropism, seeking, is the key to simplexity. Love is my tropism. Ours, I propose.

    *

    Meaning:

    Beauty is one simplexity perceived by another: the eye of the beholder, with optic nerve, “brain”, branching neuron paths that other simplexity, “consciousness” the perceiving.

    *

    Meaning also:

    That all is jostle, striving — a strife for life, in which the outcome overall is for each a “place in the sun” but not without skirmishes, shadows. The overall picture, therefore, beautiful — but this overall beauty hard to perceive when the specific shadow falls in the specific sought place of the moment, the “available” is not available, and the strife of the moment is paramount.

    Branching being the order behind simplexity, differentiation…

    Differentiation for maximal tropism at all levels — life seeking always the light, honey, beauty, is always and everywhere in conflict also with itself, competitive: and competition the necessary act of the avoidance of shadow, and the shadow creating act.

    And beauty — the light, thing sought, implacably necessary food and drink, the honey — thus the drive that would make us kill for life.

    I could kill for beauty.

    I could kill for honey.

    Figuratively speaking.

    *

    Implying:

    Paradise and Fall, simultaneous, everywhere.

    It is at this juncture, at this branching, that we are “expelled from the garden” — can no longer see the beauty that is and remains overall, that can allow us to say also, “we are never outside the garden” — for the dappling of light on and among the leaves has become to us, too closely jostled, shadow.

    And shadow for shadow we jostle, and life is strife.

    *

    Thus:

    The dappling of light on leaves, beautiful, is for each shadowed leaf, shadow, death-dealing, is for each lit leaf, light, life-giving: a chiaroscuro, beautiful, see.

    Roots, too, have their mirror branchings.

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Philosophy, Photos, Poetry | 1 Comment »

    Such a Disagreeable Man

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2012 (All posts by )

    I’m sure I’m no ascetic; I’m as pleasant as can be;
    You’ll always find me ready with a crushing repartee,
    I’ve an irritating chuckle, I’ve a celebrated sneer, I’ve an entertaining snigger, I’ve a fascinating leer.
    To ev’rybody’s prejudice I know a thing or two;
    I can tell a woman’s age in half a minute — and I do. But although I try to make myself as pleasant as I can,
    Yet ev’rybody says I’m such a disagreeable man!
    And I can’t think why! –

    From Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida

    I suppose that one of the most enjoyable things about romping in the halls of historical research is getting to know people, some of whom are famous and others notorious, all of them interesting and they tickle my interest to the point where I would have very much liked to have met some of them personally. Sam Houston is one of them in Texas history that I’d have loved to meet, Jack Hays another, Angelina Eberly a third. I would have loved to have met Queen Elizabeth I of England – three of the four are complicated people, as nearly as I can judge from reading accounts of them. I just would have liked to have had the chance to form my own, independently-arrived at opinion, you see. About the only way that I can indulge this curiosity is to work them up as characters for various books – walk-on parts, usually. Assemble the various views, take a look at some known writing of theirs, consult the grave and sober historians and come up with something that I hope will be revealing, true to the historical facts, and at least a jolly good read … but now and again, in the pages of history, I encounter those that I don’t like very much at all. Some of them are so immediately disagreeable, dislikeable and all-unpleasant that I marvel they lived long enough to make a mark in history at all.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    Sunset Sky With Balloons

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th February 2012 (All posts by )

    At the balloon festival in Abilene, Texas – 2010

    Posted in Americas, Miscellaneous, North America, Photos, Tech, Transportation | 5 Comments »

    Slides

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th February 2012 (All posts by )

    I love the English language. Yes, I understand I have a lot to learn, and it isn’t as romantic as French, but neither is it as barbaric sounding as some of the Slavic languages (not saying these people are barbarians, just the sound to me grates a bit).

    English, to me, seems for some reason (I am obviously no linguistic expert) to be one of the easiest languages to twist and turn for modern usage. I have a vendor that manufactures their products in Germany. The manuals come in several languages, and you can see heavy English usage in the foreign languages, mostly for technical terms. I asked my wife about this – she is fluent in German. Her response is typically that “there isn’t a word for that in German”.

    Does anyone remember slide projectors? Of course we do. Such a hit they were in the sixties and seventies and eighties. You could actually put a slide in a slide projector and project an image on a screen of the Pyramids, or a product, or a photo of good old Aunt Sally from that vacation you took at Niagra Falls.

    Today, we have Power Point to replace the pictures and modern ways to project images on a screen. But we still call the separate pages of the presentation “slides” and the unit is still a “projector”. I have some young admin assistants that on occasion help me to create Power Point presentations and I have asked them before if they have ever seen an actual “slide” or a slide projector. Most of the time the answer is no.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 20 Comments »

    Committee of Vigilance – Part 2

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th February 2012 (All posts by )

    The shooting of James King – political murder disguised as a justifiable response to a personal insult – inflamed the city of San Francisco immediately. King, shot in the chest but still clinging to life was taken to his house. Meanwhile, an enormous mob gathered at the police station, and the police realized almost at once that the accused James Casey could not be kept secure. He was removed under guard to the county jail. The indignant mob was not appeased, not even when the mayor of San Francisco attempted to address the crowd, pleading for them to disperse and assuring them that the law would run its proper course and justice would be done. The crowd jeered, “What about Richardson? Where is the law in Cora’s case?” The mayor hastily retreated, as the square – already guarded by armed marshals, soon filled with armed soldiers. The angry mob dispersed, still frustrated and furious. No doubt everyone in authority in the city breathed a sigh of relief, confident that this matter would blow over. After all, they controlled the political apparatus of the city, at least one newspaper, as well as the adjudicators and enforcers of the law … little comprehending that this shooting represented the last, the very last straw.
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    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Law Enforcement, Miscellaneous, North America, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Graphic Novels on Health Care and other items….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 8th February 2012 (All posts by )

    -from SHOTS, NPR’s Health Care Blog:

    Health care reform is no laughing matter, but MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s new comic book on the subject aims to communicate some pretty complicated policy details in a way that, if not exactly side-splitting, is at least engaging.
     
    In Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works, Gruber steps into the pages of a comic book to guide readers through many of the major elements of the law, including the individual mandate to buy insurance, the health insurance exchanges where people will be able to buy coverage starting in 2014 and how the law tackles controlling health care costs.

    I draw your attention to another graphic novel: The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

    While I was buying a copy of Persepolis from a real-life book store a few years ago, a young woman at the sales counter mentioned that there was a “great” graphic novel about North Korea that I might like. I’m not a graphic novel reader and I think Persepolis is it for me unless I decide to review the health care book, but it interested me that she seemed so enthusiastic about the topic of North Korea and graphic novels. I guess it makes sense given our “information overload” society. I don’t know. Why not look for clarity?

    PS: Linking is not endorsement and all that.

    PPS: What’s the “all that” about? Eh, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for the past week or so and my blogging has been pretty terrible because of it. I linked the health care graphic novel because it amused me, not because I am simpatico with the message. I think you all knew that already….

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Big Government, Bioethics, Book Notes, Business, Economics & Finance, Education, Media, Medicine, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, Science, Society | Comments Off

    Frontier Surgeon or Ferdinand and Hermann’s Excellent Frontier Adventure

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th January 2012 (All posts by )

    The practice of medicine in these United (and for the period 1861-1865, somewhat disunited) States was for most of the 19th century a pretty hit or miss proposition, both in practice and by training. That many sensible people possessed pretty extensive kits of medicines – the modern equivalents of which are administered as prescriptions or under the care of a licensed medical professional – might tend to indicate that the qualifications required to hang out a shingle and practice medicine were so sketchy as to be well within the grasp of any intelligent and well-read amateur, and that many a citizen was of the opinion that they couldn’t possibly do any worse with a D-I-Y approach. Such was the truly dreadful state of affairs generally when it came to medicine in most places and in all but the last quarter of the 19th century – they may have been better off having a go on their own at that.

    Most doctors trained as apprentices to a doctor with a current practice. There were some formal schools of medicine in the United States, but their output did not exactly dazzle with brilliance. Successful surgeons of the time possessed two basic skill sets; speed and a couple of strong assistants to hold the patient down, until he was done cutting and stitching. Most of the truly skilled doctors and surgeons had their training somewhere else – like Europe.

    But in San Antonio, from 1850 on – there was a doctor-surgeon in practice, who ventured upon such daring medical remedies as to make him a legend. His patients traveled sometimes hundreds of miles to take advantage of his skill …
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    Posted in Germany, History, Medicine, Miscellaneous, North America | 9 Comments »