We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, August 27. 2020
Saturday, July 4. 2020
Friday, June 19. 2020
Monday, May 25. 2020
One can hardly conceive of the enormous grief held quietly within General Kelly as he spoke.
On Nov 13, 2010, Lt. General John Kelly, USMC, gave a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis, MO. This was four days after his son, Lt Robert Kelly, USMC, was killed by an IED while on his 3rd Combat tour. During his speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of our young men and women who step forward each and every day to protect us.
During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed the speech with the moving account of the last six seconds in the lives of two young Marines who died with rifles blazing to protect their brother Marines.
"I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are, about the quality of the steel in their backs, about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans.
Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22 ND of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 "The Walking Dead," and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.
Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.
Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and whom he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000.
Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America's exist simultaneously depending on one's race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born.
But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like, "Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?"
I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like, "Yes Sergeant," with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, "No kidding ‘sweetheart’, we know what we're doing."
They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way - perhaps 60-70 yards in length, and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck's engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.
Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn't have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different.
Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.
The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event - just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I'd have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, "We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing."
The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, "They'd run like any normal man would to save his life." "What he didn't know until then," he said, "And what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal."
Choking past the emotion he said, "Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did." "No sane man." "They saved us all."
What we didn't know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before, "Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass." The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.
It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were - some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines' weapons firing non-stop the truck's windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the (I deleted) who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers - American and Iraqi-bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.
If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight - for you.
We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth - freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious - our soldiers, sailors, airmen, U S Customs and Border Patrol, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines - to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can ever steal it away.
It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.
God Bless America, and SEMPER FIDELIS !"
Sunday, April 19. 2020
My town, Encinitas, CA, has a hard left City Council and a recent majority that elected it. Today was a significant protest about its fear-mongering and controlling lives excessiveness shutting down the beach and walkways above the beach. I'm down there every day walking long distances, and walkers have been keeping distances and many wearing masks. I hope come November, the fear mongerers and sheepies get sent home.
Wednesday, April 8. 2020
Whether with family or friends or alone, in good times or dire, at Passover, still after thousands of years we recall the Exodus, and we thank G-d for helping us to find the strength within and together to persevere in determination to be free and to practice faith. Tonight is the first seder (order of prayers, recollections, food, and songs) for Passover. May all celebrate freedom and faith with perseverance.
Thursday, April 2. 2020
Friday, February 7. 2020
Monday, January 27. 2020
Bob Turner and I have been friends during our college years and after in Vietnam military service and since and colleagues on defending the cause and rightness of South Vietnam's defense from communist takeover. Turner's career as the nation's leading professor of national security law and his contributions are summarized in the press release on his retirement from the University of Virginia law school.
It's worth reading. Please do, to recognize the lifetime of sacrifice, focus, and hard work to protect the security of the United States.
Fortunately, as Bob announces in his Facebook post today: "After more than 32 years on the UVA faculty, I will be retiring on Friday. I am not ceasing my work on issues I care about, and indeed should have more time to focus on them...."
Thank you Bob, from a lifelong friend, and from a grateful nation.
Friday, January 24. 2020
Back in the late '60's until the '80's I told friends that if they wanted to be really, although relatively quickly, informed about most sides of a complex issue, then they should be regular watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS. Unfortunately, his successors there have not kept to that high standard, devolving into just another partisan gab.
I had personal correspondence with Jim Lehrer back in the days when I wrote many times a day for posts and publications. One such sticks in my mind. I'd just visited the traveling Vietnam memorial wall, and commented that it brought up so many feelings and memories that I had nothing to say, I was dumbstruck. Until that time, I hadn't known that Lehrer served as a Marine officer. He wrote back to me that he had the same reactions and feelings as I.
In the linked obit, Jim Lehrer's standards of journalism are listed. I would add one more: if you've nothing really worth saying, don't say it.
Please read the Lehrer lessons for journalists, and share it with other aspiring or entrenched journalists.
Sunday, December 22. 2019
Differing Chanukah Stories Still Argued--Repost from 2012 and 2014 with 2019 additions at top and end re: during Holocaust
Dec. 22, 2019: My son is in Rome, en route to Jerusalem for a course during last week of month. Jews filled a large plaza in Rome for first night Chanukah menorah lighting by Chabad, with dancing in the street after.
The earlier written narrative of the Maccabean revolt against Hellenization and outlawing Jewish worship differs in emphasis from the later “official” Jewish take on the result.
The portion of the Apocrypha (biblical era writings not included in the Jewish Bible) dealing with the events does not mention a miracle of one day’s sanctified oil for the Menorah lasting 8 days. The Book of Maccabees speaks, instead, of eight days of rejoicing the victory to substitute for the eight days of the Torah requirement to celebrate Sukkot, which were missed due to the fighting. The eight days celebration of Chanukah (i.e., rededication) became a custom for every year.
Several centuries later, in the Babylonian Talmud (finalized approx. 5th century, Common Era) interpreting Jewish law and customs, the narrative takes on a new twist, emphasis on G-d’s “miracle” of the oil, which downplays the emphasis on the accomplishment of mens’ arms to retrieve the Temple and Judaism from Hellenistic extinction.
What had happened?: The fall of the Temple and the dispersal (Diaspora) of surviving Jews. No longer having a state, Jews had to survive through craft or accommodation (different than assimilation) to the religion and politics of the states they lived within and not by emphasizing their abilities to fight, not to mention win, when persecuted.
The rise of Zionism in the late 1800s and early 1900s emphasized Jews’ ability to fight and win, and to deserve and have a state to protect Jews from thousands of years of oppression, persecution, and murder, based on thousands of years of roots, presence, worship, investment, hard work, and unceasing yearning for Israel. The more secular Zionists’ pragmatic emphasis stood in stark contrast to the more pacifist or accomodationist teachings that had dominated for almost two millennia.
Today, although a small minority within Israel still cling to illusions of a “miracle” of Palestinians and Muslims transforming their hate into peace, a larger proportion of Jews in the US and Europe – less existentially threatened – cling to such illusions. In Israel and elsewhere, Jews light the eight lights of the Menorah with the extra “helper” light, but the emphasized meaning behind the ritual differs. Adherence to G-d may have given Jews the internal strength to fight and survive, but it was not (as during the Exodus) G-d who directly intervened.
Regardless of this difference, the overriding and more important thing that unites Jews is that regardless of how to get there, either way requires faith and hope. Without faith and hope, necessary for resilience, Jews would not have had reason, cohesion or the internal strength to survive the depredations and challenges to existence of the past two-thousand years since the fall of the Temple to the Romans. Hatikva, Israel's national anthem, means The Hope.
As long as the heart within
Our hope is not yet missing,
Chanukah starts tonight. Come celebrate the miracle of endurance and survival.
The Credo, by Zionist poet Saul Tchernichovsky:
Laugh at all my silly dreams!
For the most part, Hanukkah is a minor festival, with few specific obligations about what Jews can or cannot do over these eight days. But this story of tenacity and hope took on special significance for Jewish people during the Holocaust.
s Found Ways to Mark Hanukkah
Amid the Holocaust's Horrors, Many Jews Found Ways to Mark Hanukkah
Amid the Holocaust's Horrors, Many Je
Tuesday, December 17. 2019
Thursday, December 12. 2019
My son Jason is at a conference in Berlin. He visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp, about 20-miles from Berlin. The camp was the admin HQ for the Nazi camps, training site for SS to run the camps, and where methods of murder were experimented with before arriving at the efficiency of gas chambers. It was later used by the KGB and East German communist regime for ongoing oppression. The memorial to the crematorium:
My son is a sunny southern California boy. The 3-degree Celsius (37-degree Fahrenheit) and stiff wind was uncomfortable, and it not yet the height of winter. Imagine the suffering of inmates from the cold, hunger, torture, death labor: tens of thousands dead, including political prisoners, Soviet and then German troops.
Thursday, December 5. 2019
(First King Of Portugal, Alfonso I, reign 1139-1185; also called Alfonso the Conqueror for expelling the Muslims and securing independence of Portugal)
Portugal is a current go-to for Europeans and increasingly for Americans (including BirdDog). Rightfully so. The Portuguese people are renowned for their generosity to strangers. Except to Moors. They expelled them three centuries before Spain did.
The land is fertile, green -- even a kelly green to rival Ireland --everywhere, its cork trees supply the world, grape vines and olive trees are all over. Lisbon's verdant and luxurious Avenida Liberdade makes Paris' Champs-Elysees look like a version of cheesy Times Square.
The food along the way is mouthwatering, the baking rich yet light, the Portuguese table wine -- especially the whites, and of course aged Ruby Port, (as in Spain's reds) fragrant, crisp, rounded, and almost sensuous to the palate. The prices for these kingly repasts are relatively economic. I almost always had various octopus recipes, although not Kosher. I did avoid the giant tiger-prawns as large as small lobsters, and the pork roasts and bacons were appealing even to my Kosherist eye and nose. The national dish, a mix of cod and eggs and seasoning is superb. (Warning: as in any tourist country, never go into any restaurant with photos at the entrance or with hamburgers on the menu. Touristy mediocre food, and not much less cost, actually a much higher cost due to missing out on affordable great food.)
The weather was a mild 60F in the daytime but intermittently raining, not pouring, so the winter in Portugal's Med climate is fine for touring, plus far less tourists to bump into.
Now, on with some photos (OK, a lot of photos):
Continue reading "Portugal for 11 Days over Thanksgiving"
Monday, November 11. 2019
Sunday, November 10. 2019
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. For most, a day off from work and sales at shops is all that Veterans Day means. However, for those who served and those who care about those who served, aside from a few moments of contemplation, I heartily recommend going to the movie theater to see on the big screen the film Midway. I wasn't a pilot or sailor, preferring to keep my feet on the ground. The movie is entirely factual. The spectacular filming and bravery literally had me gripping my knees at some points.
I went yesterday afternoon, my younger son going into another theater at the multiplex. My theater showing Midway was fully packed. His theater, showing Joker, was one-quarter full. So, apparently many care. The ages and genders were mixed in my theater. IMHO, Midway is one of the top five war films ever made. The audience stood and clapped at the end. A stranger, the 40s-aged woman sitting next to me said, you men have incredible guts to go to war. Outside the theater was a middle age couple with his father, age 96, a WWII pilot of the same planes in the Pacific that won the battle of Midway, the battle that turned the war in the Pacific. He took some time to chat and added to the chills in my spine.
At Rotten Tomatoes, yesterday, of course the effete critics gave it a grade in the low twenties. The audiences gave it a 91%. Perhaps reacting/catering to the overwhelming support by audiences, today the critics are up to 41%, the audiences to 92%. I think you know who actually serves and cares.
Thursday, November 7. 2019
Monday, November 4. 2019
Beneath the fold is a letter from Scholars For Peace in the Middle East (SPME) to some faculty members at one college, whose petition is similar to such petitions at other colleges to silence those who disagree with Boycotting, Divesting from, Sanctioning Israel (BDS), which by definition is anti-Semitic for singling out Israel for claims that are false or really appropriate to despotic countries but aren't made by BDSers instead BDS being about hatred of Israel and Jews. The letter amply sums up the sheer hypocrisy and ignorance of the petition signers.
Continue reading "About BDS on Campuses"
Thursday, October 31. 2019
Tuesday, October 29. 2019
A parent wants their child to exceed the parent in life. I felt I'd succeeded on October 12 at the annual banquet of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation , the "the Nation's oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarship to military children. Their funding is provided by private supporters, including individuals, corporations, and other nonprofit foundations. The organization's mission is to "Honor Marines by Educating Their Children." "
My son Jason, and I, were invited as speakers about what the mission and generosity of the scholarships mean to us and to all the other Marines and their children among the 2300 awarded each year. I'm a pretty good and rousing speaker. Jason from his heart thanked the Foundation and me for the lessons of honor, commitment, courage instilled in him, and the importance of passing it on. Jason 's speech was better than mine. I felt I'd succeeded in his upbringing, and he'd exceeded me.
One of the strong supporters of the Foundation is David McCallum, star of Man From Uncle, NCIS, and a long career of performances. He is a very kind and pleasant man. In his speech he said the proudest moment of his life was becoming a US citizen. His lovely and gracious wife's father served in the Marine Corps at Iwo Jima and her brother lost his life in Vietnam.
Please reach in your pocket or ask your employer to contribute to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. The Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, also applies to always being faithful to passing it on to the next generations to keep America strong.
Monday, October 28. 2019
The sons and I went yesterday to the Gene Autry Museum Of The American West, in north Griffith Park in Los Angeles. I'd heard good things but in all my decades in Southern California hadn't been there. If you are looking for a truly wonderful experience, go. There are costumes and homages to all the Western film cowboys from the silents to recent, including many Black ones in films you probably never heard of. The museum has the complete Colt company collection of firearms from the 1800's forward, including those specially made for US Presidents. And much more.
There was one room showing clips from Gene Autry films. One clip only showed the song below, without the intro or follow-up. The jaws dropped among some of the women in the room, while the men (if they could get away with it) smiled.
Saturday, October 19. 2019
Tuesday, October 8. 2019
Each year at the start of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, I ask a question, usually how to be more constructive and helpful in my personal relationships in general or with a special person. The answer eludes me and it troubles me that I can't see the way.
As I go through the days of prayer and reflection, various alternatives come from my mind, only to be rejected as too unreal or hollow or evasive or inadequate to the need.
On Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, the longest night and day of prayer, and of a 25-hour fast, the worry that I won't find the answer gets more urgent. My fear rises of not finding the answer. As my mind gets submerged in repetitious prayers and wanders, as I get more light-headed with hunger, as the prayers of repentance get more fervent, an answer always comes late in the day, from my heart.
It's never what I thought it would be. It is complete. It is not complex, though requires more focus, discipline, understanding. It always works for the coming year.
Life is only complicated when avoiding simple truths.
The miracle brings me closer to the person I want to be. It keeps me coming back for more.
Wednesday, October 2. 2019
Sunday, September 29. 2019
Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset tonight, beginning the ten days of Awe or Repentence that brings us to Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement and Judgment. Although every day we are to examine our actions and thoughts, making up and apologizing for our transgressions toward others and beginning to live a better good life, these ten days are especially intense introspection and self-correction.
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