Great War Wednesday: Wolf Pups

Standard

http://www.uboat.net/media/wwi/articles/wwi_pic1.jpgOn 5 September 1914, HMS Pathfinder exploded, broke in half, and sank in minutes. Of 258 souls on board, only eighteen survived. While the harbor rang with the mayhem accompanying such a terrible event, U-21 of the Imperial German Navy quietly slipped below the water and made her way out to sea having just become the first submarine to sink a ship with a torpedo fired from what we now think of as “conventional” torpedo tubes. (As a proud son of Dixie, I must note the CSS H.L. Hunley sank a warship half a century prior, but she used a “spar torpedo” and managed to sink herself in the process.)

The focus of Great War historians and historical dabblers usually centers on the miseries of the trenches or, perhaps, the chivalric glory of the burgeoning air corps. Most World War I scholars end up ignoring naval engagements in general — save the necessary treatment of Jutland — and submarines in particular, but in reality, while not as widespread or as advanced as the “Wolf Packs” Admiral Donitz sent into the Atlantic twenty years later, the submarines of World War I played a vital role in the conflict. The lowly submarine emerged as the technology that, in true double edged sword fashion, almost secured victory for the Kaiser but in the end ensured his downfall.

One reason submariners get such short shrift from military historians is the general negative light most people hold them in. To many in naval circles, the submarine is the sniper of the seas, hidden beneath the waves unseen and silently waiting for a perfect moment to kill an enemy. Indeed, more than one stuffy old-fashioned admiral felt submarines should be strictly relegated to a reconnaissance role because their ability to attack while hidden seemed somehow “unsporting” and “not quite fair.” As soon as submarines developed to the point they were seen as a viable weapon of war, countries enacted treaties and “rules of engagements” stating submarines had to “surface and warn” ships they were about to torpedo. Somehow, this was supposed to “even out” the sub’s advantage. Personally, I see “rules of engagement” and “laws of war” in much the same light as “jumbo shrimp” — oxymorons.

Don’t say we didn’t warn y’all.

Early on, German U-boat commanders actually sought to abide by such hamstringing rules and would surface, warn the merchant ship’s captain, and allow passengers to safely embark in lifeboats before either sinking the ship or seizing it as a prize of war. Of course, some enterprising merchant mariner came up with the idea of mounting GUNS on merchant ships which, by all earlier naval laws had been unarmed, and the submarines surfaced to warn a potential victim only to find the tables turned. At that point, some enterprising U-boat captains decided, “Zur Holle mit den Regeln,” and went back to sinking warships and merchant ships without warning.

This practice of “sink them all and let God sort them out” is what historians call a period of “unrestricted” submarine warfare. The idea was basically “y’all know we are at war with Britain so if y’all try to bring anything TO Britain, we’re going to sink you. Consider THIS your warning!” A little known fact surrounding the sinking of RMS Lusitania and the deaths of so many Americans in the Spring of 1915 is the German Embassy took out a full page ad in the New York Times right next to the ad for the ship’s voyage. This ad read:

Notice!
Travellers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.
Imperial German Embassy
Washington, D.C. 22 April 1915

Hard to claim it was a complete “sneak attack” when you warn everyone in the largest paper in the nation.

Unrestricted submarine warfare had a tremendous effect on Great Britain. As an island nation, she counted on being supplied by sea and at the height of the U-boat activity, Great Britain began running short on important war materiel and food supplies. The situation was not quite as dire as the blockade days of 1940 when the island was supposedly down to less than a week’s worth of food, but matters were still bleak.

Part of the reason the U-boats didn’t strangle Great Britain completely was the fallout from the Lusitania. President Woodrow Wilson gave several impassioned speeches warning Germany of the dangers of plucking the feathers from the American Eagle’s tail and Germany reluctantly ceased unrestricted submarine warfare around the British Isles.

Unfortunately for Germany, the stagnation along the Western Front and Great Britain’s own surface based standoff blockade of German ports combined to place the Kaiser in a position from which he couldn’t win. With matters increasingly dire and desperate, in January 1917, the German High Command again gave the order to return to unrestricted submarine warfare and sink any and all ships coming in the Zone of Exclusion around Great Britain and Europe. It was this action which led directly to Germany’s defeat in the Great War.

Once President Wilson heard of Germany’s resolve in resuming the indiscriminate sinking of any ships it came across, he ordered all German diplomats out of the country. It wouldn’t be much longer and he would ask the US Congress for a declaration of war against Germany and once Congress granted that declaration, the entire industrial and manpower might of the United States came to bear on an already weary Central Power alliance. Germany’s days were numbers when the “Yanks started coming over there!”

Still, the role of the submarine in Germany’s prosecution of the war shouldn’t be overlooked. At the War’s beginning, the Kaisermarine only had twenty operational U-boats and the entire sub fleet would never grow particularly large. For such a small force. the damage they inflicted was vastly disproportional to their numbers. In four years, a relative handful of U-boats sank almost 5,000 ships totaling nearly 13 million tons while losing less than 200 of their own number. I think most commanders in history would like to have a 25:1 kill ratio.

Well, that’s it for this week. Love y’all and keep your feet clean!

Great War Wednesday: Britain’s Battle Rifle

Standard
enfield

The Lee-Enfield MK1 SMLE

At dawn on 23 August 1914, the head of the German sledgehammer carving its bloody path through Belgium ran into the British Expeditionary Force — “The Old Contemptibles” — near the Belgian border town of Mons. The Germans outnumbered the British three to one and obviously felt secure in the knowledge they could steamroll any opposition since they made no attempt to seek cover initially nor to break marching formation. That false notion proved the death of scores of the Kaiser’s soldiers. The British opened up with rifle fire at around 1,000 yards and as the Germans came on they withered like orchids in a drought. After the battle, many German soldiers believed they had blundered into a line of British light machine guns. In fact, they had not; they had encountered instead their first combat against British riflemen and their Lee-Enfield SMLE rifles.

No discussion of British martial endeavors during the first six decades of the last century could be complete without mention of the Lee-Enfield Rifle. First introduced in 1895, the Lee-Enfield served as Britain’s standard issue infantry battle rifle until the FN FAL took its place in 1957. Even after giving way to the new semi-automatic, the Lee-Enfield continued in front line service in several capacities, including dedicated sniper rifle, into the 1990s. By contrast, in the same time period, the US army fielded the Krag-Jorgenson, the Springfield A3, the M1 Garand and carbine, the M-14, and the M-16 as standard GI equipment, six totally different rifles to old mum’s one.

http://www.valmontfirearms.co.uk/ESW/Images/303clip.JPG

This is a Lee-Enfield stripper clip aka “charger” with five rounds at the ready.

The Lee-Enfield, or LE, or “The 303″ was one of the first infantry rifles to use the bolt-action. German brothers Karl and Peter-Paul Mauser perfected the bolt-action some years before and armies all over the world quickly grasped how much more effective a bolt-action rifle could be when compared to the other rifles of the day. With a bolt-action, a soldier could easily sight his target and fire in all four standards shooting positions: prone (lying flat on the ground), sitting, kneeling, or offhand (standing with no support). What’s more, the introduction of box magazines meant rifles could generate much greater firepower in a fraction of the time as those Germans at the Battle of Mons discovered to their dismay.

Image

This image shows the charger in place and ready for the soldier to push the rounds into the box magazine.

The advantage the L-E had over other contemporary rifles lay in its magazine capacity. All other battle rifles of major powers like the German K98 Mauser or the Russian Mosin-Nagant 91/30 had five round magazines. The SMLE could hold TEN rounds, which translates into five more shots without reloading. It’s important to note here these early rifles did not have detachable magazines like our modern weapons such as the M-16, AK-47, or Uzi. A soldier didn’t carry a bandolier of loaded magazines ready to swap out nearly instantaneously like a World War 1 version of Rambo. Instead, all of these bolt-action rifles had to be loaded one of two ways: the soldier could laboriously press one round at a time through the action and into the magazine or he could use “clips” which are also called “charger clips” or “stripper clips.” These little tabs of metal held five rounds perfectly aligned and secured so the solder could fit the bottom of the clip into a notch on the rifle and with a firm push of the thumb, seat five rounds into the magazine in a single fluid motion. Two such clips and the SMLE was loaded to the gills with ten .303 rounds. Since the British magazines held ten rounds instead of five, soldiers had to reload half as often as their enemies and on a battlefield where a second could cost a man his life, those five extra rounds could mean the difference between a muddy bed in the trench dugout or a muddy grave.

This is a 9mm detachable pistol magazine for comparison purposes.

The Germans at Mons who thought they were up against light Maxim type guns were actually facing British soldiers with state of the art rifles AND a training and firing doctrine that enabled the “Old Contemptibles” to blunt the German attack even with the staggering disadvantage in numbers. The Germans didn’t know it, but the Brits they were marching into like so many ducklings behind their mother were training to the British firing standard of “The Mad Minute.” At the dawn of the Great War, every British soldier had to complete the Annual Personal Weapons Test or APWT. This test consisted of scoring no less than 15 direct hits on a 12 inch diameter target firing offhand at 300 yards in 60 seconds. Ponder that a minute, please.

To qualify as a British infantryman, you had to be able to stand on your feet with a rifle which weighed at least ten pounds loaded, shoot at a dinner plate on a stand three FOOTBALL FIELDS AWAY, and HIT IT AT LEAST 15 TIMES! Holy bolt blisters, Batman! Remember, the rifle only held ten rounds so to complete the Mad Minute, the soldier HAD to reload at least once. Frighteningly for the Germans, 15 hits was the bare minimum. Most British soldiers could average at least 20-25 hits in the same time frame. To this day, the record for the Mad Minute is 38 hits (from three football fields away, remember that) in 60 seconds by Sergeant Alfred Snoxall. That means he had to reload AT LEAST THREE TIMES. Amazing.

With lead like that coming downrange, its little wonder the Huns thought they were facing Maxims, but no, they were just ordinary Tommies doing what they’d been trained to do by a generation of snarling sergeant instructors. As for the Battle of Mons, the Germans eventually forced the British to retreat because of overwhelming numbers, but the retreat was in good order and allowed the French to secure their flanks all because the British knew how to work a bolt-action rifle.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Now you know the difference and can scream at the guy in the war movie with an M-16 “You need a magazine! Stop asking for a clip!!”

 

 

He’s A Keeper

Standard
Budweiser Long Neck

The Swiss Army Knife of beverage containers.

While we were fishing when we were both much younger, Daddy advised me whenever I go to a bar, ALWAYS order a Budweiser Long Neck; when I pointed out to him that I despise the taste of beer of any kind he just said, “Then have them bring it unopened, but always have one.” It’s little gems of wisdom like this one that have convinced me over the years I was sired by a genius.

Anyway, a good friend of Budge and me is getting married Saturday. Budge is arranging her flowers and I did the rehearsal dinner slide show as our wedding presents. Sometimes talent is better than money and a lot more useful. Both of us treasure this little lady a great deal. Budge tells me her beau is just as good a person as “Sylvia” is though I’ve never met him. I think I’m going to like him though. For my purposes, let’s call him “Mickey.”

Tuesday night, Mickey had Sylvia get dressed up and took her to their favorite little sushi spot for a romantic final date before marriage. Now, just as an aside from this 20 year man, NEVER stop dating even once you’re married, but I digress. So the two of them ventured out to a cute little sushi place in downtown Greenville for the $2.00 Tuesday Sushi Special. As another aside, I don’t know that I would eat any raw fish, much less DISCOUNT raw fish, but again, I digress.

The two of them had settled into their comfy corner booth and begun the process of peering lovingly into each others’ eyes as only two people destined for each other can do when the quiet romantic magic of the evening shattered with the arrival at a nearby table of another couple. For my purposes, let’s call them “Thug-boy” and “Debbie” (as in “Debbie Does .  .  .  ., well, you know). Debbie wore a stunningly short skirt complemented by a scoop-neck blouse which amply advertised some local plastic surgeon’s skill with a scalpel. Thug-boy chose a tastefully put together ensemble of wifebeater, sateen basketball shorts worn fashionably low slung to show off his Underoos, and ridiculously expensive athletic shoes in a dazzling color scheme. He also chose to accessorize his outfit with the ubiquitous bane of our civilization — a large cell phone, into which he was talking . . . non-stop . . . and obnoxiously loudly.

Rude table neighbors are de rigueur these days so just the talking probably wouldn’t have triggered any response from anyone just because it’s so expected. Unfortunately, Thug-boy did not possess the gift of a large and varied vocabulary and the bulk of his stentorian conversation with persons unknown primarily consisted of repeated violations of the Third Commandment and crass colloquial commentary on coital habits of someone and a female parent. Now this is still the South and even though some things have changed a great deal, loudly cussing — especially using those two particularly vulgar epithets — in public and in front of ladies is still generally frowned upon and poor Debbie noticed most of her fellow patrons were frowning.

Once Debbie realized her beloved’s behavior wasn’t just embarrassing her to the point of wanting to slide under the table, but was also causing tremendous discomfort throughout the establishment, she made the chivalrous but ultimately doomed decision to attempt to curb her “boo’thang’s” conversation. In the meek way common to women who accompany boys like Thug-boy, she asked him if he could please tone down the outbursts. Apparently, the young man took umbrage with his hollaback girl and proceeded to announce to her and everyone else in a ten-mile radius his intention to talk and cuss as loudly as he wished because, “I got twice as much money as these **f-bomb deleted** people do.”

At that point, Mickey, who has a sharp wit replied in a normal tone, “But apparently not nearly enough to buy class.” Debbie apparently overheard Mickey’s remark because she turned to Sylvia and tearfully apologized for Thug-boy’s unconscionable behavior. Sylvia graciously replied, as only a real Southern girl can, “Honey, don’t feel sorry for me. I feel sorry for you. You have to put up with him.” It seems this remark managed to penetrate Thug-boy’s egocentric haze because he took his phone down from his ear, stood up abruptly, turned to Mickey and in a tone and diction straight out of some misogynistic gangsta rap song said, “Dude, you best check dat fat, moufy’, ugly, **expletive comparison to female dog deleted ** ‘fore somepin’ bad happen!”

Folks, Sylvia is precious, that’s the only word I can use to describe her that does her justice and every Southern soul out there knows just what I mean. In all honesty she has fought the Battle of the Bulge most of her life and while, to quote Meghan Trainor, “it’s pretty clear [she] ain’t no size two” she has been victorious, is quite shapely, very fit and healthy, and, to further draw from Miss Meghan Sylvia can “still shake it, shake it like [she's] supposed to do.” Well, Thug-boy’s words obviously hurt and that’s where the night turned from awkward to surreal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mickey is not a violent man. He’s not a particularly large man either. He watches football; he plays a little golf on the weekends. What he IS, however, is a MAN and more specifically, a SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN and folks, ain’t NO self-respecting son of the south gonna let so heinous an insult towards his soon-to-be bride pass unchallenged. Faster than thought, faster than he later admitted he thought possible, Mickey levitated from his seat and shoved Thug-boy’s table into the jerk’s stomach. At that point, Debbie tearfully vanished out the door and from our story.

Say it again! I DARE you! I double DARE you!!

Say it again! I DARE you! I double DARE you!!

Now let’s pause just a moment. You remember Daddy’s advice to me about the long neck Bud bottle? Well, apparently, Mickey’s daddy gave him the SAME advice, and here’s why — the neck of a long neck beer bottle fits very comfortably into one’s hand and gives a really good grip on the bottle which enables one to swing said bottle with a great deal of velocity and force into the face of or, alternately, upside the head of various jerks, boors, and, in this case, assholes. Also, REAL beer bottles — as opposed to the ones in movies — don’t shatter easily and when they do it’s simply time to switch from blunt force trauma to slicing and dicing.

Getting back to the action, Mickey stood up shoving the table with his left hand while his right hand brought up the bottle level with Thug-boy’s nose (which Mickey later recalled made his arm slant upward more than he’d liked) and announced in a voice and tirade worthy of Jules Winnefield, “Say another word! Say one more thing to my girl, **noun version of f-bomb deleted**, and I WILL COMPLETELY **verb form of f-bomb once again deleted** YOU UP!!!” As I said, Mickey is a gentle, caring man, but Thug-boy ignored Rule of the Jungle #2: “NEVER come between a male and his mate!” (FYI, Rule of the Jungle #1, for those who don’t know, is, of course, NEVER get between a momma and her babies.”

In the end, Thug-boy backed down and slunk away, apparently noting the fire in Mickey’s eyes and Mickey’s absolute commitment to use that bottle for the second purpose for which God Almighty intended (the first being to hold Budweiser, of course), proving that, just like ALL bullies, Thug-boy couldn’t take being stood up to! “Sylvia” obviously has her a keeper and I’m looking forward to shaking his hand at the dinner!

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

Way Down A Hole

Standard
Anybody seen a white rabbit? Neo? Morpheus? Courtney Love? Anybody?

Anybody seen a white rabbit? Neo? Morpheus? Courtney Love? Anybody?

The worst thing about being perpetually hunted by the Black Dog is one never knows exactly what will excite him enough to come lunging at one’s throat. The day can be rotten to the core and dreary and yet you can somehow make it through unscathed if just a little blue or it can bright and sunny and you may not be thinking a thing in the world could possibly be wrong and the Black Dog jumps you seemingly out of nowhere, seizes you by the throat, shakes you like a Polaroid picture, drags you around, then drops you down a deep, cold, dark well.

Doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to depression attacks. Lots of times I’ll carefully go back over my steps and see if I can find a trigger. Sometimes it shows quickly. For example, certain songs will draw the Black Dog faster than huge anonymous donations draw politicians. I know most of those songs and avoid them like a collection agency. At times though, I’ve been known to seek them out. You know how it feels when you have a stomach bug, stomach flu, or alcohol overconsumpionits and your stomach announces its intentions to relieve itself of its contents forcefully, quickly, and in the near future? Some people fight the queasiness. They lay perfectly still or put cold rags on their heads trying to hold off the worship of the porcelain goddess. Others just embrace the puke. They’ll stick their finger down their throat and get it over with because it’ll be out of the way then and they can work on feeling better.

When it comes to songs, I’ve gone both ways. If I’m generally fit emotionally, I’ll run away from a song like “Simple Man” or “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” faster than Paris Hilton chasing a paparazzo. Other times, however, when I’m already about half an inch from the fetal position, I’ll just say “screw it” and crank up “Tuesday’s Gone” or “Comfortably Numb” or, if I’m feeling seriously masochistic, “Love Bites.” Then the descent into the abyss can begin apace and I can plumb the depths of the funk. It’s sort of like whistling for the Black Dog to come to papa, but the idea behind it is sound. I figure if I can fall into a blackness hard enough and get moving downward fast enough, I’ll bounce when I hit the bottom of the well and get a higher purchase to start clawing my way back up.

In my experience, the worst kind of depression is the one that comes on gradually. It’s like being the victim in a horror show so intent on looking behind her she fails to see the Black Dog lying strategically in front of the well of sorrow and trips over him to fall slowly to the bottom. Then Chien Noir hops on into the well with you and makes sure you’re going to be there for a nice long time.

So tonight, I’m falling. It happens. It was worse when I was a teenager then in college because I didn’t fully grasp what was going on. I thought I was supposed to pet the Black Dog; I thought he was my boon companion. Amazing what drugs and therapy can do. I will say this though, back in the day when I wasn’t taking meds and self-medicated and played my own therapist, I could write a whole lot more and a whole lot better than I can now. I suppose that’s part of the reason all the greatest authors and comedians seem to have some kind of abuse in or around them. It’s a great muse, but she’s a needy, demanding little bitch too.

This doesn’t feel like it’s going to last a long time. I’ve actually been expecting the Black Dog to rise up at some point sooner or later because it’s October and in my life, most of the tragedy, pain, and outright craziness for some reason or other has managed to occur during October. I’ve said to people before that if Mama had died in October, I’d go to bed September 30th and get up on All Saints’ Day. Pretty much the only good thing I know of happening in October happened back in 1978 on October 27th when Deuce came screaming into the world. Other than that though, not so hot.

That’s the way it is here tonight. I’m typing with a Black Dog gnawing my leg. I’ve been here before. It didn’t help that I could hear the Woodmont High School football game through the trees in the front yard. Brought back too many memories too fast. Songs figured into it as well, as did some other stuff. Right now, things could go either way. If the Sun stays out tomorrow and I get out and soak up some vitamin D, I’ll probably kick ol’ Blackie in the chest and pull out of the mire. If it rains all day . . . well, we’ll see.

Anyway, it is what it is.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

Great War Wednesday: Some Men Cast a Long Shadow

Standard
Sykes Picot signatures

This document has slain tens of thousands in a century.

Anyone who has made even a cursory study of World War 1 knows the names Joffre, Von Moltke, Kitchner, Ludendorff, Hindenberg, and Pershing. These great generals . . . well, debatable, I know . . . managed to kill most of a generation of Europe’s finest young men. Their contribution to history is a long list of names of those killed and wounded engraved on monument after monument throughout Europe. Some enlisted men carved out their places in history during the Great War as well. These were infantrymen like Sgt. York of America, famous aerial warriors like Manfred “The Red Baron” von Richthofen of Germany, and poet extraordinaire Lt. Wilfred Owen of Great Britain. It is two men most people probably have never heard of, however, who cast the longest shadow of the First World War. While they may be relatively unknown to all but the most dedicated historians, Englishman Mark Sykes and Frenchman Francois Georges-Picot, by their actions following the Armistice of 1918, gave birth to men like Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and the shadowy leadership of ISIS / ISUL.

http://www.lasalle.edu/~mcinneshin/303/wk02/images/zottomanmap1900.jpg

Map of Late Ottoman Empire

For 624 years, the Ottoman Empire was a major power in Eurasia. At its height, it ruled all of Asia Minor, Africa from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Horn of Africa, and Europe from the Balkans nearly to the gates of Vienna — an area which dwarfed the vaunted Roman Empire and compared favorably in size to even the mighty Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. In the early centuries of its existence, the empire and its millions of available soldiers were the bogie-men of European children. The evil of  “The Turk” was a tale told to keep little ones safely inside at night. From his palace in Istanbul, nee’ Constantinople, the Ottoman Sultan ruled a cosmopolitan kingdom of great riches, enormous resources, and surprising tolerance for non-Muslims. Unfortunately, those glory days were far faded by the outbreak of World War One. The Ottomon Empire had been “The Sick Man of Europe” for nearly a century before Sultan Mehmed VI signed a treaty with Germany and Austro-Hungary as much out of desperation as any grand design.

http://www.christophermantei.com/uploads/1/5/5/6/15562118/9647792_orig.gif?250The Ottoman Theater of World War I is fascinating in its scope and grandeur. Filled with places like Gallipoli and inhabited by men like T.E. “Lawrence of Arabia” Lawrence, the Middle Eastern theater deserves more scholarship than it has received, but it is not what happened as the Turks fought which has cause so much horror in the 21st Century as what happened once they were defeated. Throughout its history, the Ottoman Empire was home to hundreds of tribes and nations. Mostly Muslim, the Empire was generally tolerant of Christians and Jews living within its borders, several famous pogroms nonwithstanding. What is most important, however, is the government in Istanbul maintained a strict SECULAR stance on governing the Empire. Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot shot that all to Hell when they signed the eponymous Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 even as millions were still dying. That agreement dictated how the Ottomon Empire would be carved up by the victorious Allies (confident pair, I must say) and, indeed, it was used to create the map we recognize today as the modern Middle East where everyone pretty much hates everyone else.

http://iranian.com/data/images/eymdwu0ugra1.jpg

Francois Georges-Picot

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6a/Mark_Sykes00.jpg

Sir Mark Sykes

Sykes and Picot were colonialism men through and through, steeped in the propaganda of Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” and they brought that Eurocentric, nationalistic, colonial attitude with them to hammer out the post-War map of the Middle East. Being intellectual, educated men, they both shared a love of lines. Where Frost felt “good fences make good neighbors,” Sykes and Picot felt nice straight lines made good borders and since the area they were divvying up was just sand populated by mostly nomadic tribesmen anyway, why not stick with lines and angles?  These men were Christians — supposedly — and not given to Islamic scholarship. They had no idea what a Sunni, Shi’a, or Wahhabi was and, moreover, they didn’t particularly care.

When Sykes and Picot finished their work, the foundations of five countries existed where NONE had existed before: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Palestine. These “areas” were not proper countries for several years following the agreement, but their roots are in the secret agreement. They were “mandates” which is a century old P-C term for “colony.” France held a “mandate” over Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Britain controlled Iraq and Palestine. To see just how violently the peace of World War I is affecting us TODAY, let’s take a look at just one of these countries: the current playground of ISIS — Iraq.

Iraq was never a country. It became a British mandate, The Mandate of Mesopotamia, in 1920 after the League of Nations ratified several treaties ending the War and dividing the spoils. Then, in 1932, Great Britain quite magnanimously granted “The Kingdom of Iraq” its independence. Then the problem with Sykes, Picot, and their damned straight line borders came to light. Saudi Arabia is another kingdom in the area. Ruled by the House of Saud, it has a long turbulent history, but a history nonetheless. Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly Sunni, specifically Wahhabist Sunni. The other ancient country in the region is Iran, formerly Persia. Most of its inhabitants are Shiite. Both those countries are somewhat oppressive by Western standards, but they are pretty stable places. Iraq is home to three VERY distinct groups — Sunni, Shiites, and the very eclectic Kurds who have representatives of at least six religions in their midst. NONE of these people groups like each other and since 1932, they’ve been told not to consider themselves Shi’a, Sunni, or Kurd but IRAQI.

Turn on the news tonight and see how well that has turned out. Britain practically guaranteed Iraq would fail. They did this by placing a Sunni King over the country. Of the three groups, the Sunni are the minority. So for over eighty years, Sunnis held real power over Shiites and Kurds, both of whom absolutely HATED the government. The only reason the country didn’t fall completely apart was a string of strong-arm dictators culminating in Saddam Hussein who ruled from 1979 to 2003 when he discovered America giveth and America taketh away. He held the country together by killing anyone who got out of line. As soon as “Coalition’ **cough ‘Merican cough** forces unseated him, the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds went back to killing each other, a practice which has continued right up til today and shows no real sign of stopping.

So, when you see ISIS beheading American journalists on the nightly news, remember exactly who you have to thank for it — Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot — two mid level bureaucrats who lived out every bureaucrat’s dream of not just filing policy, but actually writing it. One hundred years later, the blood continues to drip from their hands. The leader of ISIS has even declared, “The Islamic State will not stop its blessed advance until the stain of Sykes-Picot is driven from this land!”

We have Sykes and Picot to thank for THIS.

Great job, guys.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

So Long, Mr Jeter, and Thank You

Standard
http://promoimg.beckett.com/news/news-content/uploads/2011/06/jeterRC.jpg

A baby-faced Derek Jeter looks out from his 1993 Topps Stadium Club rookie card.

I hate the New York Yankees with a passion usually reserved for Crusades. Three times in the glory days that were the 1990s, the hated Bronx Bombers dashed the World Series hopes of my beloved Atlanta Braves. I suppose I inherited my hatred of all things pinstriped from Papa Wham. I’m not sure Papa “hated” anything, but he did express a stern dislike for the Yanks.

Having said all of that, I do admire the game of baseball to a fault and when a player is worthy of making baseball history, I like to acknowledge a life well lived and a career worth remembering. With that in mind, I bid a nostalgic farewell to New York Yankee shortstop and Captain, Derek Jeter.

Jeter took his last at-bat today at Fenway Park in Boston and hit a single, fitting for a player who is at the top of the Yankee’s all time hits list and sits at number six on the same list for MLB with 3,465 putting him just below the legendary Tris “Grey Eagle” Speaker and a shade above the equally-if-not-more legendary Honus “The Flying Dutchman” Wagner (a fellow shortstop, btw). Definitely not shabby company by any metric.

What makes Jeter even more special — at least in my mind — is in an era of massive payrolls, egos, and free agent deals, Number 2 spent his entire two decade career with one team. Of course, when that team IS the New York Yankees, it’s understandable, but still, very few players — and almost none of Jeter’s performance level — stay in one place anymore but prefer to chase the next big contract with some other team, be they perennial contender or celler-dweller. Jeter made New York City his home — at least during the baseball season — for twenty years and never seriously looked to go anywhere else.

Perhaps it was this loyalty which prompted irascible Yankee’s owner, the late George Steinbrenner, to name Jeter as the 14th Captain in the long and storied history of the Wearers of the Pinstripes. When you consider some of the names on THAT list — Don Mattingly, Thurmond Munson, Craig Nettles, oh, and a couple of guys named Gerhig and Ruth — it puts Jeter’s place in Yankee history in some perspective. He may not be “The Greatest Yankee Ever” and I’m not sure any group of baseball writers, players, or managers could ever pin that title on any one of the greats who played in the Bronx, but he would certainly be in the dugout in reserve and probably on the field at shortstop with the first team.

Just as much as his performance speaks volumes about his career, the words which DON’T come up in conversations about him are equally important. Despite playing near the high water mark of what is now known as “The Steroids Era,” Jeter’s name has no taint of PEDs to cling to it. No one has ever seriously accused The Captain of juicing and his time on injured reserve as well as his stints in physical therapy point to a guy who didn’t cut corners to play the game he loved. Derek Jeter, who I like to think of as “The Anti-A-Rod,” is one of a handful of players like Cal Ripken, Jr. Ken Griffey, Jr. and my own beloved Dale Murphy who played the game right — no shortcuts, no special favors, just hard work.

Fond farewells, Captain. Hope you have a great retirement.

Of all the qualities that make Jeter a memorable player, though, the greatest is probably his conduct OFF the field. For twenty years, Derek Jeter spent a majority of his time in the hottest spotlight and under the most powerful microscope in the United States. I’m talking about the shark tank that is New York City with its ability to eat celebrities of all shapes and walks of life and turn their lives into a paparazzi fueled Hell. A lot of players and celebs with half Jeter’s talents managed to upset the wrong journalist and ended up in tears amidst one scandal after another. Not Jeter. Despite being one of the biggest in a constellation of stars roaming the Big Apple, Jeter maintained his privacy and his dashing public persona as well.

Oh, to be sure, Jeter is a real life Bruce Wayne in many ways. Mild mannered billionaire playboy by day, hero — on the diamond, not in the alleys — by night. He even has his own extravagant “Batter’s Cave” in a penthouse apartment high atop Trump Tower in Manhattan! The string of lovely ladies who have graced Derek Jeter’s arm at one time or another is long and luxurious, but not very lascivious. So far, no woman from pop singing star Mariah Carey to eye-candy actresses like Jessica Biel and Minka Kelly have managed to wrestle The Captain down the aisle to the altar, but neither have they be splattered across the front page of tabloid after tabloid in one unsavory scandal or another.

So, the numbers don’t lie. Jeter has played a Cooperstown caliber career for twenty years in New York. He’s done it as the consummate professional all the while thriving in the media flashes and enduring the stormy moods of Mr. Steinbrenner. That makes him special all by itself. Goodbye, Captain, and thanks for the great memories, even if you were a Yankee.

And as for all of you . . . Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

Adventures in Lawn Care

Standard
http://bugwoodcloud.org/images/384x256/5430151.jpg

Argiope aurantia, Yellow Garden Spider aka: Daughter of Rodan

Lately, I have been remiss in my duty to the grass. This lackadaisical approach along with some recent showers resulted in a stunning greensward behind our home.  Mama, God rest her precious soul, would have called it “snaky” for fear of encountering Mr. No Shoulders. I realized something had to be done before the situation got completely out of hand, so — having finished the ritual Monday “Home Blessing Hour” — I went to cut grass.

First, I reanimated “Frankie,” short for “The Bride of Frankenstein,” my ancient and trustworthy riding mower. She looks a sight. No cowling; no seat cover, and no wires because I cut every wire I could after I got fed up restarting the engine every time I tripped a kill switch. Frankie now cuts forward, backward, and upside down whether I’m on the seat or not. I know because I’ve rolled her twice and both times, the engine kept on trucking until the gravity feed carburetor ran dry.

With Frankie rolling, I started cutting the back yard. Something nagged at the back of my mind, but try as I might, it just wouldn’t come to the surface so I could remember it. I only knew it was important. Then, I rounded the pool — aka, “The Bane of My Existence” — and the day got interesting.

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a Yellow Garden Spider. Here, folks call them “Writing Spiders” because they often have crazy designs in their extremely elaborate webs which might be seen as writing. The tale goes if you see your name in a Writing Spider’s web, you’re going to die soon. I’ve never given that particular lore much credence since EVERY wives tale in the South ends with “that means you’ll die soon!”

I’d seen this gal last time I cut grass but, I started cutting the other way round that day and saw her large web with a great deal of warning. I gave her the wide berth she deserved that time. Yellow Garden Spiders are large arachnids, typically about the size of a saucer. She was bigger, about the size of Granny Wham’s turkey platter. Well today, Frankie’s front bumper twanged Daughter of Rodan’s web and things headed downhill.

The contact with the bumper caused her web to oscillate, near to me then far from me. Faster than I could see, she scuttled to the center of her web where the amplitude of the web-wave was greatest. I didn’t know spiders understood physics, so I guessed her devious spider mind a split second too late. Just as the web reached its apogee, she hurled herself towards me. Time stopped; she hung suspended in midflight. For a moment, we were eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball. Time restarted. She did NOT land on my face, neck, or chest. Otherwise, why the fat man on the lawnmower had a massive coronary would be a mystery.

She landed on Frankie’s steering wheel and looked right at me.

Now, beloved, I am a gentle man. I don’t kill anything but roaches, mosquitoes and fire ants and only if they bother me. If I see a spider in the house, I trap it and set it outside. If I had to butcher my own meat, I would die of starvation. I’m not a treehugger or anything. I’ve just lived long enough to recognize all God’s creatures are just trying to get by as best they can like the rest of us.

Brethren, in addition to being a gentle man, I am also a generous man.  I would happily give a stranger the shirt off my back. If Budge didn’t watch over me, I’d have given the house away by now. When I stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, I will have a plethora of thingsto answer for, but neither greed nor lack of charity will be among them. Since charity is in my heart and I possess a giving spirit, I could tell in an instant that spider needed Frankie’s services more than I did. So, I left her with it.

Folks will tell you a 350 lbs 5’10″ man can’t possibly do a backflip off a riding lawnmower from a seated position. Folks are wrong; I even stuck the landing. Then, Frankie started backing up towards me. Right then, cutting the kill switch wires seemed a bit premature. Of course, this eight legged refugee from a B-movie probably weighed enough to keep the switch closed. I thought, “She’s coming to finish the job!” Now how’s that for gratitude? Let the spider have the lawnmower and she tries to run me down.

Folks will tell you a 350 lbs 5’10″ man can’t possibly vault a six-foot tall chain link fence from a flat-footed position. Folks are wrong. With enough motivation, it is not only possible, it is quite easy and a spider the size of a dinner platter riding backwards on a lawnmower happens to be enough motivation. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick that landing. I landed flat of my back, knocking all the breath out of me. When I recovered — with some helpful face licks from Bozo, the neighbor’s beagle –  I looked between my feet to see Frankie straining to push through the fence I had just jumped. Daughter of Rodan was gone.

Replaying the events later, I realized I’d probably knocked the mower into reverse in my haste to give over operation to the Daughter of Rodan. I say “probably” because I saw her eyes. She might have decided to take me out and spend the rest of her days bragging about catching “the big one” down at the Spider Club while playing eight handed bridge and munching on candied flies as my stuffed head looked on.

We’ll never know.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

 

 

 

Abuse and the Afterlife

Standard
NFL players charged with domestic violence along with the man who enables them.

NFL players charged with domestic violence along with the man who enables them roasting in Dante’s Inferno.

I am not an expert on the afterlife of any religion, including my own Christianity, but if the afterlife is a means of obtaining ultimate justice from a holy and just God, I am certain of one thing — an especially hot, miserable, and demon infested corner in the lowest bowels of Hell is reserved for people who abuse children, the elderly, the helpless, and animals. Then, right below THAT little slice of paradise will be a sewer just for men who abuse their spouses, girlfriends, and other women in their lives.

It’s one of the first lessons I learned even before I went to kindergarten as a child: BOYS DON’T HIT GIRLS! It is a rule deeply etched into my psyche, into my very bones. Every boy I knew growing up, from all sides of the tracks and every type of home environment had the same lesson drilled into them: BOYS DON’T HIT GIRLS! I realize some of them probably didn’t see the lesson modeled very well for them at home and some of them were probably too busy trying to dodge punches themselves to give much thought to philosophy of gender, but all of us learned it nonetheless.

I am extremely biased because I saw men modeling the lesson for me all the time. Daddy and I have had our disagreements over the years and he and Mama divorced when I was small, but I can swear to this and Mama confirmed it long before she ever died — for all of Daddy’s faults, he never raised his hand to Mama nor lay a single finger on her in anger. Even in the most bitter moments of their marriage disintegrating, Daddy didn’t even raise his voice to argue with Mama. He and my stepmother, Teresa have been married nearly 40 years now and they have had some barn burners of fights, but Daddy has never so much as taken an aggressive step towards her. Neither of my Papas were violent men. I don’t know if I ever heard Papa Wham speak above a normal conversational tone more than twice all the days I knew him.

http://wsmv.images.worldnow.com/images/20974520_BG1.jpg

The face of domestic violence. What if Lindsay was your neighbor, co-worker, or even a stranger in a store?

Apparently, though, many of the “men” now playing professional sports think it is somewhat fashionable to knock the important women in their lives unconscious, as Ray Rice recently did in a horrific moment captured on a hotel security camera. Strangely, once the video surfaced to wide exposure, we find out a veritable slew of other players have CDV charges pending or even convictions. Looks like a lot of NFL “men” aren’t “leaving it all on the field” but instead are “bringing the pain” home to their loved ones . . . although how you can claim to love someone you just knocked unconscious with a left hook worthy of George Foreman is beyond me. What seriously turns my stomach, however, is how so many people are more concerned with whether or not these players are going to be allowed to continue on their teams instead of how they are punished. I don’t think the argument should be on if they get to stay in the NFL; it should be whether or not they get to stay on the streets or even stay in our midst.

But that’s all I have to say about the NFL’s domestic violence woes because I’m not naive enough to think this is an NFL problem — domestic violence is a societal problem. All across the nation in every region and every demographic, men are terrorizing their wives and children. Some stories are nothing short of nightmarish like Lindsay Arp who was left disfigured and partially paralyzed after her live in boyfriend poured boiling oil over her body while she slept. Here in South Carolina a man has recently been arrested for murdering his FIVE children, dismembering their bodies, and scattering the pieces in garbage bags all across four states.

That’s just two cases out of THOUSANDS! What I want to know is why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? These people had neighbors, co-workers, SOMEONE had to have noticed. The were not like the Lykovs living alone a million miles from nowhere. Clerks at grocery stores had to notice black eyes. Why didn’t anyone do anything until it was nearly too late for many CDV victims? This is what disturbs me the most. Have we not progressed any farther as a civilization than the New Yorkers of Kitty Genovese’s time, than the Europeans who watched their neighbors loaded into boxcars in the late 1930s and early 1940s?

Patrick Stewart - Domestic ViolenceOnce upon a time in this country, granted it was long, long ago and seemingly in a galaxy far far away, a man would not idly stand by while another man beat a woman or a child. Oh, sure, every generation has raised its share of people who refuse to “get involved,” but our current generation seems to me especially craven. What are we afraid of, being sued? Do we possess anything more dear to us than another human’s life? I’m afraid that answer is “yes.” Are we terrified of being shot or stabbed ourselves? Is our own life so much more valuable to us than anothers? Again, I’m sure it is “yes” for all but a meager handful of people.

This attitude of apathy must change. If the hands of the police are tied, society must step forward and use pressure to change this odious behavior. We cannot be afraid of embarrassing a woman or her husband by asking, “Honey, how did you get that black eye?” She may well be one of the multitude of women who desperately want to get out of an abusive, dangerous situation but don’t know how to take the first step. Abusers need to know we are watching and we will not tolerate this kind of behavior. Certainly people have their rights to privacy; but we also have a duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves and to defend the defenseless. We will send armies to foreign shores to fight for other cultures, other people, but not lift a finger to stop the violence we see in too many homes today. We cannot afford to forget what Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil men to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Do something.

Love y’all, keep those feet clean.

 

Great War Wednesday: New Artillery

Standard

blacktom-09.jpg“If you want to make a lot of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other’s throats with greater facility.” Unknown American to Hiram Maxim, 1881

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Albert Einstein attributed

Many people view the machine gun as the most iconic weapon of the First World War, the greatest ground based technology employed all the multitude of advances in artillery. For hundreds of years, dating all the way back to China, black powder and its derivatives powered artillery. Black powder was the propellant which sent the projectile on its way as well as the payload packed in the earliest exploding shells. Cannons were cumbersome and slow to load. They had to be served from the muzzle in all but a tiny few experimental iterations and this limited their projectile size and the length of their barrels. Leading up to World War One, however, cannon technology took off in exponential fashion with the advent of new propellants, newer shell designs, reliable breach loading mechanisms, and — most of all — bigger calibers these advances made possible.

Artillerymen long looked for something to replace black powder for several reasons. Black powder gave off huge clouds of smoke when fired and this made it impossible to hide a rifleman, much less a billow belching artillery piece, and no commander wanted to give away his gun positions. Also, black powder quality varied tremendously even within a batch. The smallest change in relative humidity could change the burn rate of the propellant, which then affected the range and accuracy of the piece. Most problematic was this wouldn’t be noticed until the shell was fired and by then it was too late. The first leap in artillery came with the stabilization of nitrocellulose or guncotton as a propellant. Guncotton was invented or discovered in the middle of the 19th century along with its close cousin nitroglycerin. Unfortunately, both of these substances were entirely too volatile in their earliest forms to be of real battlefield usefulness. By the time of the Great War, however, guncotton was refined enough and stable enough to use as a propellant. The result was a tremendous increase in the reliability and power of the artillery.

The second major development in guns on the battlefield was in the area of projectiles. For years, muzzle-loaded cannon shot one of two projectiles — solid shot or grapeshot. Solid shot, as the name implies, was a single solid ball, first made of stone, then of iron. Grapeshot, however, was a canister of hundreds of smaller balls, often musket ball caliber. When shot, the canister fell away and the cloud of balls acted like a shotgun on massed infantry. The American Civil War saw the first use of explosive cannonballs. These were hollow iron spheres filled with black powder and fused to explode after a certain amount of time or upon impact with something solid. These explosive rounds did great damage — when they worked. With the perfection of nitroglycerin, however, explosive shells became fearsome indeed. A shell packed with nitro or guncotton either one would blow tremendous craters in the earth . . . or fortifications. Canister shot was replaced by shrapnel shells. These new antipersonnel projectiles still featured a multitude of smaller balls, but now they were packed in explosives. The shells would arc high into the air then explode over their targets raining death down on the men huddled in the trenches.

The final major advancement in artillery was reliable breechloading. The ability to serve the gun from the rear, or breach, instead of the muzzle meant the gun didn’t have to be lowered for each shot. Leaving the gun in firing position enabled better accuracy for followup shots. Breechloading also allowed for a higher rate of fire since the new shells were in one piece rather than separate powder and shot.

german big berthaTaken together, these advances created the most awe inspiring weapons on the battlefields of World War One. During the American Civil War, the largest coastal defense guns fired a shell which weighed twenty pounds out to a maximum range of about five miles with a fire rate of one shot every three minutes by an expert crew. The workhorse of the French Army in World War One, by contrast, the French 75, could fire 15 rounds per minute at a range of five miles with 16 pound high explosive shells filled with mellenite, a particularly nasty explosive to men’s lungs.

The 75 was a popgun compared to the true Queens of the Battlefield — the railway guns. Very early in the war, some enterprising German got the idea to take a naval rifle, designed to be used on a BATTLESHIP, and mount it on a rudimentary carriage to fire overland. The result was less than ideal since the carriage was destroyed every time the gun fired and had to be rebuilt, but engineers honed the design and figured out how to mount the guns on a modified railroad car which would absorb the recoil. The result was beautifully horrible to behold. The Germans had the “Long Max” which could launch a 15 inch diameter shell weighing two TONS a distance of 27 miles. The French, not to be outdone, fielded Le Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 that fired a shell TWO FEET across weighing 2.5 tons over ten miles.

The damage these guns could do cannot be overstated. One soldier wrote in his diary of seeing a group of 200 men gathered at a worship service in the field being hit by a “German Heavy” and “turning into a red mist” with no single man being identifiable afterwards because not enough pieces could be found.  The “heavies” of both sides excavated huge craters whenever they hit. Some pictures we have today show shell holes sixty and seventy feet across. The constant barrage of these guns turned the battlefields into moonscapes and men’s nerves into tapioca. Literally nowhere within range of the guns was safe. A high explosive shell could kill men in trench dugouts placed thirty or forty feet deep under ground.

The machine gun may have been the image most people associate with the War, but the artillery did the most damage. By some estimates, over 85% of combat casualties in the Great War were the result of artillery. If you were in range, as one soldier put it, “You were a dead man.”

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and remember the fallen with honor.

 

The terrorists have won.

Standard

Osama bin Laden accomplished what he set out to do even though our SEALs killed him deader than John Edwards’ political career.  He was a smart man — an asshole to be sure — but an intelligent man. I don’t think he believed flying those jets into our buildings 13 years ago today would destroy America. He knew about Pearl Harbor, so I’m certain he knew he was going to royally piss us off with his nasty sucker punch. He also knew what happened to the Empire of Japan once they pissed us off, too. He wasn’t trying to destroy our country . . . even now we are much too strong for anything approaching the end of America. So what if we go flat broke? We’ve got ten giant nuclear aircraft carriers afloat with three more being built as I write this. If ten carrier task forces can’t keep the bill collecting countries away, the 2,104 mushroom makers sleeping silently beneath the Midwestern prairie or lurking 150 fathoms down in eighteen underwater states most definitely will. Bin Laden and al-Queda brethren couldn’t destroy America so instead they did something much more sinister — they destroyed our way of life.

How many times have you heard a talking head or some radio guru say “We live in a ‘Post-9-11 World?’” What they are saying  (whether they are happy about it or not is largely a function of their politics) is we went to bed on September 11, 2001 and when we woke up on September 12, 2001, the world — and especially the United States — was a radically different place. One of the jets should have taken out the Statue of Liberty because the American patron saint “Miss Liberty” was the first casualty of what we call now The Global War on Terror.

In the days, then weeks, then months following 9-11, we reacted in typical American fashion. Fifty-four Forty or Fight! Remember the Alamo! Remember Fort Sumter! Remember Custer! Remember the Maine! Over There! Remember Pearl Harbor! Remember the Maddox! Bomb,bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran! We like to fight here in America. It’s what we do when people sneak attack us . . . or not, but I digress. It’s understandable why our leaders launched immediate retribution against al-Queda. As Principal Vernon so eloquently put it to John Bender, “You mess with the bull, son, you get the horns.” Still, I agree with Dan Carlin when he says we need a law against passing laws in a time of deep emotional upheaval in our country. Unfortunately, those laws don’t exist . . . so here we are.

I try to limit my posts to around 1000 words, give or take a hundred or two, but even if I stretch out this post to double the normal size, I couldn’t get in everything our government has done to destroy our liberty in the name of keeping us “safe”, so this will have to be a skimming, but I hope when it’s all done, you’ll agree with me that America may still stand and she may be the greatest country on Earth to this day, but the same cannot be said for Lady Liberty. It has gotten so bad, I firmly believe our beloved Founding Fathers would not only be unable to recognize the country they created, but they would probably be arrested for treason or — at the absolute minimum — placed high on the domestic terrorists watch list.

“Here to protect YOU from your FREEDOMS!”

For starters, they would run afoul of The U.S. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act of 2001. In the — again, understandable — furor surrounding the 9-11 attacks, the 107th Congress handed over 225 years of work towards liberty and freedom in our country to unelected bureaucrats and government agents. The provisions of the act are nothing less than astounding. Title 1 of the act gives the FBI, CIA, and NSA a blank check to pay for DOMESTIC surveillance AND authorizes those agencies to ask for MILITARY assistance in monitoring suspicious civilians. Title 2 is one of the most odious parts of the law to anyone loving privacy and liberty. Under its provisions, government agencies — again, UNELECTED and so UNACCOUNTABLE people — can legally access your documents, tap your phone, demand your library records, and pretty much walk in your house and search it all without a court order provided you are “suspected” of being a terrorist.

Now THERE is the rub, to quote the Bard. “Suspected of being a terrorist?” First of all, who is defining what a terrorist even IS? Sure, all of us common folk think we know what a terrorist is — it’s someone like Osama bin Laden or his ilk. Terrorists are always “over there” unless they are some demented homegrown folk like Timothy McVeigh. Terrorists are obvious! Well, they are until the lawyers get involved. The Federal legal definition of terrorism includes both foreign and domestic and it runs three computer screens long at 1280×1040 resolution and the upshot of it is a terrorist is pretty much anyone someone in the government WANTS to be a terrorist. Greenpeace is a terrorist organization, for example.

The PATRIOT act and subsequent legislation has absolutely gutted the Bill of Rights, particularly the First and Fourth Amendments. In 1968, Chicago erupted in protests during the Democratic National Convention. These people gathered right outside the building housing the convention. Even today, images of Mayor Daley’s police force bludgeoning young and old, male and female alike with batons evokes a sense of the definition of police brutality. Of course, assemblies and protests like that are a relic now.

Today, if your group wanted to protest the President or some convention, you would be assigned to a “Free Speech Zone” blocks away from whomever or whatever you wanted to protest. No pictures of any beatings would surface because your protest would take place far, far away from any stray media coverage. Most likely, no one would ever know your protest occurred. Of course, the government will tell you if you protest your protesting that the whole affair was, “For your safety and protection!” Who are “we the people” supposed to be protected from?

So, the bureaucrats at the intelligence agencies and in the Department of Homeland Security don’t want us to “peacefully protest” because someone might get hurt? We can’t vote them out of office because they aren’t elected in the first place. We can’t fight them in court because any pertinent evidence we might want to introduce will quickly be redacted under the all-encompassing phrase, “for national security concerns.” Where are we headed if we can no longer “petition our government for redress of grievances” without running the risk of being labelled a terrorist? To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, if you make peaceful demonstrations impossible, you assure violent demonstrations will happen.

That’s just the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is an even bigger joke today. We live in a surveillance state today. Everything you do, type, create, or say on the phone is probably recorded somewhere and if you trip enough flags, it’ll get analyzed and once you get analyzed, anything can happen. If Edward Snowden’s revelations didn’t wake people up, I’m not sure what it is going to take. He produced a smoking arsenal of evidence that our government is spying on us . . . but why? Many of you may recently have switched to Facebook Messenger on your smartphones. If you have, you know of the many warnings different quarters have raised concerning potential privacy leaks. When I asked Budge if she was going to switch knowing how much information an agency could track, she said, “Why not? They already spy on us every other way.”

So, thirteen years on, Obama laughs from his watery grave at what has become of American liberty. What was once the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” is now the “Land of the Watched and the Home of the Caged.” People need not point fingers at any particular administration either. Democrats who howled about how egregiously President Bush was treating our rights have completely shut the hell up now that their man is in office. President Obama has continued, if not increased the same policies President Bush started. THAT is what people don’t understand! These laws NEVER go away! Once they are on the books, “we the people” have ceded another bit of our power over our government. We’ve given these powers to our executive, do we really think another executive is going to give them BACK?

In his speech to the American people on September 11, 2001, President Bush said, “”Today . . . our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts . . . . Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.” That is where the President was wrong. The monsters hit us, so we went out to hunt them, but we failed to take Nietzsche advice, so we became monsters ourselves. Be angry at me if you will, but it does not change the fact the terrorists have won because we may not have lost our country, but we’ve lost what our country stands for.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.