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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

WE can’t fix Islamic terrorism…but I know who can

Posted by Euroranger on November 16, 2015

Here we are again…bodies of innocents in the street.  Entirely predictable too.

So, the world suffered yet another terrorist attack a couple of days ago in Paris.  Six separate but coordinated attacks conducted against targets like a soccer match, a concert hall, restaurants and cafes.  They killed 129 people (so far) and wounded over 350 others and the only common denominator amongst the victims was that they were citizens of a western democracy and they were out to have a good time.  In other words, they weren’t attending some anti-Muslim rally or reading a newspaper whose comic section poked fun at some subject militant Muslims get all shooty/stabby/explodey about.  There’s a fair chance, in fact, that some of the dead people were Muslims themselves.  The targeting was deliberate; the slaughter of victims indiscriminate.  As happens in the now wired, always in touch, constantly connected world we live in, when the first news reports started showing up minutes after the attacks started, I reacted in the same way that the vast majority of people did.  I said, “goddamned Muslims again”.  It happened back on 9/11 as well.  First reports of a jet liner hitting the World Trade Center made me think “Osama Bin Laden” but I wasn’t fully there yet.  But when the second one hit, it was cemented.  One plane could be a tragic accident but a second one was an attack and the first person most people immediately thought of was Bin Laden: the leader of the most well known Islamic terrorist organization in the world at the time.  If you were old enough to remember that attack, you’ll probably also be old enough to recall that a second possible perpetrator of that kind of horrific mass murder never even came to mind.  Fast forward to this past Friday and the same thing happened.  First thought to pop into my head: Muslims.  There literally wasn’t a second place runner up finalist and I suspect the vast majority of people reacted exactly the same way.

So, militant Islamic fundamentalist terror has struck yet again.  It’s happened so many times now that it literally defies an accurate accounting of incidents.  France immediately reacted by shutting down international transportation and closed her borders.  That’s how a nation state reacts when it starts to go on a war footing.  Because ISIS (those merry Muslim assholes who are slaughtering and terrorizing their way to a better and brighter Islamic tomorrow in what used to be Syria and Iraq) claimed responsibility for the attacks, France immediately counter punched the only way a nation state can: it launched a military attack against targets in the areas that ISIS controls.  However, we all know that this is merely symbolic and that this response, while absolutely necessary to sate the righteous desire of the French people for some kind of vengeful action, will do absolutely nothing to prevent more such attacks in the future.  NOTHING about this French response makes anyone anywhere actually think “well, we’ve seen the last of THAT kind of murderous madness”.  We all know it’s just a tit for tat response and an ineffective one at that…but it’s the only thing a nation can do…and it’s inadequate.  So today, if you turn on the TV, this issue is morphing from a news flash/current events kind of incident to a catalyst for a debate on “what to do about terrorism” and more properly, “what to do about Islamic terrorism”.  One of the most compelling questions I read (via Facebook) was someone asking (and I’m paraphrasing here) “what can we do about this kind of thing without destroying civil liberties”.  When I read that, it made me really think.  Just asking about the peril to civil liberties suggests why we have, so far, been unable to affect Islamic terrorism.  I think I understand the problem and I think I have an answer.

We (western democracies) can’t fix Islamic terrorism…but I know who can.

Whenever anyone starts to discuss Islamic fundamentalist terrorism the very first thing you’ll hear is how we can’t penalize all Muslims for the actions of a few.  According to the mighty Google, there are nearly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and anywhere from 15% to 25% of them would be classified as “radical” or “fundamentalist”.  That means there are as many as 400 million people on this planet who support the erasure of western civilization and culture (because that’s what we are to those people…we’re “infidels” or unbelievers and deserving of death and eradication).  That’s more people than the entire population of the United States and Canada combined so it’s a number worth recognizing as posing a serious and continual threat.  Furthermore, those 1.6B and 400M people aren’t confined to a tidy geographic area like a nation with borders.  They’re scattered throughout the world.  Yes, there are roughly 50 nations whose populations are predominantly Muslim but for the most part you can find Muslims and by extension radicalized, militant Muslims all over the world.  As of right now, the number of terrorists who conducted the actual attacks in Paris is EIGHT.  On 9/11, it was NINETEEN and Al Qaeda tried to send TWENTY SIX in total.  That’s it.  Eight attackers in Paris and nineteen on 9/11.  Think on this a moment: less than 30 people actively conducted attacks against the United States and France in those two incidents…and there are FOUR HUNDRED MILLION SUCH PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.  September 11 revealed gaping intelligence holes and since then, our government has gone on a rampage of establishing invasive and onerous intelligence programs designed to get wind of future such attacks so that we can pre-emptively act to thwart them.  Paris itself was attacked less than a year before by Islamic terrorists though and, presumably, France has similar efforts set up to monitor communications and try to identify and neuter such sinister efforts by would be terrorists.  Western governments share information they gather and France would have received such information had national intelligence organs in the UK, US, Germany and other western nations twigged to an upcoming attack.  The fact that France was caught totally unawares says that these terrorists met, plotted and coordinated in a way that was mindful of skirting the intelligence apparatuses of the western democracies.  There was no acquired intelligence that any government was capable of gathering that would have warned French authorities in time to prevent these attacks.  This leads to the conclusion:

Western governments and government in general is not the source for the solution to Islamic terrorism.

Pictured above: doing absolutely jack other than deluding themselves thinking they’re doing something about the problem.

Earlier I identified the civil liberties conundrum: a government cannot pass laws or regulations that target all Muslims in their populations without shredding civil liberties laws.  That said, that WOULD BE THE ONLY EFFECTIVE MEANS FOR A GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.  It would look something like this: label Islam as a hate group (much like the KKK which has Christian underpinnings), overtly make clear that national intelligence and police organs are actively keeping an eye on Muslims (like the FBI does with white supremacist groups and members), emplace and enforce laws that allow greater police latitude in dealing with such groups and members (relaxing 14th Amendment restrictions against unlawful searches, for example) and so on.  The problem is that to do this, you pretty much have to shred the 1st Amendment’s prohibition about making any laws restricting the free exercise of religion.  This, of course, cannot be done.  So, if government can’t do the job, who can?  Well, think a moment: who stands to lose the most if Islamic terrorism goes unchecked?  Not western democracies because once fundamentalist Islam gets big enough to actually threaten the existence of nations, they get big enough to get dealt with militarily.  Not the suicide terrorists themselves.  They’ve already accepted death as their ultimate reward for their actions.

The real player who must act in their own self interest against fundamentalist Islam…is the rest of Islam itself.

The lack of electronic intelligence that preceded this attack means that the plotters likely met in person, probably many times, to scheme and plan their villainy.  Western intelligence organs already know this (especially the French) but for the rest of society: where can a bunch of Muslims meet, talk, go someplace secluded in our midst where they can exchange ideas for how best to slaughter their neighbors without fear of being detected or leaving a telltale electronic trail?  Their local mosque.  In fact, authorities have already identified a mosque in Belgium where, they say, most attendees were radical, fundamentalist Muslims.  This means that the would be terrorists do a fair amount of their organizing and plotting within the confines of their local mosque…in close proximity to other, non-radical Muslims.  Thinking about your own church (for those of you who go) we all know the “normal” folk and we all know who the quiet, distanced, or angry and strident members are.  We know who are new attendees and who are old familiar faces.  In other words, the rest of the attendees would have a fairly good idea who, in their midst, would be likely to be plotting mayhem and mass murder.  The real issue then is: what can government or society in general do to encourage moderate Muslims to police their own ranks and out these murdering bastards before they strike?  The answer would be: when society in general comes to regard ALL Muslims as criminals and terrorists and shuns them and excludes them accordingly.  In other words, when society begins to discriminate against all Muslims because of the actions of a few of their number.  And this WILL end up happening eventually.  Just because our leaders are so concerned with political correctness that they refuse to identify our foe doesn’t mean that individuals in society who do won’t eventually become the majority.  A Charlie Hebdo cartoonist draw a series of panels on Instagram this past Friday night (same night as the attacks) and he said in part in one panel “Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a mode of operation. Repeating ‘we are at war’ without finding the courage to name our enemies leads nowhere.”  This is a fundamental truth: we cannot begin to act against those who would deny us our freedoms and our lives if we can’t even collectively scrounge up the testicular fortitude to point at our victimizer.  What needs to be understood is this: there are still too many among us that are willing to trade insipid Tweets or Facebook posts or leave flowers or a teddy bear or a burning candle in a pile on the ground and think that such will do a single damn thing about the problem.  The time for “saying a prayer” or “standing with” the victims or our leaders “deploring” or being “shocked” and every other single inane and ultimately useless statement or gesture needs to come to an end.  Substituting grim and resolute action with inanities and symbolism only says to the terrorists, “you haven’t yet slaughtered enough of us for us to get around to dealing with you effectively”.  It’s us saying “the lives of the victims didn’t matter because we’re not outraged enough to effectively and seriously act”.  More people need to die for us as a collective society to actually act.

The solution, then, is to act individually.

It’s time to quit being cowed by those who would call a person a “racist” or an “Islamophobe” for deciding to shun or avoid the company of Muslims because they (the Muslims being shunned) refuse to collectively act to police their own community.  It’s time for the rest of us to effectively say “if you refuse to scour your community for these assholes and serve them up to our collective societal justice system, then you’re condoning their actions…agreeing with what they’re doing…and in so doing, you’ve decided to side with them against the rest of us”.  For myself, if someone sides against me, they’ve pretty much removed themselves from my social circle and I need have nothing to do with them.  I write this having friends who are Muslims and this troubles me for saying it.  But the point at which society will finally, collectively act will cost too much in the lives of past, and worse future, victims for me to wait.  If you’re Muslim and you’re reading this: I’m sorry.  So very sorry.  But Muslim voices ARE and have been silent on this.  You practically never hear about a terror plot being foiled by other Muslims coming out and reporting the would be killers of innocents.  You know who those people are in your community and your silence is their cloak of anonymity.  They actively use you and yours as shields to their activities…and you allow it.  This is a choice YOU need to make: side with our collective society and act to protect it…or side with them.  You are best positioned to do this.  It’s finally time you stepped up and took responsibility.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this post.


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The difference between Left and Right

Posted by Euroranger on August 22, 2013

…and just like kid’s shoes, the two sides work better when they’re closer together than when they’re miles apart.

This brief post will be about politics.  Not politics in specific, though, but the political spectrum in general.  We all choose political sides on issues.  Some of us choose them on specific issues and because the sides sometimes switch between topics we like to think of ourselves as “free thinkers” or simply not being entirely aligned to a political “side” for what passes for politics in the United States these days.  Some of us have a “hot button” issue that then directs us to support the opinions of the political party on other issues that champions our view on our dearly held issue.  Regardless, there are two basic sides in America and we all arrive there via some means of thought or value process.  In all fairness, what I’m about to discuss isn’t a new concept and isn’t breaking any new ground but with revelations over the past couple of years, is, to me, a lot more stark example of where the origins of thought are when discussing how people in our single country can be so politically polarized as we appear to be.

I believe the genesis of someone’s leaning in one direction or the other comes down to one value: “confidence“.

In general terms, it is the level of confidence in one’s self to be able to succeed with varying degrees of government “help” to do so.  If you feel that you can be successful without the government lending a hand you tend to lean one way.  If you feel that you need the government to “level the playing field” for you in order to enhance your chances of success then you tend to lean another.  Now, understand, most people don’t hold opinions wholly in one direction or wholly in another…it tends to be a shade of grey somewhere in the middle…but in general terms, I believe a individual’s confidence (in more than just themselves) is what starts the leaning in opinion in one direction or another.  In fact, going back to the first example (the level of confidence in one’s self to be able to succeed with varying degrees of government “help”) it’s also a measure of which do you feel more confident in?  You or the government?  Now, because I, like everyone else, has a political opinion, how I describe that may unintentionally convey a leaning in and of itself.  That’s unavoidable but being aware of it should explain any received bias, if any.  People who identify themselves on the political “right” in this country would probably tend to say they prefer to rely more on themselves and less on the government for their success in life.  People who identify themselves on the political “left” in this country would probably tend to say that not all people are equal but that everyone should have an equal shot for success in life and see the government as the means to enact such “balance”.  In shorter terms, people on the Right tend to trust in themselves overcoming obstacles to success more while people on the Left tend to trust in the government to remove obstacles to success for them.  In even shorter terms than that: people on the Left tend to have confidence in and trust the government more than people on the Right.  With this value in mind, you can look at nearly every political issue in terms of that balance between confidence and trust in yourself and confidence and trust in the government.  Thinking on that theory for a moment, consider some of the news of the past few days and realize that there is a change underway in this country.

One of those news items was this: welfare pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, creating little incentive for Americans to take entry-level work and likely increasing their long-term dependency on government help.  That’s a fairly stark statement and, for this country, has never occurred before on a scale like this.  What it means is that our government is taking so much from those who work and giving so much to those who don’t that the incentive for those who don’t work is to not even consider working in first place.  Wealth (individual as well as collected wealth) in this country is generated by those who work.  Our entire economic system is based on the productivity of the American workforce and the rest of the planet, like it or not, is reliant on the American economy.  This percentage of people in poverty who are living at the pleasure of government entitlements has exploded in the past several years and shows no signs of abating unless radical and drastic changes are made…and those changes would be painful and very controversial.

The other news item is yet another revelation of how our own government views its relationship with its governed populace and how their view appears to be changingTurns out, contrary to each and every statement denying such by the NSA, the White House press secretary and the President himself, the NSA is, has and continues to spy on Americans who have nothing to do with foreign threats or terrorism.  The trouble with the news article in that link I just posted is that it contains so much troubling content.  The government spying on their own people is one thing.  The government outright lying to the only body that stands between them and the people (the FISA court judge) three times in the past three years ought to be even more troubling.  Keep in mind now, when I say “government” in this context it’s actually more like the executive branch and the legions of bureaucrats that the executive controls and not Congress.  This is alongside the other and previous scandals like the bureaucracy of the Justice Department running weapons into a neighboring foreign country, lying about it, getting caught lying about it and nothing happening as well as the bureaucracy of the IRS actively stifling political speech that would likely be contrary to the political views held by the current executive (President Obama) again with no apparent penalty.  Those, of course, aren’t the only three incidents where it would appear our own government executive branch regards itself as separated from the populace and at least appears as though it has a divine right to rule.  That kind of thing has always been the case but it’s only recently that that same executive, at least via it’s actions, seems to regard the rule of law as not applying to it and, what’s worse (if that’s possible), that the populace it governs is contemptible and possibly adversarial.

Look carefully at this image. That building that looks like a fancy grain silo? That’s the Bastille: the very epitome of a repressive regime. Those people on the bottom? That’s the repressed. Those things they’re holding? Weapons including guns. Situations like the one depicted in this image are the very reason we have a right to keep and bear arms…a right that our own executive branch stands opposed to today.

Obama’s own healthcare law was, by law, to go into effect August 1 (about 3 weeks ago)…and Obama simply said “no, I’m delaying that part”.  It’s the law.  How does the president believe that he has the authority to suspend the law whenever it suits his personal or political whim?

People who remember history or have even watched a passably accurate movie about historical events would remember governments who had agencies called things like “the Cheka”, the NKVD and finally the KGB.  They’d remember such government organs like the private Sturmabteilung (SA) which eventually was superceded by the governmental Schutzstaffel (SS) and went hand in hand with that other famous contemporary governmental agency, the Gestapo.  What all such governments had in common was that they were swept into power by a popular revolution of sorts.  In Russia, it was a revolution against the Tsars, followed by a civil war where the Bolsheviks (who were promising their version of Hope and Change) won with the support of the people.  In Germany, it was the National Socialists who were elected as the largest minority group via the very people they’d turn around and cull from their ranks, the homosexuals, the Jews and every other undesirable via death factories like Dachau (a death camp actually on German soil and operating before the war even started).

In both such recent cases and the case of the American and French revolutions further back in history, the government serving the people was either repressive or criminally inept and corrupt…and so a radical change was made by the people.  The point I’m making here is: all governments come to that point.  No government or system of government is eternal.  China, Greece, Rome, the Pharaohs, various emperors, kings and queens…they’ve all ruled and they’ve all eventually fallen.  Were there governments that didn’t fall?  Of course, but they were the ones who weren’t victimizing their own people to the extent that the people revolted.

The ones that did victimize their people had government agencies to excessively seize wealth and property from their people (agencies like the IRS) and agencies to keep an eye on those people because the government realized that with enough confiscation of the peoples’ money and property, they might get mad and turn their anger against that same government (agencies like the NSA).  Is the United States there yet?  No, and not by a long shot.  However, what the government spends isn’t matched by the wealth the IRS seizes from us individuals.  These days they borrow the money…except the point is fast approaching where they won’t be able to do that anymore and they’ll be forced to either cut back drastically on what they spend (which will cause a revolt amongst those who are dependent on the government handout) or they’ll have to take more from the people than they do (which could also cause a revolt).  In either case, you have the executive branch of this government using both instruments (the IRS and the NSA) to act against the people in a manner that exceeds their prior activities…and for that everyone should ask the simple question: why?

If you have confidence in yourself and not as much trust in the government you may answer that question in a way that matches your values.  If you have more confidence and trust in the government you may get an answer to that same question that also comports with your values but will be almost entirely opposite the answer the first group arrived at.  Regardless, the conditions that Americans face today (a repressive IRS and a domestic intelligence gathering effort by the NSA) are both new things…and if you’re not asking “why the change” then maybe you should start.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this post.

Posted in History, In the news, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Euroranger on July 2, 2013

Monument to the fallen at Gettysburg National Battlefield

I’ve mentioned before that I hold a bachelor’s degree in American history and am fairly well versed with the American narrative but few other time periods of my country’s past are as fascinating to me as the two decades that started in 1850.  One thing that particularly saddens and concerns me is how disconnected from our history most Americans are.  As some or perhaps most of you know, tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It’s usually one of the few events that public social studies education even mentions in particular about the Civil War.  It’s been turned into countless books, movies and documentaries.  Because of this it’s not entirely uncommon to encounter people who know about the military aspects of the battle and, presumably, what it meant.  However, more than the immediate advance and retreat of armies and drawing lines on maps, tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of when America changed from what we were founded to be to what we are today and it’s an auspicious event like this that reveals how much we do and do not know about our own national experience and foundation.  So, is this a post about what happened across a few miles of Pennsylvania farmland one hundred fifty years ago?  Kind of, but only inasmuch as it invites a closer examination for the “why” there was even a Civil War in the first place.  The widely held, public school curriculum explanation was that the war was all about slavery…and on a skin deep, superficial level, that’s true.  It’s as true though, as saying the AIDS epidemic is about a virus while ignoring all the societal and behavioral affects the disease touches or relies upon for it to be the globe spanning phenomenon it is.  So, if you hold the opinion that the Civil War was about slavery, allow me to enhance your understanding a little and, in the process, you might become a more astute citizen of our country and your ancestors.

Slaves. Bad right?

More than slavery, the Civil War was about two economic systems competing with one another for political dominance inside a single nation.  Nearly everyone knows that the South was an agrarian society that used a system of legal slavery as part of the workforce that drove that economy.  In more simple terms, the South was overwhelmingly comprised of farmers, some of whom (less than 15% by 1860) owned slaves to perform the work of farming.  Because of the amount of arable land and climate, mass agriculture in the South was much more feasible than could be done in the North.  The North also had farmers, of course, but the land and climate there didn’t lend itself well to large scale agriculture such as was the case in the South.  So, if that’s what formed the basis of the Southern economy (agriculture based on an indentured workforce), and my premise being that two economic systems were competing, what was the Northern economy doing?  Well, in short, the North was hosting the arrival of the Industrial Revolution which is the process by which an agrarian society transforms into an industrial one.  Initially industrialization in the United States used horse-powered machinery to power the earliest factories, but eventually switched to water power, with the consequence that industrialization was essentially limited to New England and the rest of the Northeastern United States, where fast-moving rivers were located.  Industrialization is all about two things though: using machinery and technology to increase productivity and, to be entirely blunt, Capitalism and the pursuit of profits.  Industrialization in the United States started in earnest around 1810 or so (an important date to remember).  So, at this point, we have slaves in the South and workers in the North, right?  Well, yes, but it’s somewhat more complicated than that.  Most people today think of workers in our contemporary sense and apply that notion to what a worker was in the North at the time.  This is simply false.

Not slaves…but better?

Today we have things like minimum wage, health insurance, workers compensation insurance, workplace safety laws, unions, OSHA, the EPA, child labor laws, unemployment insurance and so on.  Not so back then.  In fact, while people are exceptionally ready to refer to the Southern economy as “slavery” comparatively fewer know the term that was used, in both South AND North, to describe the Northern economy: “wage slavery” and “wage slaves”.  Coincident with industrialization in the North, the United States was also experiencing a veritable deluge of mass immigration from Europe that was capped by three potato famines in Europe which drove people to the United States (particularly Scots and Irish) to flee starvation.  Most of those ships carrying immigrants landed in places like Boston, Hartford, New York and Philadelphia and the people who got off those boats often brought nearly zero wealth with them…meaning they had no means to move very far from where they got off the boat.  Luckily for them (or maybe not) there were thousands of newly minted factories that always needed a supply of fresh workers.  However, workers in the North often worked 14-16 hours per day with only half a day off on Sunday, in appalling and unsafe conditions, for very little wages.  Injuries on the job were common and because workers hadn’t yet organized into unions, wages were the minimum of whatever the factory owner could pay.  If you got hurt on the job you were immediately replaced by another of the seemingly endless streams of freshly arrived immigrants and you were unemployed.  Because mass transit didn’t exist, you likely lived in a tenement house or “slum”.  Entire families were jammed into single rooms and if Dad or Mom was hurt on the job and couldn’t work, oftentimes it was the kids that went to work in their stead (and the factory owner would naturally pay less because they were children).  In short, the Northern economy was in many ways just as bad and sometimes worse than the Southern slave economy.  Of course, there is the perception that the Southern slave owner beat and lashed his slaves, raped the women and broke up families.  That did happen but not even remotely as often as was being portrayed by Abolitionists (people who wanted slavery outlawed) and a simple examination of what a slave meant to a slave owner makes it easy to understand why.

Much better.

The reason slaves were owned by so few people in the South was for one salient fact: slaves were expensive.  A healthy young slave could cost, by 1860, as much as $1000 dollars which at the time was about what it would cost to purchase 500 acres of land.  The importation of slaves was banned in 1808 so the only way to perpetuate more slave workers was to breed them.  This meant that keeping families together would eventually result in more children who would grow into productive labor and produce kids of their own and so on.  In short, slave owners looked at their slaves as an investment…much the same way a farmer of today might regard his combine or harvester machinery.  He paid a lot to acquire them and, if he was anything other than an idiot, he didn’t abuse them or diminish their value to him.  For much the same reason, the typical slave owner fed his slaves, clothed them, housed them and provided access to medical care for them when they were sick or injured.  Starving, naked, exposed and diseased slaves did less work and generated less profit so most slave owners took special care of their investment.  By contrast, the Northern factory owner cared only about profit.  He didn’t feed, clothe or provide shelter for his workforce because he didn’t have to.  If anything happened to a worker, he could always toss that damaged worker and get a new one from the vast pool of immigrants.  What was worse: even if you were healthy and working productively, nothing guaranteed that the factory owner wouldn’t replace you with someone who’d do your job for a penny per day less.  You were always in danger of being paid less and less for the same work you’d always done.  This is, in summary, the reality of the two sides of the Abolitionist debate: agrarian slavery or wage slavery…which brings us to a final political reality that caused the Civil War.

Our political system back then was much less cynical and money-driven than it is today.  The president, the House and Senate were all elected the same way then as now except the notion of “states” and “federal government” was radically different than today.  Back then, the federal government was small and had little effect on the day to day lives of Americans.  There was no income tax, the armed forces were small and we weren’t a Superpower…we were just an upstart nation of less than 80 years existence.  The nation truly was a collection of states UNITED for a common association.  One way of understanding it was that before the war, the term “the United States” was a plural and after the war it was a term that signified a singular.  States rights were very much the order of the day and only by amending the Constitution could that be changed.  Slavery was an institution that was up to each state to determine the legality of not the federal government…unless a Constitutional amendment was passed banning slavery.  This is a concept that some people today believe was a driving force behind seccession…but it’s just not true.  The balance in the United States had been nearly even between states that allowed slavery and those where it was banned.  This is important because, in order to amend the Constitution a two thirds majority in both the House and Senate must approve the amendment before it goes to the states where 3/4 of the states must vote in favor.  On the face of it, this seems unlikely and, to people at the time, it wasn’t really the concern.  By 1858, there were 17 free states and 15 slave.  Even had an amendment passed Congress it would never have garnered the support of 3/4 of the states.  So, what was the issue?  In short, it was fueled by the population surge in the North via immigration.  Each state gets 2 Senators and there is only one president who is elected via the electoral congress meaning that the winner has to “win” states…so on these two counts, the slave states would probably hold their own.  However, the House of Representatives is determined by the number of people that live in a particular area.  Immigration to the North from Europe meant that the census of 1860 would likely shift the number of Representative in the House decidedly to the North.  Back then, bills were introduced almost exclusively in the House which meant, to the South, that any future legislation or compromises that might be proposed to maintain the balance of power between slave and free states would be increasingly likely to be rejected.  In short, mass immigration in the North fueled by industrialization was tilting that balance irreversibly in favor of Abolition.  To most though, this might seem like a reasonable progression.  Since there was a vocal social element that wouldn’t allow slavery to exist un-decried and since the Bible itself (a consideration of monumentally greater affect then) spoke against slavery, it was unlikely that the two economic systems could continue to exist side by side within the same nation.  To many, the South needed only to give up their slaves and embrace capitalism and all would be good.  Except that, for the conditions in the South, capitalism was nearly impossible.

Freeing an entire population of around 3 million people who would then be forced to adopt a lifestyle none of them ever experienced was, even then, recognized as an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen.  People who had never had to search for and retain a job, deal with money, provide for a family, and in many cases even lacked fundamental educational skills such as reading and simple math could never acclimate in the immediacy of the moment that an enactment of Abolition would demand.  To make matters worse, even the Northern states who advocated Abolition in the South cynically put laws in place to bar internal immigration by freed blacks to their territories.  Entire blocks of counties in some Northern states had settlement bans for freed blacks.  Indeed, the average wage slave in the North had no interest in adding to the downward pressure on wages by European immigrants by adding 3 million newly freed African slaves to the mix (who would surely work for less than any white man).  Add to that that banking in the South was sparse and not nearly as accessible as it was in the North.  This meant that even if a potential factory owner in the South wanted to build a new plant and employ people for wages, he lacked ready access to capital to get it done.  Capitalism in the South simply wasn’t possible…and yet, to the South, it seemed the political realities of 1860 were about to force them into an expectedly disastrous transition to capitalism and that the states forcing them to do so wouldn’t even share the burden of the ensuing disruption.  Something that was supposed to be a right of each individual state to decide was ever more appearing to be dictated at the whim of other states who wouldn’t feel the effects of such decisions…which was a radical departure from the system most people regarded the United States at the time as representing.

So yeah, even 150 years ago, we still couldn’t settle political differences without being total dicks to one another.

Secession was literally the only real answer…and in December 1860, South Carolina did just that and left the United States.  The rest of the story is rather well known: other states joined the departure, a new nation was founded, the incoming president decided that the division of the country couldn’t be allowed and so he forced a military incident to spark a war.  For more than 2 years, the Confederacy stayed on the defensive, fighting battles mostly on their own territory against an invading foreign power…until the point came that they realized they needed to punch back while they still had the means to do so and force a final conclusive end on the battlefield in their favor.  And thus, Gettysburg.  General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia had, for more than 2 years, bloodied and stymied the much larger, better equipped but ineptly led Army of the Potomac…with no military resolution in sight.  A swift, hard strike North, capturing a state capitol (Harrisburg), winning a decisive battle and perhaps even capturing the enemy’s national capitol might bring the terrible conflict to an end in favor of the Confederacy.  Lots of history exists detailing just how close the South came to winning at Gettysburg.  Much less known is the waning level of Northern public support for a war they saw few victories in and for a cause many didn’t support (freeing the slaves) and how, perhaps, one more decisive Confederate victory might break the back of the Northern desire to continue the war.  That is what Gettysburg represents: the beginning of the triumph of the North’s system of capitalism over the more populist, agrarian, slavery-based system in the South.

And oh yeah, this is also the 150th anniversary of the fall of Vicksburg which was probably even more important to the ultimate victory of the Union over the Confederacy than Gettysburg was.  Most seem to forget all about Vicksburg because it involved the Union laying siege to not just an army but a city full of civilians and starving them into submission.  Making war on women and children is rarely celebrated though so you can be excused for not being aware of that.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Time for “Connect-the-dots”

Posted by Euroranger on May 14, 2013

Billy C. lying his ass off

Smell my finger. Smells like intern with a hint of “fuck your petty laws…I’m the fucking President”.

I’m going to try and keep this one short and to the point.  Yes, I know, I’ve said such before and that normally precedes a rambling soliloquy that probably ought to come with chapters and probably more pictures (for those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder).  I say “short and to the point” on this one because circumstances have, just this week, conspired to pull aside the nearly omnipresent curtain of time diminishment when it comes to apparently disparate issues that are, in fact, joined but that most think are not.  I guess what I’m really saying is that, for some issues, most people simply don’t get why some of us get all worked up about things because they don’t see how or why the issue, by itself, is such a big deal.  And the reason almost always is: because the issue ISN’T “by itself” at all.  For example, remember when Slick Willy got his willy slicked by Ho-monica in the Oral Office and the huge national debate about the impeachment that followed?  There are still, today, many people (the majority, in fact) that believe the entire impeachment process was about President Clinton getting a blowjob from a White House intern…when, in fact, the issue was that he lied to a grand jury when directly asked that question earlier.  That is: the president of the United States, the guy who stands at the pinnacle of American society, committed blatant perjury in front of a federal grand jury.  None of our jobs require us taking an oath when we accept the job offer.  The president’s does and the part of that oath he takes that says “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” actually means something.  If we accept that it’s A-Ok for the president to lie his ass off to a federal grand jury then we pretty much say he’s not subject to ANY laws of the land.  That’s not the way America works and in Clinton’s case it wasn’t about the oral sex but that he LIED ABOUT IT and we as a people cannot let even a single instance of presidential law breaking slide.  This week’s example of issues being connected has kind of the same circuitous, but entirely valid and appropriate, logic involved.

By now, we should all know and accept that President Obama’s most recent attempt to neuter our 2nd Amendment rights has and will continue to fail.  Oh, the debate is still going on and those who want to see all of us disarmed in the absolutely laughably utopian result of no gun violence are still out there trying to shame people into supporting their position by saying that by not supporting them we instead support the mass murder of little children.  To Obama and his ilk in this debate, it’s about people “clinging” to their guns for no reason other that some misplaced aggression, some paranoia about crime busting through your door or even as a replacement for a small penis (I have no idea which body part they pick on if you’re a female 2nd Amendment defender though).  In fact, let’s quote Barry directly.  This is what Barry had to say in April 2008 at a fundraising event in San Francisco:

We’ve got a couple of folks who are heading out to Pennsylvania to go door to door with us. And the question was: What kinds of questions should I expect them to get?…The places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government…You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.

It’s only “clinging to your guns and religion” when you’re a Christian American. If you’re Muslim, hey, that’s your “culture” and we should be sensitive to that.

So, just so we’re clear here: the reason some of us want to retain our right to keep and bear arms, to Barack Obama apparently, is because times are bad, jobs have fled and the promised “progress” hasn’t reached these folks so they’re frustrated, racist, Christian, country folk.  THAT’S who wants to keep and bear arms and why…to those on the left.  To them, we don’t wish to keep and bear our arms through any actual thought out, rationally explained reason: we’re just jobless, poor, pissed off, Bible-thumping bumpkins.  Unfortunately though, for the anti-gun crowd, this week’s news pretty much illustrates what most of the rest of us actually believe and that is the 2nd Amendment exists as an ultimate means to address the encroachment of our rights by government when that encroachment goes too far.  In other words, when the government becomes despotic the 2nd Amendment means the people have the option (through force of arms) to overthrow that government.  Now, absent any evidence of the government being despotic, that kind of confirms Obama’s description of such people as “cynical about government”.  But like I said, this week put that whole “oh, you’re just being dramatic…the government isn’t like that” kind of leftist dismissal to the lie that it is.

First off, we had the evolving story of the IRS targeting groups whose political beliefs oppose those of the current administration for harassment via increased scrutiny of their applications for tax exempt status and higher than normal levels of audits and such.  Ever evolving in that initially it was explained as overzealous low level workers in isolated district offices but that turned out to be total bullshit with the revelation that the top guy at the IRS was aware of the activities and had been for more than a couple of years.  In short, the government tried to squelch dissenting political views in what we thought was our free society.  But that entire and ever growing debacle was joined today by the news that this same government demanded and got records listing telephone calls for the work and personal phone numbers of AP (Associated Press) reporters and various AP offices.  This was ostensibly done for a government investigation of a leak that lead to a report by the AP last year of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an Al Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

So, in literally successive days, we have our government actively suppressing free political speech of specific groups it doesn’t like through intimidation via our tax collecting apparatus AND violating the law, free speech, freedom of the press and individual privacy rights by seizing phone records for individuals that might have been associated with publicizing a story the government didn’t want told.  In both these cases, direct violations of the law were made by members of our government acting on instructions from someone higher up in our government…and all to suppress constitutional rights that the government found inconvenient.  In summary, we have government acting against entirely legal organizations solely due to the activities of those organizations being contrary to the pleasure of the existing administration.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Back in the 1970’s this identical situation was called Watergate and it lead to the one and only resignation of a sitting president (Richard Nixon).  Back then, the left was up in arms over the government disregarding the law and rights of organizations (like the DNC).  Time to find out if the left was outraged over the actual abuses…or by who committed them.

So, yes gun grabbers, some of us DO see a direct correlation between our 2nd Amendment rights and the fear (now somewhat more justified than before) that our government may one day decide that our rights are superfluous and disposable.  It can’t happen, you said last week?  How about now?  How many examples of our government acting like our individual rights are merely guiding principles and not the very foundation of our country does it take before you agree “we the people” need a means to address that?  Exactly when do these government excesses become enough to acknowledge that our Founding Fathers weren’t misguided idiots when they presumed our (the peoples’) need to protect ourselves one day from our own government?  Guess what, that was a rhetorical question because I don’t care what YOUR opinion is of where that imaginary line is in your head.  I just place my faith in the guys who did the hard and revolutionary work that built our country and not the dismissive assholes that dysfunctionally mismanage it today.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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America: Land of the Free, Home of Incurable Terminal Imbecility

Posted by Euroranger on October 16, 2012

Sad Newt

Yep, you really effed it up Newt. I’d say “next time keep it in yer pants” but I already dispensed that advice to Herman Cain.

So, as you can see, I’ve successfully held off posting a political rant for pretty much the entire year.  I didn’t mention the Republican primaries (I liked Newt), I haven’t mentioned the conventions (while I like Clint, if anyone needs a teleprompter more than Barry, it’s him) and I didn’t chime in on the debates (I thought Obama looked smug and Biden is nothing less than a national disgrace).  That all said, the pressure has been building for some time and while I haven’t been busy posting here of late, I have dropped opinions on several sites scattered about the intarwebz tubez and generally pissing people off through the power of, you know, actually being informed.  It’s this late discovered superpower that I’m here to discuss today.  A few minutes ago I had occasion to decide to end a running debate I found myself engaged in on a friend’s Facebook status.  I was happily rebutting ignorance with facts when one of my debating opponents snapped and suggested her point “was to[o] simple for some to grasp”.  I sat and ruminated on her comment for a time before I posted a response assuring her I got her point, that it was based on faulty information and that if being informed was now viewed as some kind of fault or flaw that I’ll simply have to find a way to live with it.  Naturally, she assumed that she had somehow won some kind of internet debating contest and couldn’t resist the urge to post even more ignorant blather which I’ve decided to simply let lie.  After departing the field with the opponent figuratively chanting “nana booboo” to my retreating back, I had a moment to reflect on the general state of affairs these days and have stumbled across a monumental glaring truth:

Many Americans these days are fucking idiots.

Now, now…I know, that seems like a rather shocking revelation but I assure you: my recent experiences reveals this as unmistakable, fundamental, universal, indisputable truth.  It was only this most recent episode that acted like the philosophical catalyst, finally delivering me over the unpalatable hump of my desperate hope that the mass ignorance I encounter everyday was just a freakish concentration localized to the places I occasionally stray online.  Alas and alack, this is sadly untrue.  No, instead, it’s been demonstrated to me so repeatedly that most people are dumber than a crate of anvils that I am now forced to regard such as a Law of Nature (much like gravity, the speed of light and cats always landing on their feet).  However, as this is my blog and I am a patriotic American, I feel a compelling need to expose this rampant idiocy.  To that end, I’m going to recap the subjects of just the last two debate events that I engaged in which covers merely yesterday afternoon and earlier this morning.

Subject 1: Banks are bad

Idiot Occupy protester

Sweet Jebus on a pogostick…the stupid is so intense with this typical Occupy protester, it literally burns.

Now, allow me to state at the outset: I dislike banks.  The reasons for my dislike are myriad.  I cannot fathom that a business that is engaged in the holding, lending and management of other peoples’ money can be as haphazard, careless and error prone as banks are.  We’re talking about institutions who make astronomical profits (BoA, for example made $2.1B in profits…just in three months this year, April, May and June) but who will tell you to your apparently assumed ignorant face that the computer system their teller uses cannot draw the same information their ATM draws and neither again can draw the same info you see when banking online.  It’s data for crying out loud.  It’s not fucking magic.  These same banks will do things deliberately to squeeze every last penny out of their customers (which seems like kind of a counter intuitive thing to do) via shady and inexplicable practices such as processing all debit transactions at the end of the day as a single value before they process any pending credit transactions…and then if your debits exceed your balance (because they haven’t credited your deposits yet) they assess NSF or overdraft fees against each single debit transaction.  Aside from bending you, their customer, over to roger your bunghole, there is no reason to operate like this.  Yet they do.  Anyway, with all that out of the way, there are a ton of people who believe, because it’s the standard party line of Democrats and the Occupy crowd, that the recent housing bubble collapse is all due to banks writing loans to people who shouldn’t have gotten them.  And that’s where the story ends.  Bad loans = blame banks.  It was voiced like this the other day in a comment thread by some anonymous poster:

So how about when a bank gives a $500,000 high interest mortgage loan to an uneducated, low income father of four with no credit check or verification of income. The bank then sells off the remaining mortgage payments to various hedge funds to ensure their profits avoid liability when the man defaults on his payments. 2 years later the man loses his job and can no longer make his mortgage payments and he and his family are fucked.

I chose to engage this particular comment because…well…I’d seen it echoed literally hundreds of times the past few years and I’m fed up that such uninformed ignorance drives opinion in this country.  My initial response:

Eh, you lost me when you said “…and the uneducated, low income father of four APPLIED FOR A FREAKIN’ HALF MILLION DOLLAR LOAN because his personal responsibility and self control had been kidnapped by a bank”. It’s stunning how many people completely skip the part dealing with personal responsibility in even asking for a loan they know they’ll never repay in the first place for things they can’t afford.

I was actually somewhat rude in an additional sentence that followed and regretted posting it so I’m not going to repeat my mistake here.  That said, the initial poster responded:

Ok, maybe a half million dollar loan was a bit dramatic. But to an uneducated man with poor financial management skills even a $100,000 loan may seem payable when realistically he doesn’t stand a chance of paying it off.

Believe me I’m a huge proponent of personal responsibility but when you get a poorly educated man in a room and tell him he can move his kids out of a shitty studio apartment and into an actual house, and that he can have the money now, you bet his judgment is clouded and those mortgage payments seem possible.

I don’t blame banks for wanting their money, I just think they should earn it ethically.

Earning things ethically is something I think everyone can agree on.  However, it was apparent that I was debating someone who lacked any real knowledge of how the housing crisis came to be and this is a very common blind spot with lots of Americans.   So, because he didn’t take offense at my omitted rudeness, I decided to try the oft failing educational route:

Fair enough…but if we’re being fair, let’s be fair all around. Banks made those loans because in 1993 and further in 1999 the federal government told Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen their underwriting standards for the loans they guaranteed low and middle income applicants (and especially those in inner cities) to banks so that those banks would write those notes and, presumably, get such folks into mortgages and out of leases.

This was done after a fairly racially charged campaign alleging banks wouldn’t write mortgages for minority applicants despite there not being a place asking for race or ethnicity on the application form (such being banned by the Fair Housing Law of 1968). In essence, banks were encouraged to write loans whose applicants would not normally qualify for such per their underwriting rules because of the increased risk of default. The federal government, in a move to pander to those voters, essentially overruled sound business sense and ordered the FMs to guarantee those loans so the banks wouldn’t be left holding the bag and would be encouraged to issue such loans.

There were no additional responses by the guy I was exchanging with so I don’t even know if he saw it.  However, in this campaign season we’ve all heard the oft trotted out mantra by Obama that Republicans are all for the rich at the expense of the middle and lower class and that Obama believes the failure of the banking industry and the subprime loan crisis is entirely the responsibility of the banks and thus requires more federal oversight.  Very few people appear to know that prior to the mid to late 1990’s, the home mortgage industry was on ridiculously solid ground.  They had long tested and proven actuarial data that informed their loan underwriting practices.  Then along comes Bill Clinton and, in the interest of pandering to minority voters, ends up having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adjust their underwriting policies for FHA backed loans (banks wrote the loans, the FMs insured them) so that banks would increase their lending to minorities.  Essentially abandon sound business lending practices in favor of politically based practices, make the federal corporations (the FMs) assume all the risk and reap the electoral benefits.  However, as was expected and predicted by many at the time, all the new underwriting policies did was allow banks to write loans to people they normally would not have offered them to and, ironically, enough even though the entire scheme was designed to see more minority home ownership in low income neighborhoods, a study by the federal reserve concluded that it didn’t end up affecting those ownership rates at all.  All we got out of it was a glut of bad loans whose collapse was only staved off due to ever increasing property values.  Once those values stopped accelerating, people found themselves unable to pay and so, rather than have a housing foundation built on sound and proven business principles, it was built on speculation and consumer confidence.  It was destined to self destruct and it did.

So, monkey with sound business practices for short term political minority favor = people getting loans they couldn’t afford, shouldn’t apply for and when housing prices eventually imploded, the wealth accumulation vehicle of the middle class (home equity) gets virtually annihilated.  And rather than fess up that it was their idiotic pandering for minority votes that started the entire debacle, the Left in this country conveniently blames the banks…forgetting the government’s urging and complicity.

MLK, Jr.: lifelong Republican


Subject 2: Republicans hate minorities/are racists

This is one that’s entirely foisted upon the right by the left.  It’s a lot like the first Obama/Romney debate: all the negative political ads define the other guy and so some people (most people?) regard the targeted candidate as being as he/she was described in the negative ad and then when they’re actually exposed to the candidate some say “wow, that’s not at all what I expected”…and then those who were predisposed to dislike him anyway claim he’s flip-flopped on issues and/or he’s a liar.  I’m never at a loss to be disappointed in the total inability of many supposedly capable adults to discern their own inability to think critically and just simply swallow whatever the latest slogan du jour is from their particular party.  Much like how Democrats are portrayed  by some as Godless atheists (although mainstream media never lets that out over the airwaves), Republicans are always anti-minority no matter what.  This was the crux of the exchange I enjoyed this morning on Facebook.  The original topic was that campaign signs for Romney were disappearing from lawns and one friend had had their mailbox vandalized the same evening they planted a Romney sign in their yard:

And for your friend Doug, threats to shoot and shooting candidates has been going on for a very long time. In my lifetime we had George Wallace shot while running for president. Martin Luther King assassinated and Bobby Kennedy assassinated while running for president. I might add they were all Democrats but NO ONE EVER accused the the Republicans of conspiring to do these dastardly deeds. These things are done and committed by lone loose cannons just as in the case of Gabby Giffords. They are nut cases or irrespponsible people just playing pranks. They usually do not represent the candidates on either side. I have worked on enough campaigns than I can even count and it has happened since time immemoriam. It is a sad and dark side of campaigns and believe me it happens on both sides. Neither side is a sainted and neither side is full of that kind of scoundrel. There is enough guilt to go all around.

To which I replied:

MLK was a candidate?

I did that because so many people who identify themselves as Democrats make a very common error.  In truth, I was kind of baiting the one who commented seeing if she would bite.  She did:

Just majoy [major] figures in the Dem. Party at the time that had a tremendous empact [impact] on the politics of the day.

And so, with the fish swallowing and the bait in the mouth, I set the hook:

Um…about MLK, Jr. being a Democrat. He was a registered Republican as were nearly all blacks in the south at that time. I hear that one trotted out a lot and the standard line of how Republicans don’t care about the black folk (which would come as a rather large surprise to both MLK, Jr. and Lincoln).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for instance…better than 80% voted in favor by Republicans in both houses of Congress but only 62% by Democrats. Voting Rights Act of 1965 was much the same: supported by a 94% vote by Republicans, only 73% by Democrats. It wasn’t until LBJ and the 1964 Democrat congress began passing out money via welfare, Medicaid and such through the War on Poverty that blacks switched whole-heartedly to being Democrats.

Now, was I a troll to maneuver this clueless woman into this conversation?  Maybe.  But the intent was to expose and possibly educate people about a fairly common misconception.  The facts are that blacks were overwhelmingly Republican right through the mid-1960’s.  Republicans, ever since their very founding, were about rights for the black man in America.  That issue was literally their major founding principle.  Equality for all.  In addition to equality for all races, Republicans were the party of women’s suffrage as well.  Susan B. Anthony, the very champion of women voting, was a staunch Republican and derived the vast amount of her political support from the Republican Party…so when you also hear about the Republican “War on Women”, well, this is another example of how taking a stand on one or two issues is conflated by a hostile and biased media into something much larger, more sinister and essentially entirely fraudulent.  Anyway, having delivered the pertinent facts about who it was that was responsible for not only freeing the slaves but sponsoring and passing civil rights legislation, you’d think that those facts would have some impact on the fish.  Well, you’d be wrong.  I was presented with an entire non-sequitur (meaning, it wasn’t related whatsoever) and then, my failing to see the obvious connection of the two totally unrelated events was described as “Evidently to[o] simple for some to grasp“…implying that I lacked the requisite smarts to see the relationship where none existed prior to the moment I corrected her incorrect claims with actual facts.  It was at this point that I pretty much shook my head and mourned that this woman, who likely doesn’t call a local sanitarium “home”, will undoubtedly take her ignorance to the polls and using that as her guiding principle, will cast a vote.

The election...it's pretty much like this.

The election…it’s pretty much like this.

I’ve done this kind of thing on FB quite a bit.  I see a reposted crock of shit political zinger by my friends and I correct them when the lie is so egregious and I see people posting the text equivalent of nodding in agreement.  I’m like the Don Quixote of Facebook.  And yes, I chide my friends on the right for their excessive, facts-bereft zeal when they indulge as well (although, in all truth, the things they take Obama to task for are fairly starkly established facts like the debt and deficit and such).  And yeah, I DO need to find a better hobby.

But in the meantime, my point is this: we have an election coming up.  We have two viable candidates and, in my personal opinion, neither is worthy of being the town dog catcher much less president of the United States.  However, we need to choose one of them and, again in my opinion, we ought to be looking at established facts.  Candidates will lie their everloving ass off to get that extra vote so I don’t hold to much of what a candidate claims he’ll do if elected/re-elected.  Congress is where legislation is introduced, debated and passed.  The president merely signs them into law…so much of what either Romney or Obama promises they’ll do is so much crap.  There are lots of facts to be found regarding either candidate and yet despite those facts, the primary driver of who will win the election will be how well they perform in two more debates (and perhaps the September jobs numbers that are due to be released just 4 days before the election).

So, to all Americans who intend to vote (and by that I mean those who aren’t illegal aliens, convicted felons and so on), I say this: cast your vote as an American and not as a Democrat or Republican.  Listen to what each candidate says, inform yourself of the facts and make an informed choice.  Mass ignorance ought not to rule this nation…or influence the outcome in the choosing of its leaders.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Yet another gone

Posted by Euroranger on August 27, 2012

So…one of my childhood heroes died this past weekend.  My hero was an old man.  He led a full and very interesting life.  His passing marks what I think will be the beginning of a era that marks a long slide backward for, well, not just our generation or even our country but perhaps all of mankind.  This is sad to me not because of the slide we’ll all experience but because it’s entirely avoidable.  It’ll happen anyway and when it’s done someone will one day finally stick their head up, look around and ask “hey, whatever happened to that guy” and someone else will have to say “oh, he died” and we’ll all collectively realize (or maybe not) that we’ve lost something that used to be a really important part of being an American.

Yes, my hero was an American.  The funny thing about heroes: there are a lot of them.  Another funny thing about heroes: they tend to be heroes because of a single defining moment or event.  My hero was one of many such heroes.  He was an ordinary man that did extraordinary things.  He also tends to be associated with a single defining moment for so many people and indeed, when I was a kid, he was my hero for that one thing he’d done.  However, my hero was a hero’s hero because as I got older and learned more about him, he got even more heroic.  Normal heroes have their moment in the sun and then they either bask in it for a time or pass out of it and move on.  My hero kind of didn’t really do either.  He accomplished something nobody can top but rather than even linger a moment in the limelight as quite possibly the world’s most famous man, not only did he move on he never really moved into the limelight in the first place.  Unlike so many others, he didn’t try to parlay his fame and accomplishments into a political career, didn’t endorse products, didn’t seek out new publicity or even try and capitalize on his old fame.  In fact, he refused most requests for interviews, quit autographing various items when he discovered they were being resold for large amounts of money.  He even had to go to court twice to keep others from cashing in on his fame and when he won both times…he donated the suit proceeds to charities.

Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 on the way to the Moon

Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 on the way to the Moon

Neil Alden Armstrong personified service, modesty, accomplishment and humility as no person I’ve ever been aware of before.  He was not only the first man to walk on a heavenly body other than the Earth, he was also the man who saved Gemini 8 from the first in-space emergency and did it with a cool head and no doubts.  He oversaw the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster and eventually went on to sit on the board of the company whose O-rings were found to be at fault for the disaster…solely so he could help ensure such never happened again.  He walked on the Moon in July of 1969 but upon returning said he’d step aside and let other astronauts take his place and less than 2 years later, he retired from NASA altogether.  When he and the crew of Apollo 11 returned and after their 45 day tour of the United States to celebrate their achievement, when Armstrong had his pick of literally thousands of options for what he’d do next, he chose to go to Vietnam with Bob Hope and visit the troops there during some of the darkest days of the war.

There is literally so many things to say about Armstrong that define his humility and humble nature that I can’t even begin to list them all.  If I just keep it to Apollo 11 (and ignore the years as a navy aviator, his service during the Korean War, his years as a test pilot, his astronaut career during the Gemini program) Armstrong:

  • Manually landed the lunar lander, Eagle, after realizing via several emergency alarms and observing that they were erroneously drifting toward a hazardous rocky area.  Later it was discovered that Armstrong’s takeover from the automatic landing system likely saved their lives and that he’d used nearly all the planned and reserve fuel to do so.
  • That while on the Moon, and in the midst of a fierce United States/Soviet Union space race, Armstrong left a small package of memorial items to deceased Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, and Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee.  For having just over 145 minutes on the surface of the Moon and the fact that nearly every action was scripted down to the second, this was a memorial he insisted, as mission commander, be included in the itinerary when he learned of it.
  • After they re-entered the Eagle and closed and sealed the hatch, Armstrong and Aldrin discovered that, in their bulky spacesuits, they had broken the breaker ignition switch for the ascent engine.  Rather than radio Houston with an emergency Armstrong broke off and used part of a ballpoint pen and managed to push the circuit breaker in to activate the launch sequence.
  • Despite being the first man on the Moon and there being preserved video of his first steps, in the entire Apollo 11 photographic record, there are only five images of Armstrong partly shown or reflected…mostly because he was the man taking the pictures.  No direct still photographs of the man who took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” while on the Moon.

But perhaps the truly most remarkable thing about Neil Armstrong was how he passed on.  He died on a summer Saturday afternoon, perhaps the man credited with the most famous accomplishment in the history of mankind, and his passing was merely noted by most media outlets.  In a day and age where network news channels broke into their scheduled programming to gnash teeth, whine, moan and wring hands at the passing of Steve Jobs, Armstrong’s passing wasn’t mentioned for hours after the event and even then initially only in the scrolling news line at the bottom of the screen.  Obit writers spend more time writing about people who are still alive so when they do pass, the article is complete, without error, and unemotional.  The only real writing they do when someone does pass is fill in the blanks about how and surviving relatives, etc.  There should have certainly been more on hand for someone like Armstrong, without a doubt and by the fact that there wasn’t is a testament not only to the man’s desire to live his life privately but that he was successful in doing so.  That even when America discovered they’d lost a hero of the stature of a Neil Armstrong that they collectively shrugged their shoulders is more an indictment of how far we’ve fallen as a people and how much further we’ll still fall as our only crop of astronaut heroes who have walked on the surface of another worlds starts to die off from old age and nobody standing behind them to replace them.

Godspeed Neil Armstrong.  You’ll be missed by those who know how great you were and how much poorer we all collectively are with your absence.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Pearl Harbor Day +70 years

Posted by Euroranger on December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor

USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia undergoing dramatic, "surprise" remodeling

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese naval air attack on Pearl Harbor.  I have made it a point to commemorate the date with a blog post (and previously, with a forum post here) of unusual facts and stories about WW2.  I like to reveal the sorts of things they don’t cover in history class or that Hollywood either ignores or manages to completely crap on in their quest to dramatize (usually with car chases and high explosives) events.  And while I had just such a story lined up for this year, I think it’s more fitting to mention just what effect Pearl Harbor has on us today and why.  So, before we delve into the history, let’s look at our current situation.

Today, we spend roughly 20% of our federal budget on national defense.  In 2010, that totaled $689 billion.  That’s what was budgeted.  That doesn’t include the emergency discretionary spending methods we use to fund our involvement in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  In all, we spend around 20% of the federal budget on defense or, put another way, around 5% of the entire GDP of the United States.  While 5% of GDP sounds high, it’s actually historically low.  However, because our GDP is incredibly large, the amount of money that 5% represents is rather immense and comes out to about 43% of all military spending worldwide.  That is, one country spends 43% of the money spent on militaries and the rest of the world spends the rest.  That’s a fairly stark number when you get down to it and it all happens because of Pearl Harbor…and here’s why.

Before 1939 (when war broke out in Europe), the United States was pretty content to concern ourselves with the western hemisphere and maintained an Army sufficient to address the threats posed by those nations who could actually invade us overland: Canada and Mexico.   In 1939, the United States Army was comprised of just 161,000 active duty soldiers and another 22,000 in the Army Air Corps.  The Navy had 126,000 sailors in 1939 (although the Navy rapidly increased in size prior to Pearl Harbor).  The point is that prior to the United States involvement in WW2, our policy was to keep to ourselves and mind the sage advice of George Washington per his Farewell Address particularly with respect to not getting entangled in treaties with foreign powers.  For the most part, American politics had heeded that advice and Americans had been content to sit on our continent, well insulated from the affairs of Europe and elsewhere by our natural ocean boundaries.

WW1 dead

Welcome to Europe! It's "Indiscriminate and Pointless Slaughter" Wednesday! Grab a trench and have fun!

However, WW1 showed that Europe seemed to have a never-ending appetite for war and slaughter and while we stayed out of that conflict for as long as we could, we were eventually drawn in and helped the Allies to finish the war defeating Germany.  What we did after WW1 was suggest to the rest of the world that they needed a forum in which they could discuss things peaceably…and so we (via Woodrow Wilson) proposed the League of Nations…which America, in fact, never joined.  It was our way of saying “you guys need a better way to settle your differences so we don’t have to help you resolve them via war”.  This was a good idea but, naturally it failed, because hey, we left it to the rest of the world who had uniformly demonstrated that they were collectively unable to police their own behavior.  Which is exactly where Pearl Harbor and WW2 come in.  We all know the story of how we were attacked on that day and that brought us into the war and that we produced enormous amounts of arms and our armies, navies and air forces eventually prevailed.  However, as the war was winding down we looked around and saw several score millions dead, shattered bankrupt countries and a genocide on top of it all and realized that we couldn’t allow the rest of the world to govern their own affairs.  Whether that stands as incredible American hubris or not, the history of conflict around the world made clear that in the postwar years, the world couldn’t rely on good faith and cooler heads to prevail because they just didn’t have the knack for it.  We proposed and hosted the United Nations.  We set up the Marshall Plan (to rebuild Europe).  We proposed and enacted Bretton Woods (stabilizing the world’s economies and putting forward the American dollar as the common unit of exchange for everyone else’s currency).  But there had to be a stick to go with all those carrots and thus was born the United States as a superpower and our present day military strength…that so saps our own federal budgets.

Our military’s strength and force levels today are based on one simply requirement: that the United States be able to wage TWO wars simultaneously on opposite sides of the globe.  Today we have 14 carrier air groups and 48 Army combat brigades.  We have 2.28 million military personnel (active and reserve) and for what?  To defend the territorial integrity of the United States?  From whom?  Canada?  Mexico?  Cuba?  Al Qaeda?  Do we need 14 carrier air groups to defend our east, west and southern coasts?  No.  We need 14 carrier air groups to defend places like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, Kuwait, Israel and Japan from their sometimes unsavory neighbors.  The same argument goes for 48 Army combat brigades.  Surely we can handle Mexico, Canada and Cuba with a few less soldiers, right?  Of course we can.  We have that many troops because we decided some time ago that we needed to be able to fight a war in Europe against the Soviet Union while also fighting one elsewhere (since WW2 that’s tended to be Asia).  And we have this mindset simply because the last time we intervened in a war, finished it for everyone and then gave them advice for how to handle their future disagreements…they ignored us and we all got to witness the splendor of WW2.  Prior to Pearl Harbor, American public opinion was very much against getting involved in Europe’s affairs (we really didn’t have much fear of Japan at the time) and there was little chance Roosevelt could have successfully talked the American public into getting involved.  As most Americans saw it, we simply didn’t have any interests in Europe serious enough to justify Americans going over there and dying for it.  After WW2 and the introduction of nuclear weapons (and especially after 1950 when Russia exploded their own A-bomb meaning the communists now had the ability to wipe out entire cities with the push of a button) America became, for better or worse, the guarantor of relative global peace.  We fought in Korea to make sure everyone understood that we would not back down from any more tests.  We fought in Vietnam for the same reason (but for less well defined aims).  We went to the brink with the Russians over Cuba and kept hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in Europe to ensure that the world didn’t simply go up in flames.  We fought in Iraq in Gulf War 1 to ensure that one dictator didn’t suddenly seize control over the most important source of energy on the planet (and thus threaten the economies of everyone else) and we fought in Afghanistan to let everyone know that proxy terrorists won’t be gaining ascendancy anytime soon either.

Military outlay history

U.S. arms spending vs. GDP. Notice the nice 1% rate we enjoyed before WW1 and WW2 and notice the 4 fold increase over that we have today. Thanks world for being such out of control dicks to one another!

And all that fighting meant we needed a military ready and able to engage at a moment’s notice because the rest of the world, to this very day, hasn’t shown the restraint or foresight God gave a steaming pile of crap.  We got to see Bosnia, Rwanda, East Timor and other places and realize that while we may not be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, a world without the threat of the American military showing up the kick the everloving bejezus out of someone would be worse than it is today.  Hell, just 2 years ago, there were those in the Arab world and Europe, not liking the show of American arms, suggesting that the world’s financial systems should switch from the dollar to the Euro.  That would be the same Euro that, perhaps by this Friday, will collapse like the cheap copy of the American system it seeks to emulate but only does it half ass.  And all that fighting and simply being ready to fight…well that costs money.  It’s American taxpayers’ money and someday soon, we should begin discussing how some of our “allies” who spend far less than we do on defense, should begin perhaps recognizing our sacrifice and the benefits they enjoy from it.  Remember WE don’t need 14 carrier air groups and 48 combat brigades to make sure Main Street USA is secure.

The lesson of America is that we have established (through our own Civil War) that we are the UNITED States of America (hell, our pledge says “indivisible”) and that our country is inviolate because our military stands ready to defend it.  We extend the protection and benefit of that force, via friendships and treaties to other countries who, in turn, have a lessened concern about their neighbors attacking, sacking and looting them.  In short, American arms enforce peace and continuity…and that’s all because Pearl Harbor showed us that without it, we’d be repeating Pearl Harbor every generation ad infinitum.  In addition to all the usual reasons we should remember the sacrifices of our military on a day like today, that’s a bigger and often ignored one because it’s not very PC to say these days.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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From Heroes to Zeroes

Posted by Euroranger on July 20, 2011

Man on the Moon

Happy 42nd Anniversary! Too bad in just a few more years the world won't have a single living person who's walked on the Moon. Think about that. Two generations...wasted.

Off the top of your head, do you know what today is?  Aside from being a Wednesday and it being July 20, 2011, do you know what this date is an anniversary of?  Most won’t (because most are indolent turds for whom school was nothing more than fancy daycare) and so because of that, I offer my blog post today as sort of a public service announcement.  Gentle readers, today is the 42nd anniversary of man stepping onto the Moon for the first time.  That’s right, today was the day, 42 years ago that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin undogged the hatch to their lunar lander and hopped out to take an extraterrestrial stroll and to presumably give their enormous steel balls more room to roam.  Very rarely in the history of mankind has an event united humanity like the landing on the Moon did back in July of 1969.  We were at war in Vietnam, staring down the Soviets in Europe…and yet, when Americans had landed and were preparing to open the door and step out onto the Sea of Tranquility…everyone all over the world stopped what they were doing and watched.  Televisions weren’t nearly as numerous then as they are today and yet 1 person in every 5 alive at the time saw Neil Armstrong step from the lander onto the Moon and many more gathered around to the radio to hear it.  There have been other events since that have garnered more viewers but nothing has ever captured the imagination of mankind like man walking on the Moon.  It was a tremendous accomplishment.  From man’s first ride on a rocket in April of 1961 to walking on the Moon in July of 1969…barely 8 years had passed.  It was just 65 years from when Orville and Wilbur Wright flew at Kitty Hawk.  In that summer of 1969, the sky was no longer the limit.  We had conquered the sky and space and the Moon and were talking about permanent Moon bases, travelling to Mars and pretty much anything science fiction had suggested.

Today is indeed a day to be proud to be an American.  Sadly enough, though, tomorrow is not.

Tomorrow the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be returning to Earth and will be subsequently detailed and then sent off to serve as a museum piece…and NASA has no immediate plans for manned missions to space that don’t involve hitching a ride with the Russians to the International Space Station that we largely paid for and built.  Actually, that’s not at all fair to NASA.  They have plans.  They’re called Orion.  What NASA DOESN’T have is funding.  THAT was chopped by, you guessed it, Barack Obama back in October of last year by killing the Constellation program of which the Orion crew vehicle and Ares I heavy lift rocket were pieces of.  So, when the Space Shuttle returns tomorrow, the United States will have, for the first time in nearly 50 years, no active program to further manned exploration of space.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Thanks for the memories. I guess we'll just need to paint a big blue handicapped zone around launchpad 39-A, huh?

I won’t often be heard saying this but, I’ll be a little ashamed tomorrow to be a citizen of a country who’s busy bailing out banks and other private companies whilst turning their back on something that very materially advances the human condition. Every single human being benefits from the discoveries we make to circumvent the hurdles to space exploration.  I simply can’t believe the United States has strayed so far from where we used to be collectively as a nation that we all pretty meekly just accept that we’ll be stepping away from manned space exploration like this. We’ll throw endless good money after bad in a quest to educate our kids when what those kids NEED is a goal to aspire to. I’m sad to say but my son can’t actually have the same dream I had of what to be when I grew up.

If he says tonight “daddy, I want to be an astronaut when I grow up” I’ll have to tell him to aim lower…or learn to speak Mandarin.

There is still a chance that funding for NASA could be restored in future budgets but given how totally Barack Obama’s initiatives have saddled us with nearly unserviceable debt, I don’t hold out much hope that we’ll ever get back to our glory days as the Russians and Chinese move to take over a position we didn’t lose…we just walked away from.

It took 65 years from the time we figured out how to fly to put people on the Moon.  However, all we’ve done in the 42 years since then is make excuses for why the sons aren’t as capable as the fathers and grandfathers.  Instead of celebrating today, we should all be collectively ashamed to the point of rededicating ourselves to being the flag-bearer of humanity in space.  It’s a place of pride that Americans were challenged to achieve and we conquered.  It was a product of American ingenuity and exceptionalism and that product has been sacrificed by those who’d rather cater to the slackards and do-nothings in our society.  It’s the sort of thinking that plagues and infests our once-great country today.  It’s bad enough there are people out there without a proper education but what is truly abhorrent is the Cult of Ignorance that is so disgustingly prevalent today, where people are actually proud of being pants-on-head retarded about things and look down their noses (and all four chins) at intelligent and ambitious people with dreams because “them’s better ‘n us and that’s bad! Where do they get off thinkin’ that they’re better than the rest of us?”  And we have a government and president that panders to that crowd because it’s all about the votes.

Unemployed astronaut

I'm pretty sure nobody expected that Obama would have ensured that the 9.8% unemployment rate would extend to NASA astronauts. Still happy with all that Hope and Change® bullshit?

“Audacity of Hope” my ass.

My name is Euroranger and I approved (goddammitsomuch) this post.

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Where were you?

Posted by Euroranger on January 28, 2011

Hamilton Hall, McMaster University

From where this picture was snapped, I was maybe 20-30 feet to the right. Left entrance is just behind the blue minivan. Common room is the first floor windows to the left of the main door.

Twenty five years ago today I was a 19 year old college freshman.  It was a Tuesday and a little before 12PM, I was walking across the open park space between Burke Science Building and Hamilton Hall on my way to University Hall at McMaster University.  I was hurrying from my chemistry lab to my German lecture.  I remember the day was one of those bitterly cold days you get in Canada where the sky can be clear and a bright, cerulean blue and yet you still see the odd tiny snowflake falling as it’s so cold, the temperature simply squeezes any lingering moisture from the air.  I remember I was wearing my new grey Melton Mac coat that I had purchased in the bookstore, lugging my maroon bookbag over my right shoulder and thinking about heading over to the Commons Cafeteria for lunch after class.  Basically, a normal moment in an unremarkable day for a new university freshman.

I recall with clarity exactly where I was the moment I heard about it.  I was standing about 40 yards or so from the “left” front entrance to Hamilton Hall.  Hamilton Hall had a common area in the first floor in the front of the building.  Down the hall from the little student store where you could buy snacks, sodas and the like the student common area was a large room with chairs, couches, bench seating along the walls, bulletin boards for people to post all kinds of stuff and two televisions tuned to, usually by that time of day, soap operas.  I remember where I was in such stark detail because a girl from my German class, Janet, had come out that left entrance door and was walking the wrong way…away from University Hall and our lecture.  I remember calling out “hey Janet, wrong way” in kind of a “I’m-making-a-funny-comment” kinda way and it wasn’t until after I said that that I noticed she was crying.  She said to me “you haven’t heard?” and I said “heard what?”…and then she told me.

My memory after that is somewhat less sharp.  Janet had decided to walk back to her car and head home.  I went inside Hamilton Hall to the common room and found it packed with people staring at the two TVs mounted up in the corners of the room flanking the big leaded glass windows.  Most everyone was quieter than normal.  Some folks were silent.  Some were crying.  All were pretty much shocked.  I recall staying there for a little while and then realizing I had missed my lecture and that I wasn’t hungry anymore…so I headed back to my student house off campus on King Street.

We didn’t have a TV at the house, the internet hadn’t been introduced to the world yet, cellphones for all was way off in the future.  I think I probably went home, fired up my computer and perhaps tried to play a game to take my mind off things.  I know I ran into Mike and Jeff and Randy (guys I lived with at the time) later when they came back.  I do remember Mike and I headed back to campus later for supper (we had the meal plan) and it was the quietest most somber meal I ever ate at “the Rat” that I can recall.  It was still ridiculously cold but I also remember thinking that there’s lots worse things in life than being temporarily cold.  I also remember Mike (my roommate) wore sweat pants and those leather Sperry Docksider shoes that were the fashion at the time and I asked him if he got snow in them when he walked…so there was snow on the ground.  We had to cross an open area to the right of the hospital and there wasn’t a walkway so we trudged over snowbanks and across the snow.  I recall the snow being hard and crunchy and it was just getting dark and there was a breeze that would cut through whatever it was you wore to try and stay warm.  Mac has a couple of buildings there now, where we were walking, but back then it was just open snow covered ground.  I also remember we didn’t talk about what happened that day.  It’s remarkable how some events freeze a scene in your mind in such vivid detail.

Challenger coming apartI was kind of a nerd back then in that I wanted to be a scientist and, growing up in Florida, I followed the space program and as a kid had wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.  The American space program had dodged lots of bullets up to that point but had never lost an astronaut in space so you kind of got used to thinking that “yeah, space travel is hazardous but hey, we got this cause nothing’s ever happened”.  When the Challenger disintigrated on January 28, 1986 just 70 some odd seconds into the launch, with most of America’s school aged kids tuned in live at their schools because we were launching Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher into space, everything about how people around the world viewed humanity’s progress in space changed.  The accident grounded U.S. manned spaceflight for nearly 3 years.  What had been routine shuttle launches were now entirely suspended while NASA and their various contractors went back to the drawing board to discover what had happened, how to fix it and why wasn’t it caught.  Those are discussions for another blog.  On that day, everyone who was aware of it, was watching the TV and thinking to themselves “God…seven people…gone just like that.  Well thankfully it was quick and they probably didn’t even know what hit them”.  Unfortunately, as the investigation progressed, we discovered that that too was wrong and, as science and clinical explanations have wont to do, the evidence of such is heartbreaking to hear.

Contrary to popular perception, the Challenger didn’t “explode”…it was torn apart by the aerodynamic pressure of tumbling through the air at the speed it was going.  Just over 73 seconds into the launch and at around 48,000 feet, the right side solid rocket booster malfunctioned and tore itself loose from it’s bindings to the external fuel tank that contained super chilled hydrogen and oxygen.  It took around a half second for the uneven forces on the shuttle to push it into a destructive tumble.  In that half second, the last lateral force was certainly felt by the  crew because a half second into that final disastrous sequence pilot Mike Smith can be heard to utter “Uh oh”…and then all contact with Challenger is lost.  From there the vehicle is consumed by a flash and a white ball of vapor.  The fire you see inside that ball that looks like an explosion?  That IS the hydrogen and oxygen finally indeed burning because they’re no longer under pressure and are rapidly warming but the vehicle had already disintegrated and was well past that fireball.  Truth is, had the fuel components been able to explode, it would have vaporized the shuttle instantly which would actually have been a more humane end for the crew.  You see, while the shuttle itself was designed to handle a contrary load factor of up to 3 g, the crew cabin was built to handle a much higher stress rating.  So when the shuttle experienced the momentary 12 to 20 g’s NASA later estimated the breakup forces to be, the crew cabin detached in one piece…and slowly tumbled in a ballistic arc.  Human beings can sustain momentary g forces in excess of 10 g’s and later estimates showed that within just 2 seconds, the g load on the crew cabin was at a survivable 4 g’s.  From the breakup at 48,000 feet, the crew cabin continued on for another 25 seconds until it reached an altitude of nearly 65,000 feet…before it began it’s final 2 minute and 20 second free fall to the ocean below.  Did the astronauts survive the disintegration and sudden high-g separation from their vehicle?  Well, I’ll let wikipedia tell the rest of the story:

At least some of the astronauts were likely alive and briefly conscious after the breakup, as three of the four Personal Egress Air Packs (PEAPs) on the flight deck were found to have been activated. Investigators found their remaining unused air supply roughly consistent with the expected consumption during the 2 minute 45 second post-breakup trajectory.

While analyzing the wreckage, investigators discovered that several electrical system switches on Pilot Mike Smith’s right-hand panel had been moved from their usual launch positions. These switches were protected with lever locks that required them to be pulled outward against a spring force before they could be moved to a new position. Later tests established that neither force of the explosion nor the impact with the ocean could have moved them, indicating that Smith made the switch changes, presumably in a futile attempt to restore electrical power to the cockpit after the crew cabin detached from the rest of the orbiter.

Whether the astronauts remained conscious long after the breakup is unknown, and largely depends on whether the detached crew cabin maintained pressure integrity. If it did not, the time of useful consciousness at that altitude is just a few seconds; the PEAPs supplied only unpressurized air, and hence would not have helped the crew to retain consciousness. The cabin hit the ocean surface at roughly 207 mph (333 km/h), with an estimated deceleration at impact of well over 200 g, far beyond the structural limits of the crew compartment or crew survivability levels.

Some experts, including one of NASA’s lead investigators Robert Overmyer, believed most if not all of the crew were alive and possibly conscious during the entire descent until impact with the ocean: “Scob fought for any and every edge to survive. He flew that ship without wings all the way down….they were alive”
STS-51-L crew

STS-51-L crew

So, for the advancement of human knowledge and to extend the reach of mankind to the stars, these seven men and women climbed aboard a rocket 25 years ago this morning and didn’t come back.  Good did come out of it eventually.  Bad processes and a flip safety culture at NASA were exposed and corrected.  We lost another shuttle, Discovery, in February 2003…but the shuttle design that was formulated in the early 1970’s, originally launched in 1981 and will have had 135 launches when it’s later retired this year with but 2 accidents is a testament to the ingenuity and superior technical know-how of the United States, something that I’ll miss greatly when it’s gone and a feat and feeling I doubt we as a nation will feel again during my lifetime.  I believe one day the Space Shuttle program will be considered the zenith of American spacefaring efforts.  We may go farther and do more…but successfully flying a nearly 40 year old spacecraft design and getting what we have out of it is nothing short of astounding.  Something to think on today.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Pearl Harbor Day

Posted by Euroranger on December 7, 2010

Zero wreckage

The actual wreckage of a crashed and torched Zero on the Hawaiian island of Niihau. Keep reading as to the importance of its place in history.

Today is December 7 and the 69th anniversary of the surprise Japanese naval air attack on the American military and civilian facilities in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  For the past few years, I’ve used the annual observation of Pearl Harbor Day to shed light on some lesser known or odd facts about WW2 that most aren’t aware of.  Today though, let’s talk about the attack on Pearl Harbor itself and a lesser known and obscure incident associated with the attack…and learn two fun and associated facts about them.  The Japanese thinking behind the attack on Pearl Harbor was to cripple the U.S. Navy’s ability to intervene in Japan’s other attacks they planned to execute on December 7 (actually December 8 as the remainder of the attacks were across the international date line).  Those attacks were the invasion of the American held Philippines and attacks on American, English, French and Dutch holdings in the southwest Pacific.  These would be Malaya, Burma, French Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies and several small islands and island groups throughout the south Pacific.  These attacks, therefore, were where Japan’s real interests lay and their attack on Pearl Harbor was merely their insurance that the U.S. Navy couldn’t dash across the Pacific specifically to relieve the Philippines and further to interfere with their conquest of the other territories mentioned.  All in all, seemingly laudable planning on the Japanese’ part.

Anyway, Japan sailed their attack fleet through the North Pacific and arrived at Hawaii undetected early in the morning on December 7 (Hawaii time).  They launched 176 planes in their first wave and arrived just before 8AM that Sunday morning led by torpedo bombers so they could take full advantage of the surprise of the attack and get their blows in before the Americans could put up effective anti-air fire.  They did indeed achieve initial surprise and lost only 9 planes in the first attack wave while much damage was caused to the American Army Air Force assets at Ford Field (nearby air base) and several bomb and torpedo hits were scored on the assembled ships in Pearl Harbor.  Owing to the reported success and total surprise of the first wave, the Japanese commander Nagumo ordered the second of three planned strike waves launched and another 171 planes arrived at Pearl Harbor around 10AM.  They too did extensive damage but this time they were met by much stiffer resistance by the now aroused American defenses and by the end of the second wave the Japanese had lost 20 more planes (29 total) with 74 damaged by anti-aircraft fire.  It was this much stiffer than expected defense reaction coupled with the presence of American carrier air assets (dive bombers from the nearby American carrier Enterprise had been caught on a training mission during the first raid and had participated in the air defense) with no sighting of the carriers themselves that caused Nagumo to ignore the pleas of his strike commanders, cancel the planned third wave and sail home with his partial victory.  Canceling the third wave had a ripple effect throughout the Japanese fleet: rearm and refuel personnel on the carriers stood down, pilots retreated to their sickbays or ready rooms for post battle debriefings, fleet tenders suspended refueling operations and the entire fleet turned 180° and headed back to Japan.  This included one Japanese submarine (of the 23 fleet submarines attached to the attack fleet) that was detailed to retrieve downed Japanese aircrew.  You see, the Japanese were meticulous planners and had designated the small Hawaiian island of Niihau as a location for pilots of damaged aircraft to land after the attack and then rendezvous with the rescue submarine after the third attack.  Japanese planners thought the island was uninhabited but in reality it had 136 residents, almost all of whom were indigenous Hawaiians.  Almost all.  When the Japanese fleet abruptly turned around early and sailed off, Niihau was one resident greater than it was the previous day…and the presence of that one additional person, it can be argued, led directly to the United States interring 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during the war.

Shigenori Nishikaichi


Meet Shigenori Nishikaichi.  He was the pilot of a Mitsubishi Type 0 Carrier Fighter (otherwise known by the Allies as a “Zero”) from the Japanese carrier Hiryu.  During a strafing run during the second Japanese attack wave, his aircraft was damaged by ground fire from the defending Americans and he tried to nurse his Zero back to his carrier.  Realizing he wouldn’t make it back, he diverted to the designated rendezvous recovery area: Niihau island…where he crash landed in a field just 20 feet from where one Mister Hawila Kaleohano, a native Hawaiian resident, was standing.  Kaleohano was unaware of the attack at Pearl Harbor, but recognizing the pilot and his plane as Japanese, Kaleohano thought it would be a good idea to relieve the pilot of his pistol and papers before the dazed airman could react.  He and the other Hawaiians who gathered about treated the pilot with courtesy and the traditional Hawaiian hospitality, even throwing a party for him later that Sunday afternoon. However, they couldn’t understand Nishikaichi, who spoke only Japanese with a limited amount of English.  So they sent for a Japanese resident, Ishimatsu Shintani who was married to a native Hawaiian, to translate.  Having been briefed on the situation beforehand and approaching the task with evident distaste, Shintani exchanged just a few words with Nishikaichi. He turned paled. Nishikaichi froze. Shintani left. The puzzled Hawaiians then sent for Yoshio Harada.  Harada and his wife Irene (both Hawaiians and second generation Japanese immigrants) constituted the remainder of the Niihau population of Japanese ancestry.  Nishikaichi told Harada about the attack on Pearl Harbor, a revelation Harada decided not to share with the non-Japanese Hawaiian natives.  Nishikaichi desperately wanted his papers returned, which he had been told should by no means fall into American hands, but Kaleohano (the farmer he crashed near) refused to return them.  Later that night the Hawaiians heard a radio report about the Pearl Harbor attack and confronted the pilot.  This time Harada translated what was said about the attack. The owner of Niihau, one Aylmer Robinson, was scheduled to arrive on his regular weekly visit the next morning and it was decided that the pilot would return to civilization with Robinson.  However, Robinson didn’t arrive on Monday or in the days that followed because the U.S. military had instituted a ban on boat traffic in the islands within hours of the attack. The Niihauans, knowing nothing of the ban, were puzzled and very uneasy that the normally dependable Robinson had not been seen since the attack. The Haradas requested to have the pilot stay with them as his departure was by now going to be delayed.   The other islanders agreed but placed five guards around the Harada’s home. There was now ample opportunity for the Haradas to converse with Nishikaichi.

At four o’clock on Friday the 12th, Shintani (the Japanese immigrant who was the first translator) approached farmer Kaleohano in private with about $200 in cash (a huge sum for the islanders) and offered to buy the Japanese pilot’s papers.  Kaleohano refused to sell them and Shintani angrily departed, saying there would be trouble if the papers were not returned.  However, Harada and Nishikaichi, not waiting for Shintani’s return, attacked the lone guard who had been posted outside the Harada house (3 other guards, apparently not taking their duties seriously, were elsewhere) while Irene Harada played music on a phonograph to cover up the sounds of the struggle.  The guard was overpowered and locked in a warehouse, while Harada acquired a shotgun and the pilot’s pistol that had previously been stored there.  Thus armed, they proceeded to farmer Kaleohano’s house.  Having parted from Shintani only five or ten minutes before, Kaleohano was in his outhouse (what, don’t the most inopportune things happen to YOU while yer on the crapper?) when he saw Harada and Nishikaichi coming with a gun.  Kaleohano stayed hidden in the outhouse, and when the conspirators, unable to find him, turned their attention to the nearby plane, he burst out of the outhouse and started to run away.  The farmer heard, “Stop! Stop!” and the boom of a shotgun, surely inspiring him to his top speed.  Kaleohano reached a nearby village, warning the residents to evacuate. Many could not believe that their good friend and neighbor, Harada, whom they knew so well and who had been living amongst them for almost three years, could do the things that Kaleohano related but when the captive guard escaped, arrived in the village and confirmed the farmer’s story, the residents fled to caves, thickets and distant beaches.  Harada and Nishikaichi headed to the downed Zero where Nishikaichi tried unsuccessfully to make contact with the long departed Japanese fleet using the aircraft’s radio.  They then torched the plane and proceeded to Kaleohano’s house and set it ablaze at about 3 a.m.  In between, Kaleohano had gone home and retrieved the pilot’s papers giving them to a relative for safekeeping and set out around 12:30 a.m. to paddle the arduous ten-hour trip to neighboring Kauai to inform the authorities of the events on Niihau.

Pictured: typical testicular size of Hawaiian male natives of Niihau

Pictured: typical testicular size of Hawaiian male natives of Niihau

The next morning, Saturday, December 13, Harada and Nishikaichi captured Ben Kanahele and his wife, Ella, also natives of the island.  They ordered Ben to find farmer Kaleohano while keeping Ella as a hostage.  Kanahele knew that Kaleohano was rowing toward Kauai but pretended to look for him.  Eventually Nishikaichi realized he was being duped and through Harada told Kanahele that the pilot would kill him and everyone in the village if Kaleohano was not found.  Ben Kanahele, noticing the fatigue and discouragement of his two captors, took advantage of the brief distraction as the pilot handed the shotgun to Harada and he and his wife tackled the pilot.  Nishikaichi managed to pull his recovered pistol from his boot and took aim at Ben Kanahele but Ella grabbed his arm and brought it down.  However, Harada pulled Ella off the pilot and then Nishikaichi casually and deliberately shot Ben Kanahele three times: in the groin, stomach, and upper leg.  However, while you and I might be made of lesser stuff, Ben Kanahele was not and he picked Nishikaichi up in the same manner that he picked up the sheep that were commercially raised on the island, and hurled him into a nearby stone wall.  Mrs. Kanahele then bashed the pilot in the head with a rock and Ben slit his throat with his hunting knife.  Harada, likely noticing that both Kanaheles were EXTREME BADASSES, turned the shotgun on himself, committing suicide.

The next afternoon, the military authorities, the Hawaiians who had rowed to Kauai, and Robinson arrived together.  Once they could locate a boat big enough to accommodate him and his enormous balls, Ben Kanahele was taken to Waimea Hospital on Kauai to recuperate.  He was later decorated for the part he played in defending his country.  The grieving Irene Harada and Ishimatsu Shintani were taken into custody. Shintani was sent to an internment camp and later rejoined his family on Niihau after the war, where he attained U.S. citizenship in 1960.  Irene Harada was imprisoned for thirty-one months, being released in June 1944.  She was never charged with treason, nor any other crime resulting from her complicity in the affair.  She maintained her innocence when speaking in English but said she felt sorry for the pilot and wanted to help him when speaking in Japanese for a Japanese audience.

Camp Oops-We-Didn't-Need-To-Do-That

Camp Oops-We-Didn't-Need-To-Do-That...fun for all ages.

So that was the end of what came to be known as The Niihau Incident.  However, two more things need to be mentioned about it and December 7 in general.  The first is that the incident, during the early dark days of America’s entry into the war, was publicized widely and was a source of good news for Americans back home.  However, after Pearl Harbor there was a general outrage that the American armed forces had been caught so flat-footed on December 7.  The behavior of Shintani and the Haradas were included in the official navy report, dated January 26, 1942: “The fact that the two Ni‘ihau Japanese who had previously shown no anti-American tendencies went to the aid of the pilot when Japan domination of the island seemed possible, indicate likelihood that Japanese residents previously believed loyal to the United States may aid Japan if further Japanese attacks appear successful.”  Roosevelt, Congress and the American people in general concurred and the decision to round up and detain some Japanese and many American citizens, without charges or a hearing, was made.  It is still controversial to this very day.

The second point is one that’s almost never discussed.  Early in 1941, President Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii from its previous base in San Diego and ordered a military buildup in the Philippines in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East.  As I mentioned earlier, the Japanese high command was certain any attack on the British Southeast Asian colonies would bring the U.S. into the war.  Therefore, a devastating preventive strike and an invasion of the Philippines appeared to be the only way to avoid U.S. naval interference.  However, while the official U.S. War Plan (Plan Orange) had envisioned defending the Philippines with a 40,000 man force, the American commander in the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur, felt he would need a force ten times that size and so Plan Orange was never implemented and by 1941, U.S. planners anticipated abandonment of the Philippines at the outbreak of war and orders to that effect were given in late 1941 to Admiral Thomas Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet…based at Pearl Harbor.

In short, the Japanese never needed to attack Pearl Harbor in the first place as the United States had never planned to rush the fleet to confront Japanese aggression in the Far East.  Roosevelt and America was focused on Hitler and Nazi Germany and had Japanese planners known this, they might have decided to not attack Pearl Harbor, declare war on the United States on December 7…and Adolf Hitler may not have been forced to honor the terms of the Axis’ Tripartite Pact and declare war on the U.S. on December 12.  The war might indeed have turned out very differently altogether but, it didn’t…and today we observe the biggest Axis blunder of the entire war as a result.

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