A rebuttal to those who accuse America of imperial arrogance (I’m talking to you Mr. Obama)

American Cemetery at Meuse-Argonne

American Cemetery at Meuse-Argonne

I have been to several American military cemeteries in Western Europe. They are deeply moving places, because they shelter the bones of Americans who died far from home, defending the freedoms of people other than themselves. The following email therefore resonated very strongly with me:

In alphabetical order

1. The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne, France… A total of 2289

2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes, Belgium… A total of 5329

3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France… A total of 4410

4. Brookwood, England – American Cemetery… A total of 468

5. Cambridge, England… A total of 3812

6. Epinal, France – American Cemetery… A total of 5525

7. Flanders Field, Belgium… A total of 368

8. Florence, Italy… A total of 4402

9. Henri-Chapelle, Belgium… A total of 7992

10. Lorraine , France… A total of 10,489

11 . Luxembourg, Luxembourg… A total of 5076

12. Meuse-Argonne… A total of 14246

13 . Netherlands, Netherlands… A total of 8301

14. Normandy, France… A total of 9387

15. Oise-Aisne, France… A total of 6012

16. Rhone, France… A total of 861

17. Sicily, Italy… A total of 7861

18. Somme, France… A total of 1844

19. St. Mihiel, France… A total of 4153

20. Suresnes, France… A total of 1541

Apologize to no one.

Remind those of our sacrifice and don’t confuse arrogance with leadership.

The count is 104,366 dead, brave Americans.

And we have to watch an American elected leader who apologizes to Europe and the Middle East that our country is “arrogant”!

HOW MANY FRENCH, DUTCH, ITALIANS, BELGIANS AND BRITS ARE BURIED ON OUR SOIL… AFTER DEFENDING US AGAINST OUR ENEMIES?

WE DON’T ASK FOR PRAISE… BUT WE HAVE ABSOULUTELY NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE!

Americans, forward it!

Non-patriotic, delete it!

Most of the protected don’t understand it.

DO THINK ABOUT THIS. THANK YOU.

More travel notes — Fredericksburg

Sleep has gone from being a luxury to a necessity, so I don’t have the luxury Of writing anything. I do have some pictures, though of the remnants of that bloody battle, where General Burnside used 18th century tactics, designed for minimally accurate, slow-firing, smooth-bore muskets, to send his Union soldiers like lambs to the slaughter before the 19th century’s more accurate guns.

Here are some photos of bullet-marked buildings, ancient stone walls that once sheltered the Confederate troops who mowed down Union soldiers at the rate of 1,000 per hour, a cemetery where tens of thousands lie buried, a brick building before which doomed Union soldiers marched, and just the beauty of a place that was home to a terrible tragedy long ago:

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The Bookworm Beat 6-24-15 — the “midnight ramblings” edition

Woman-writing-300x265I should be heading for bed, as it’s after midnight, but I’m so thrilled to have a moment to myself that I can’t resist a little blogging. I’m feeling especially smug (and tired) tonight because my heroic 1:30 a.m. efforts yesterday were the difference between success and ignominious failure on a big motion. Damn it all! I deserve some time to write.

Anything you can be I can be better….

My favorite military humorist, Lee Ho Fuk has taken the Rachel Dolezal mantra — “anything you can be I can be better” — to a whole new level:

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Another splendid evening commemorating the Battle of Midway

Battle of MidwayFor most Americans of a historic or patriotic bent, yesterday — June 6 — was a day to honor the incredible bravery of the American troops who stormed Normandy’s shores on June 6, 1944.  Too many people have forgotten that, before D-Day, the Allies had no boots on the ground in the fight against the Germans.  It was the incredible organizational abilities of the American military, combined with the staggering bravery of American men, that marked the beginning of the end of Nazi dominance in Western Europe.

Almost two years to the day before D-Day, however, the American Navy won a staggering victory at seas — perhaps the greatest naval victory in American history — that marked the beginning of the end of Japan’s control over the Pacific.  The Pacific war raged on for three more bloody, painful, and deadly years, but it was the Battle of Midway, which raged from June 4 to June 7, 1942, that dealt the Japanese a blow from which they never recovered.  The numbers, which I’ve taken from Wikipedia, tell something of the story of the enormous odds against the Americans as they went into battle, something that makes their victory that much more inspiring:

Battle of Midway statistics

As you can see, the Americans were grossly outnumbered, not to mention that USS Yorktown had been pieced together over the course of three frantic days in Pearl Harbor after the terrible damage she suffered at the Battle of the Coral Sea, yet Americans triumphed. A significant part of America’s victory was the extraordinary courage that members of the Navy and Marines — many of whom were quite new to the military — showed during the battle. The program I received at last night’s commemorative dinner, included a lovely contemporary quotation from Ensign William R. Evans, USN: a pilot of Torpedo Squadron 8, KIA at Midway, written on June 4, 1942. I’d like to quote it here:

Many of my friends are now dead. To a man, each died with a nonchalance that each would have denied as courage. They simply called it lack of fear. If anything great or good is born of this war, it should not be valued in the colonies we may win nor in the pages historians will attempt to write, but rather in the youth of our country, who never trained for war; rather almost never believed in war, but who have, from some hidden source, brought forth a gallantry which is homespun, it is so real.

When you hear others saying harsh things about American youth, do all in your power to help others keep faith with those few who gave so much. Tell them that out here, between a spaceless sea and sky, American youth has found itself and given itself so that, at home, the spark may catch. There is much I cannot say, which should be said before it is too late. It is my fear that national inertia will cancel the gains won at such a price. My luck can’t last much longer, but the flame goes on and on.

There was another kind of bravery on display at the Battle of Midway, and it was one that last night’s speaker, Admiral Scott “Notso” Swift, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, touched upon in his very thoughtful and thought-provoking speech to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Midway:  The bravery of the admirals called upon to make the decisions in advance of the Battle, something they did without massive oversight, not to mention second-guessing, from people at desks thousands of miles away. (I did not take notes last night so I can only summarize what I understand him to say. Anything that sounds wrong is my fault, not his.)

Admiral Swift reminded the audience that the Americans had not cracked the Japanese code, although they did believe that they had a general idea of what the Japanese were communicating to each other. It was certain that the Japanese were planning a major, and imminent attack to cement their control over the Pacific, but nobody knew precisely when or, more importantly, where they were going to attack. The probable targets were eventually narrowed to two: Either the West Coast (Washington or California) or the small, but centrally located Midway Island. Admiral Nimitz was convinced that the battle would take place at Midway, but the desk jockeys in Washington were convinced the mainland coast would be the target.

Nimitz’s team used a false message about a water problem at Midway, which the Japanese promptly relayed, to prove pretty conclusively that a specific numerical sequence in the Japanese code did indeed refer to Midway.  Having somewhat allayed the fears in D.C., Nimitz gave the order to prepare for battle. And so it was that the American Navy’s small and tattered fleet steamed out into the Pacific, looking everywhere in those vast, empty waters for the much larger Imperial Fleet.

I will embarrass myself by exposing my ignorance if I describe how American fliers, at enormous risk to themselves, found the Japanese fleet, or how bravely the men in planes and on board ships fought to bring about that almost miraculous victory. What I can relay, though, is something that Admiral Swift said, which really struck me.  Admiral Nimitz, although he tracked the battle minute by minute, did not interfere with command decisions at the scene of the battle. He trusted the team he had assembled — and who were on the water, dealing with matters in real-time — to make the right decisions. His trust was rewarded, because his admirals, not to mention the men in their command, acted with courage, flexibility, and innovation to destroy the Japanese fleet. It took a lot of time and human capital before this blow was fully effective, but Midway was the turning point.  From that point onward, the question wasn’t whether the Japanese would lose, it was when they would lose.

After having made this point about Nimitz’s willingness to trust his team, from the admirals on down, Admiral Swift said that our modern military today has a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to mistakes. This attitude, while virtuous in its way (nobody wants the risk of a sloppily run, careless military), leads to micromanagement. Indeed, as a friend commented to me later, today’s communication advances mean that the people at the desks, from high-ranking military commanders to way too many lawyers, can oversee a battle in real-time, and provide running critique and commentary. Kind of like this:

Bin Laden's Hunter

My take on this is that, not only do too many cooks spoil the broth, there’s a problem when these cooks are focused on concerns other than winning a specific battle.  Moreover, it can mean that important decisions get delayed while a message is being relayed down the line.  For example, the same friend told me that D-Day might have turned out quite differently if Hitler hadn’t put himself in command.  Although the commander of a Panzer division some 25 miles away from Normandy’s beaches could easily have moved in and destroyed the Americans, the Germans in Berlin who received the message about the D-Day landing were afraid to wake Hitler up.  For that reason, there was a 12 hour delay before the Panzer commander was told to head for the beaches.  By this time, though, the Americans were reinforced with men, vehicles, and weapons, and the German commander realized that he had lost his window of opportunity, and elected to regroup further inland.

Back to Admiral Swift’s speech, the Admiral said that, with excessive caution, micromanagement, and overly strong command-and-control (my words, not his), we run the risk of stifling the initiative, instinct, and moral courage that made possible victories such as Midway, victories that relied on experience, instinct, and a deep and abiding trust in ones team, starting with the admirals and captains, and running all the way down to the enlisted sailors.  (Again, those are my words, not Admiral Swift’s, but I think that’s what he said.)

If I understand correctly what Admiral Swift was saying, this was a very important statement coming from the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, because it appears that he’ll use his position to give the people in his command more autonomy.  Again, if I got this right, I highly approve of the idea.  (If I got this wrong, someone correct me, please!!!)

I’ve focused on Admiral Swift’s talk, because I thought it was so interesting, but that wasn’t the only interesting part of the evening, of course.  I’ve gone to enough Midway Commemorations to know a lot of people there and it’s a great pleasure every year to see them again, exchange hugs, and catch up a little.  And as always, I delighted in the gorgeous setting at the Marines Memorial Club, enjoyed the delicious roast beef, and took a great deal of pleasure in seeing everyone dressed up in evening clothes and formal uniforms (complete with rows of ribbons, golden stripes marking years of service, and the insignia of their rank).

The one sad part of the evening was that only one Midway veteran was able to attend the dinner last night.  I believe that the first time I went, perhaps six or seven years ago, there were fourteen.  The one man who did attend was Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Oral L. Moore, otherwise known as “Slim.”  At the Battle of Midway, Slim was an Aviation Radioman, 3/c, flying in a Bombing Squadron 8 SBD dive bomber off of the hornet.

Although Slim’s plane wasn’t involved in the attack on the Japanese carriers at Midway, during a Search on June 6th, the plane’s pilot, Ensign W.D. Carter, spotted the Japanese cruisers Mikuma and Mogami.  Because the Mogami had been damaged in a collision with the Mikuma, resulting in a shortened bow, Carter thought he was seeing a two different types of ships — one a standard heavy cruiser (the Mogami) and the other alarger battle cruiser (the Mikuma).  Carter’s instructions to Slim led to a moment of historic confusion that was only cleared up sometime later.  Here is what the book with veteran autobiographies has to say:

Believing he was seeing a standard heavy cruiser (MOGAMI) along with a larger battle cruiser (MIKUMA) with no bow damage), Carter told Moore over the dive bomber’s intercom to send “SIGHTED ONE CA, ONE CB” to the American task force. Moore had never heard of a “CB” (battle cruiser), and thought the pilot had said “ONE CA, ONE CV” (one cruiser, one carrier), which is what he sent via Morse code. It was correctly copied that way by radiomen aboard the USS Enterprise, where Admiral Spruance was astounded that another Japanese carrier was in the area. He ordered scouts in the air to find and verify the report. (Most written histories of the battle state that Moore’s message was garbled in transmission, resulting in the “CV” mistake, but that was not the case.)

A short while later VB-8 pilot Roy Gee [who also attended Midway commemorations] overflew Enterprise and dropped a handwritten message reporting “two cruisers” but at a position slightly different than the one reported by Carter and Moore. This led Spruance to believe he was dealing with two groups of enemy ships, and he ordered a full strike from the Hornet. The confusion wasn’t cleared up for another hour when Carter landed and corrected his original sighting report.

Slim was also in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, in October 1942, where he sustained injuries to his feed and leg. When he finally made it to sick bay on the Enterprise, he discovered himself next to one of his high school classmates!

Slim is quite frail now, and needed help getting around at the event. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the sailor who escorted him was bursting with pride to be able to take care of such a valiant man — valiant in 1942 and valiant in 2015.

Of course, there was no shortage of valiant men last night. Seated next to Slim at the dinner was a man from the Philippine Army who had survived the Bataan Death March. And presiding as President of the Mess was Rear Admiral Thomas F. Brown (Ret.), one of the Navy’s most distinguished pilots during Vietnam. Here are Admiral Brown’s statistics and awards from his time in the air over Vietnam. I can also tell you that he is an incredibly nice man — and must have been one hell of a math teacher, which is what he did after retiring from the Navy.

Overall, my evening at the 73rd Battle of Midway Commemoration dinner was as I expected it to be: interesting, fun, and very moving. I am always honored that the Navy opens its doors to people without a Navy background when it comes to this event.

The Bookworm Beat 5-22-15 — the “no more doctors, please!” edition and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265My post title notwithstanding, I am well, I have been well, and I expect that I will continue to be well. It’s just that I’ve spent between five and fifteen hours every week for the last few weeks in doctors’ offices thanks to my mother and my kids, all of whom are well, but who needed a variety of maintenance appointments. I’m all doctored out. Politics, however, still interest me:

Obama’s ego is all that stands between Israel and destruction

Obama sat down for an interview with his go-to Jew, Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg worships at the Obama altar, but periodically manages to sound as if he cares about the welfare of Israel and the Jewish people. I used to be fooled. I’m not anymore.

In any event, James Taranto caught Obama in a fascinating narcissistic moment in that interview. First, here’s what Goldberg wrote:\

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The Bookworm Beat 5-15-15 — “knock yourself out” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingNot a bad day, but a busy one. Legal work in the morning, followed immediately by taking my mother to an appointment, followed immediately by a lunch that I’ll tell you about, followed immediately by taking my son to the barber, which activity will be followed immediately by joining some gal pals for dinner. I’m grabbing a five minute interval between activities to tell you about that lunch and to offer you a couple of links.

The person I met for lunch is the client of an attorney friend whom I’ve been helping for the past months, since she’s been very busy. He and I talked on the phone about discovery issues and, since we kept getting sidetracked on non-legal matters, we agreed to meet for lunch. We lunched for two and a half hours! About twenty minutes into the conversation, when he mentioned Friedrich von Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, I knew that the lunch was going to go very, very well. We talked law, politics, society, child-rearing, etc. and found ourselves to be in sync ideologically, but with different funds of knowledge and different thoughts about significant issues. It was a very enjoyable lunch. Next time, we’ll try to get our spouses involved since, coincidentally, our spouses work in similar fields.

I always enjoy these reminders that, no matter how old I get, and how regimented my days can be, life still offers surprises. You just have to say yes when opportunities offer themselves, and pay attention so that the surprises don’t pass by without your even being aware of them.

Oh, and the posts I wanted you to see. Wolf Howling directed me to an Open Letter an Air Force enlistee penned after having to sit through a mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. She came a way furiously angry but, unlike a Michelle Obama-esque person, she didn’t come away furiously angry at men, she came away furiously angry at a military culture that tries to paint her as a victim and then treat her accordingly:

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.

That’s just a taste, but you really need to read the whole thing.

Now that I’ve got your dander up, let me calm it down with one of the nicest stories I’ve heard in a long time. Wait. Make that two of the nicest stories.

You don’t have to lower the standards; you just need exceptional women

captain-sarah-cudd-665x385In New York, the Mayor’s office has gutted physical standards so as to let more women firefighters onto the job — never mind that the standards are directly related to the job requirements.  Wolf Howling says what I would have said if I’d written on the subject.

My addition to the topic is that New York now enters the San Francisco era of fire fighters. Between women and small Asians, the City long ago stopped making any effort to have firefighting standards that are actually related to, you know, fighting fires. I’ve actually written about this issue before.

If the standards are reasonably related to the job’s demands, it’s unreasonable and dangerous to water them down to meet the ever-escalating demands of the Social Justice Warrior crowd. And keep in mind that, no matter the standards, there are women out there who can usually meet them. One of the most ferocious, hard-kicking, downright dangerous martial artists I ever met was a female San Francisco firefighter. A lot of the guys were scared to fight her.

And then there’s the amazing and wonderful Captain Sarah Cudd, who completed a 12-mile hike, with a heavy pack, over rough terrain, in two hours and 45 minutes in order to earn her Expert Field Medical Badge. More than 75% of the people who attempt this course — and that means mostly men — fail. Captain Cudd didn’t and it’s tremendously moving to watch her push herself through the fatigue, as well as to see the outpouring of support for her from the spectators (most of whom, again, are men):

From the Facebook post that first brought her to the world’s attention:

CPT Sarah Cudd from Public Health Command, Fort Knox is only 1 of the 46 candidates who earned the EFMB yesterday at Fort Dix, NJ..27 April 2015. This is her last few seconds of the 12 Mile Foot March. The Foot March is the last event of the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB), and must be completed within 3 hours. If you want it, you have to go get it. Watch this video. This EFMB candidate wanted it, and she got it. It took heart, guts, determination, falling down and getting up, and a little motivation from the crowd to get across the finish line. Check this out.

Stolen valor exposed right here in our own Marin County

Marine capAlmost five years ago, I wrote a post about 1st Lieutenant Gregory Allen, a retired United States Marine who ran a fitness center in San Rafael (part of Marin County), the purpose of which was to get young people ready for military boot camp. The City of San Rafael was trying to shut Allen’s gym down, and people who supported his mission sent out a flier seeking money to keep the gym open in spite of new fees that San Rafael was imposing on the gym.

In a twist no one could have expected five years ago, it turns out that there was no 1st Lieutenant Gregory Allen, USMC ret. Instead, there was stolen valor:

For more than a decade, “Lieutenant” Gregory Allen pumped up young military hopefuls at his gym in San Rafael, California. The bulky and bald-headed drill sergeant told war stories from his stint in Vietnam, collected donations, and even posed for photos in a U.S. Marines uniform with a Purple Heart and Bronze star.

The only problem: the Marine Corps says Allen, 67, never served. Now the wannabe jarhead is under investigation by the FBI and Department of Veterans Affairs for allegedly faking his entire military record.

The sham soldier’s fall from grace came last week, after one former Marine’s own detective work prompted the federal probe.

“He’s helping young people who want to join the Marine Corps, but he was doing it through lies and deception,” said James Brown, the watchdog who tipped off authorities.

There’s no doubt that Allen genuinely ran a gym and that the gym did mimic the training young people do at boot camp, especially Marine boot camp. Allen’s whole bio, though, was a lie through and through:

But Allen’s story publicly unraveled after a Bay Area TV reporter exposed his dubious military career Friday. He never served in the Marines or in Vietnam, and never received any medals, ABC 7 discovered through a records request.

Instead, the poser Marine enlisted in the Navy in 1968 but was discharged after eight months because of a knee injury that he sustained playing football prior to enlisting.

[snip]

Brown teamed up with [local ABC news reporter Dan] Noyes to investigate Allen. It all started when the sergeant major for the local Marines asked Brown if he knew who Allen was and why he was taking so much credit for helping young recruits.

Brown told The Daily Beast it wasn’t hard to poke holes in Allen’s story: pictures of the supposed lieutenant did the work for him. In one online photo, Allen stood next to the flag-draped casket of a fallen Marine, but the medals on Allen’s red Marines blazer were out of order. (This Marine was mentored by Allen, and later committed suicide while in the service, Brown said.)

“He’s got a combat action ribbon above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star,” said Brown, a board member of the Wine Country Marines. “Anyone fresh out of boot camp would have known that was wrong. Veterans look at ribbons as resumes.”

In some photographs, Allen donned a Marine Corps Rifle Marksman badge, while in others he had a Rifle Expert badge. But Brown says a Marine can’t be both once you’re a veteran. (“What you have qualified for when you get out of the service, is what you’ve got for life,” Brown said.)

Allen was also wearing a different number of ribbons in various photos.

The fake Marine couldn’t answer questions on the names of his boot camp, class or drill instructors, Brown said.

Adding to the pile of suspicion was the original name of Allen’s gym: “Fitness Boutique.” Brown says Allen transformed his business into a military-style stomping ground 10 years ago after fitness boot camps gained popularity.

Allen has a felony record to boot. He served a three-year prison sentence for violating a restraining order in 1997. According to the ABC7 report, Allen climbed to his wife’s bedroom window and threatened to cut her throat and shoot her.

Apparently Allen dreamed up the whole scam a decade ago in order to capitalize on the growing trend in fitness circles for “boot camp” style training.

Incidentally, Dan Noyes knows the real deal when he sees it: His son just turned down some serious water polo scholarships to enlist in the Marines. Grayson’s a great kid and I know he’ll do the Marines (and his family) proud.

The Bookworm Beat 4-27-15 — “not yet the Apocalypse” edition and open thread

Woman writingMy brain is filled with Apocalyptic imagery, but it’s not because Obama is president, the Middle East is in flames, our southern border has collapsed, our economy is stagnant, Greece may drag down Europe, and Islamist’s are resurgent everywhere. It’s actually because last night, when my work load finally showed signs of a much-desired longish-term slowdown, I started reading two excellent books.

The first is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s lyrical and highly informative Jerusalem: The Biography, which takes the reader from Jerusalem’s pre-Biblical beginnings, to Old Testament and New Testament history, and then through post-Biblical history, all the way up to the 1967 War. It’s a lovely book, but I’ve just finished reading about Jesus’s crucifixion and am working my way toward’s the Kingdom of Israel’s destruction in 70 AD, so you can see why I’d be having an “end of days” feeling.

The second book that I’m reading, equally good so far, isn’t helping. It’s John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, another elegantly written book that makes you realize the speed with which civilization can collapse (as if the recent Ebola scare wasn’t reminder enough). I think too that Kelly, with a historian’s true knowledge rather than a Progressive’s fantasy-science melange, might just be a climate change skeptic. It’s this bit of information that’s the giveaway, about the changing climate and demographic conditions in Europe in the five hundred years leading to the plague:

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