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
Wednesday, July 1. 2020
Webinars can be hit or miss. The New York Adventure Club, due to the obvious difficulties of getting out these days, have some on offer. I took in one on Five Points that was excellent, and there is one on July 21 about the Brooklyn Bridge that I have signed up for. $10 isn't too much, I guess, though I'd rather do tours on foot (boy I miss the Urban Hike and I hope we can pull one off in the Fall...I was thinking of focusing on movie locations this time).
If you're interested in spending an hour and learning about NYC's history, here's a great way to do it. Just click the link and see what they have to offer.
Wednesday, June 17. 2020
Monday, June 15. 2020
Monday, June 8. 2020
Ghosts don't exist, except in history. These ghosts live in our minds, because we are aware of history and hope 'it can't happen here', or that lessons are learned. But some choose to not be aware of history, and make every effort to bring ghosts to life.
For several months, since listening to the French Revolution portion of the Revolutions podcast I mentioned here at Maggie's, I've told friends we're moving toward a new French Revolution. As Minneapolis moves to defund its police department, one can only wonder, will it be replaced with a Committee of Public Safety? In a perverse way, I hope they do create one.
The ghosts of Marat, Robespierre, Danton and countless others are alive again. I'm sure our modern day radicals will say "This time is different" or "It wasn't done right the last time" or some other excuse will be provided. I have to admit, though, it's fun to see these people turn on their own kind. It's also frightening. A friend of mine was sending me pictures today from Manhattan of the destroyed store fronts. It's pretty extensive, and the minimal news coverage of how bad it was provides a kind of rationale for the radical influence to keep pushing. There is no shame in destruction if it's not visible. But the destruction, too, is a ghost - not visible to many.
Jonathan Turley puts his own spin on it here. Being a modern-day Abbe Sieyes isn't something I thought I'd begin to aspire to, but it may be a worthwhile goal nonetheless.
Thursday, June 4. 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 !"
Wednesday, May 13. 2020
I am used to working from home. I have done it once a week for close to 6 years, sometimes twice a week, but rarely that often. I was much more productive working from home that often. It helps reset your mind, helps keep you out of office politics, is relaxing and allows you to concentrate.
That said, I've now been working from home for 2 months straight. I'm comfortable doing it, but I will admit the productivity question is an odd one, and I would like to know if others think they are more productive, about the same, or less so.
Here is how I view the situation. I'm about as productive as I was at the office, but I take more time doing the work because I have to. So, by that standard, I'm LESS productive. I find myself working earlier and later, with more breaks than I would have at the office. Most of my daily 'ad-hoc' work shows up at 5pm, as people realize things need to get finished or as the West Coast sends in requests prior to end of day. I don't like to leave my work undone for the day, I prefer an empty email when I shut down. However, this situation is such that I've found myself responding to emails at 11pm, even midnight.
Working from home reduces access to co-workers who may have answers or assist (it takes longer for them to respond), it reduces access to information (the rapidity at which we shifted limited how many files I was able to move to a shared drive), it reduces brainstorming opportunities, it reduces camaraderie (sorry, Zoom meetings 'for fun' are not fun in any way, shape or form).
So I'm curious - how has the lockdown affected those of you who are working from home? More, less or the same in terms of productivity?
Tuesday, March 10. 2020
Sunday, March 1. 2020
Wednesday, February 26. 2020
Friday, February 21. 2020
I make an effort, in my role as an older member of my department, to reinforce knowing history. Not only of the industry, which critical to avoiding errors already made, but also general history because it helps create a more advanced social order. The critical part of any social order is trust. Without it, markets fail, relationships fray, and good behavior is set aside in favor of self-interest. History, at its core, teaches the value of trust.
All good teams, departments, interactions, communities, and even nations are built upon a basic level of trust. It is rarely discussed, but absolutely essential.
In the U.S., trust has begun a slow dissipation. Think of an example of someone who did things the 'right way' and was moderately, or supremely, successful (let's say the Boston Red Sox of 2018) versus those who do things the 'wrong way' and are supremely successful yet go unpunished or are barely touched (the Houston Astros of 2017). When we fail to punish those who gain rewards improperly, we reduce the ability to trust our institutions. How often have you talked about someone you admire, only to have someone else say "if he/she is so smart or good, why did person X (who wasn't as 'clean') make all the money?" That kind of response typifies the slow fraying of fundamental trust.
Another example could be our recent trials and investigations regarding Trump. In this, we see an example of retributive anger (Trump won and I hate him so he has to go), which is very damaging and occurs with the complete loss of trust (can anyone argue that the Democrats trust Trump even a little?). Transitional anger, the anger we feel as we shift from one order to the next, that sense of loss yielding anger but without feeling the need to lash out, is manageable and useful. It can help people progress. Retributive anger is dangerous and undermines the fabric of trust that is necessary to move forward.
The Democrats are suffering now because of the fact they have engaged retributive anger. They're mad they lost an election they assumed was theirs, and rather than be angry at their own shortcomings and using that anger in a transitional manner to improve themselves, they've lashed out and are destroying themselves and potentially the nation (if their behavior is followed to its logical conclusion).
We are successful as a nation because we have an innate trust in our political institutions. That trust exists regardless of those in power because the Constitution protects us, as individuals. Even if bad people are elected, one person and even a few cannot destroy the system. Checks and balances assure that. We can survive a bad president (and have many times). There are reasonable methods to oust the truly awful. Engaging those levers in wrong-headed attempts simply because someone is 'offensive' undermines that innate trust of our institutions. It causes some, and possibly many, to question the validity of our original belief in our Constitution and our laws.
This doesn't happen because of one person. It doesn't happen because "Trump did it," it happens because a group of people are hoping and trying to undermine that trust, and it isn't the Russians. Or the Chinese. It has to happen internally.
I don't love Trump, I barely tolerate him. But I've not liked plenty of presidents. I've had trust in our system, though. Thankfully, after two clear attempts to undermine that system, it has stood up to the attacks on it, and I still trust it. It's a shame there's an entire party out there so far off base that its members no longer trust the system and are proposing potential candidates to destroy it.
Thursday, December 26. 2019
Friday, November 15. 2019
Wow. A biography to make almost all of us feel like lazy slackers: Soldier of Fortune: John Smith before Jamestown Smith's experiences as a pirate, mercenary, and Turkish slave prepare him to survive in the New World.
From the article:
The Turk showed up in the no man's land between the armies dressed in his finest- "his shoulders were fixed with a paire of great wings, compacted of eagle feathers within ridge of silver, richly garnished with gold and precious stones." Smith dispatched him on the first pass. Upset by the loss of his captain, another Turk challenged Smith. The bout began with an exchange of blows and ended with pistol shots. Smith took a round in the breastplate, but his Turkish opponent suffered a debilitating blow to his arm, eventually collapsing. The final duel occurred when Smith gave the Turks a chance to redeem their honor. The contest was settled by the use of battle axes, with Smith triumphing once more. When Smith brought the three heads before the commanding Turkish general-each head mounted on a lance-he was embraced by the general and given a horse and a jewel-encrusted scimitar. The sweetest honor came from Prince Zsigmond Báthory of Transylvania, who granted Smith the right to wear "three Turkish heads" on his shield and bestowed on him the title of "English gentleman." John Smith had succeeded in exchanging "farmer" for "gentleman" by the swing of his sword.
Sunday, October 20. 2019
One of the books I am reading now: Leon Uris' Trinity (1976). It's a novelized visit to a sorrowful piece Irish history, and so well-done that it's difficult to imagine that Uris was not Irish.
That potato fungus, and its consequences, killed or drove away over 1 million Irish. The book puts you there. Mrs. BD is half-Irish, and tells me "Stop" when I read sections to her. Mostly the Catholic peasants had the worst time. They were sharecroppers, peasants. The Scots Presbyterians and the Brit Anglican overlords did somewhat better, at the expense of the sharecroppers. It is heartbreaking.
Lucky thousands made it to Canada and the US. Luckily for the US and Canada. The Brits were no heroes of the history, but they were stuck with the tragedy too. It was complicated, like all such things.
Sunday, September 8. 2019
Sunday, September 1. 2019
Was Nixon even a Conservative? Not really. A moderate without a winning personality. JFK was the sleaze along with the rest of his disgusting family.
Monday, August 26. 2019
While I thought the Urban Hike of 2019 was one of our best, despite the rain, the Brooklyn trip of 2018 remains my favorite so far. To that end, this article about Battle of Brooklyn sites is worth a look-see. We stopped at a number of these sites, such as the Old Stone House, the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn Heights, and the monument to the prison ship martyrs.
The article did miss one site, on the side of a bank, which commemorated the battle (perhaps the author is unaware of this plaque, but we stumbled upon it and I wish I had a picture or a location to share).
Looking forward to planning 2020's Urban Hike. Need some thought starters. Right now, Wave Hill to City Island is what I'm considering, but that's more walking and less sightseeing.
Friday, August 9. 2019
I'd like to pitch for a podcast I am now addicted to. For what it's worth, I am not a podcast person. The Revolutions podcast, link attached, is excellent and worth your time if you like history. It was recommended by a good friend who thought I'd enjoy the current episodes on Communism. Instead, I went to the beginning (which I highly recommend doing) and started from scratch. It's worth it.
I'm now in season 3, the French Revolution, and enjoying every minute of it. To say the least, if you don't see parallels between today and the French Revolution, you probably may not know as much about the French Revolution as you think. I know I didn't see them, and I thought I understood it. I did not. For what it's worth, the narrator is not pointing them out, I just think they are very, very noticeable.
At any rate, I recommended to my brother, who then sent me a note telling me that he hated me with the heat of a thousand suns because he has found himself hopelessly addicted to listening. The stories are both entertaining and informative, and very funny in some of the most appropriate places.
The narrator also did a history of Rome, which I'll turn to once I'm finished. And he does tours, which I hope to take part in (maybe we should invite him to our Urban Hike, though right now he's living in Paris).
Wednesday, June 12. 2019
Tuesday, June 11. 2019
Part of the process of cleaning out my inbox is finding neat stuff that I'd forgotten I wanted to watch/read.
Since I posted about Manhattan's wooden homes yesterday, and Hamilton Grange was a stop from our Urban Hike, here's another little tidbit about how it moved:
Thursday, June 6. 2019
Thursday, May 30. 2019
Except for our technologies, I say that we live today much as did wealthy Romans. Same culture. I agree with this comment at Quora, responding to a query about whether modern-day Italians are descendents of the Romans (not much):
Tuesday, May 7. 2019
Saturday, April 6. 2019
Book recommendation: Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations
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