Saturday, June 29, 2013

How Sal Feels 19 Again ...

1985, skulking around the corner of a ratty, dusty, used record store. Something quirky in the 45's catches your eye ... and on a whim you grab it ... good googly moogly if that were me and this was it; I would have been, in a word; gobsmacked.

I envy those who helped re-discover these guys for them and us.

What a great American story ... and what great ... well ... just watch the trailer.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Did you just call me a Cracker?

Well, if you did; come over here and let me hug your sweet self.

I have, wisely I think, avoided any discussion of the Zimmerman trial. The news of the last few days though has, unwisely I think, led me to believe that I at least need to help the rest of the nation in on a little regional sub-culture secret; “Cracker” is not an insult, but “Cracka” – to be phonetically correct - is.

Cracker is a regional description on par with its cousin Cajun. To the uninitiated, a Cracker is a word that was used to describe the early Western settlers of North and Central Florida (anything south of the I-4 corridor does not count). It is only racial in that most all of them were Scot-Irish-English settlers coming in after the American Revolution, or – like my wife’s family – mixed race escapees from Texas and the near-South West looking for good land and less bloodshed in the post Civil War era. Today, it is just a word to describe a native of North Florida and North-Central Florida. Heck, we even have our own food.

Crackers made a living in Florida through the pre-WWII heat, Yellow fever, malaria, poor soil, and huge hurricanes that came without warning. Tough folks making a living off timber, naval stores, fishing, cattle, and small plot farming. They have the Scot-Irish irascibility combined with a refugee’s distrust of government types and do-gooders. Quick to love, quick to fight, and quick to tell you to mind your own business – my type of people.

Technically, though in self-denial as I am fully citified, I am a Cracker – and quite happy with that description, proud of it as a matter of fact. Though on the margins as Sanford is astride the I-4 corridor, Mr. Zimmerman is a Cracker too – but just technically as like me his family really comes from somewhere else. Hispanic? Heck, look at the Civil War Memorial in downtown St. Augustine – Florida was Hispanic when Hispanic was just “neighbor” – and here, that is really still true as it has been for half a millennia.

All that background and such, that isn’t what we are talking about. What happened yesterday was the use of the word “Cracka.” That word came from outside and has drifted in; it is not the same as “Cracker” – but another toxic gift from the 1960s where it became the other end of the color wheel from “N1gger.” (the “1” is there to avoid the goo that comes from search engines, for the record).
Full stop. Just replace one word for the other, and that is exactly what it means.

For the record, as “there” “their” “they’re” are similar and “niggardly,” “Niger,” and for my Spanish speaking friends know, “Negro” have a similar cadence, but they should not be thrown away simply because the ignorant, racist, and hateful like to use a word that sounds similar.

Back to Cracker. No need to go in to the different types of Crackers today, I don’t want to bore you. There are Swamp Crackers, Dirt Floor Crackers, Cow Crackers …and so on. All that said, call me a Cracker all day long, fine with me. Just don’t call me a Coonass, that’s Byron.

Now, call me a “Cracka” – well, if you do that, you’re just showing your a55. That bad is on you. I’ll just shake my head and pray for you.

But, and if you call me that while you attack me in my neighborhood, you’ll get shot. That is part of Cracker culture as well.

There; your multi-cultural moment of the day. Wait … did I say Dirt Floor Cracker?

Fullbore Friday

It is helpful to remember that in war, more often than not, you fight for those next to you - those who in a nod of a head you put your life in their hands.

Last war, last year, or even the last hour - you could have been trying to kill each other - but, in an instant; allies.
The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding's The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Here are the basic facts: on 5 May 1945—five days after Hitler’s suicide—three Sherman tanks from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the U.S. 12th Armored Division under the command of Capt. John C. ‘Jack’ Lee Jr., liberated an Austrian castle called Schloss Itter in the Tyrol, a special prison that housed various French VIPs, including the ex-prime ministers Paul Reynaud and Eduard Daladier and former commanders-in-chief Generals Maxime Weygand and Paul Gamelin, amongst several others. Yet when the units of the veteran 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived to recapture the castle and execute the prisoners, Lee’s beleaguered and outnumbered men were joined by anti-Nazi German soldiers of the Wehrmacht, as well as some of the extremely feisty wives and girlfriends of the (needless-to-say hitherto bickering) French VIPs, and together they fought off some of the best crack troops of the Third Reich. Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?

The battle for the fairytale, 13th century Castle Itter was the only time in WWII that American and German troops joined forces in combat, and it was also the only time in American history that U.S. troops defended a medieval castle against sustained attack by enemy forces.
Read it all and know this - why people fight is always more complicated than we think.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Add to your nuance, if you have any, about The War Between the States

This will be interesting to see the critical reaction to its release. Copperheads.
In his first two Civil War movies, director Ron Maxwell told The New American, his desire was to examine both the men in blue and in gray “equally” by “looking into their hearts” to see what motivated them. “I got a lot of flak, because some in the mainstream media don’t want to look upon any man who wore a Confederate uniform as a full human being.”

“The first two movies are a cinematic presentation of why good men choose to fight,” while Copperhead is an effort “to explore cinematically, why good and honorable, ethical, moral men choose not to go to war,” Maxwell said. “Not everybody who hated slavery or loved the U.S. Constitution was willing to send their children off to die or be maimed in a bloody battle against fellow Americans. That fascinating reality is the force driving Copperhead.”

The movie is based upon the late-19th-century work of Harold Frederic, who used real-life events he witnessed in upstate New York during the war in crafting his novel, The Copperhead. “I call him [Frederic] the Charles Dickens of upstate New York,” Maxwell explained. “If you want to know about rural America in upstate New York in the 19th century, he’s the guy.”

Another untold part of our history that needs to be told; Tory militia in the Carolinas during the American Revolution.

Diversity Thursday

This is the DivThu where we dance!

It wasn't long ago that I stopped DivThu simply out of exhaustion ... but ... then I realized how many of you relied on it, in a fashion - and that in some ways we were making progress.

Most of my frustration with DivThu was a byproduct of heartbreak. The military in general and a little behind the rest of the services, the Navy and Marine Corps in particular, had a great history of being ahead of the trend when it came to racial equality, but somewhere along the way we got off track and got stuck in the early 1970s.

Especially under the previous two CNOs, the horrible support of retrograde racialism and divisive policies was enough to wear anyone down ... but ... even as the Navy-Marine Corps team is now at a hover and the USCG a few years ago slid backwards - thanks to the Supreme Court we have good news. We're winning. As it should, the forces of equality are back on the rise.

First - we now have some push back towards equality and working towards a race-neutral policy in a lot of places, and we can start at the service academies and perhaps recruiting too.
The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity. If “‘a nonracial approach . . . could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense,’” Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267, 280, n. 6 (1986) (quoting Greenawalt, Judicial Scrutiny of “Benign” Racial Preference in Law School Admissions, 75 Colum. L. Rev. 559, 578–579 (1975)), then the university may not consider race. A plaintiff, of course, bears the burden of placing the validity of a university’s adoption of an affirmative action plan in issue. But strict scrutiny imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.
Once the University has established that its goal of diversity is consistent with strict scrutiny, however, there must still be a further judicial determination that the admissions process meets strict scrutiny in its implementation. The University must prove that the means chosen by the University to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal. On this point, the University receives no deference. Grutter made clear that it is for the courts, not for university administrators, to ensure that “[t]he means chosen to accomplish the [government’s] asserted purpose must be specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish that purpose.”
. . .
True, a court can take account of a university’s experience and expertise in adopting or rejecting certain admissions processes. But, as the Court said in Grutter, it remains at all times the University’s obligation to demonstrate, and the Judiciary’s obligation to determine, that admissions processes “ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application.”
. . .
Narrow tailoring also requires that the reviewing court verify that it is “necessary” for a university to use race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity . . . This involves a careful judicial inquiry into whether a university could achieve sufficient diversity without using racial classifications.
Of course there will be nasty, name-calling people and organizations who will try to stop progress, but remember this: they are doing so because they have a paycheck or some socio-political-psychological reason for it. Don't let them get the best of the argument - we now have some significant wind at our back - and by any objective perspective, we are right.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rep. Duckworth (D-IL) - Salamander Politician of the Month

One of the great untold shames out there is the abuse of the VA disability system.

In some TAP classes, you are even taught how to game the system ... to the point of telling everyone who snores to get tested for sleep apnea, and if you've given birth - the 'roids have a great percentage too.

While those who push getting every percentage they can, and those who game the system, think they are either doing a good thing or are just getting what they can - there is a real price.

Every fluffed claim takes time away from those with real claims. Every dollar spent on your 'roids is a dollar not spent on real injury.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
, perhaps more than anyone else, is in a position to raise this topic without the compassion trolls coming after her like they would most.

Go get 'em. Watch this all ...

Want to kill small boats ...

... the Brits seem to have a solution for that. Via gCaptain;
Three millimetric wave operational Brimstone missiles were launched in a rapid salvo of less than a second against a simulated attack formation of five representative FIACs. The three missiles independently acquired and engaged their respective targets at a distance between 4km and 5km (constrained by range safety); direct hits resulted in extensive structural damage to the three leading vessels, including one travelling at around 20 knots. The missiles were launched from a surface trials platform using a Brimstone triple rail launcher in conditions of sea state 3.

Brimstone is being proposed by MBDA UK as a surface attack missile for deployment within the Sea Spear system against FIACs and other small surface threats in all weather environments. As an effective maritime Force Protection capability, it rapidly provides significant utility beyond the range of medium calibre naval gun systems. With a range of deck-mounted launcher options, from single to six-pack configurations, the system’s very small footprint gives it a high level of deck positioning flexibility making it suitable for small vessels such as Fast Attack Craft as well as much larger vessels such as auxiliary ships.

It isn't enough to succeed; others must fail ...

... except for people in your lifeboat ... you like for them to succeed;
Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, editor of our just-published 21st Century Mahan, is the 2013 recipient of the Navy League’s Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement, a highly prestigious award for an officer at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

The Alfred Thayer Mahan Award is named for the famous naval theorist who, through his writing, provided vital stimulus and guidance to those who share in the defense of the nation. Presented since 1957, this award for literary achievement is awarded to a Navy officer, Marine Corps officer, enlisted service member, or civilian who has made a notable literary contribution that has advanced the knowledge of the importance of sea power in the United States.
Yes, that is our BJ Armstrong.

Congrats Shipmate! If you only know BJ from Midrats ... then you're missing the big picture. In addition to ordering your copy of 21st Century Mahan (my review coming soon) - head on over to USNIBlog to review the free stuff.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Future Belongs to Those Who Show Up

The latest edition of The Economist has a sublime article that requires the military professional's full attention; Faces of the Future - an article I obliquely referenced on Sunday's Midrats.

In budgets, any estimates more than 3-5 years out is simply 8-Ball conjecture. Elections and economies are fickle things. 

For strategy and Fleet planning, you need to think at least 10-years with a stretch to 20 off in the mist.

Demographics? Well .... that has about the same timeline. No one 20-30 years ago would have had a clear picture of the falling birth rates overall - Malthusians were still the rage - but people were close. Though the exact numbers have a very wide standard deviation - I think the macro ranks and positions are probably a lot closer. That is where you need to ponder.

So much of our thought about the global system remains in the mechanism of the Cold War. Look at 1950. 5 of the 12 nations are European. Swap Russia for the USA (yea, we're #3!) - and 5 of the 12 are NATO. None are in Africa. If you throw in Japan - you could argue that 5 of the 12 most populous nations are serious allies of the United States. Freedom's block is at 6.

Today, what are the numbers? Well, we're still #3, but the only European nation is Russia - and they are really an Eurasian power, and not "Western." No one else from NATO is there, and Japan just makes it in. So, that brings us from 5 super-friends to one, and she is getting a bit long in the tooth.

That brings us to 2050. Don't snicker; 2050 is to now what 1976 is to us. Not that far. So, in 2050, how are we doing? We've dropped down to #4 - knocked off by Africa's fast riser Nigeria - and ... we are out of friends.

Time to make some new ones, but the only real candidate that is an auxiliary of both the West and the Anglopshere - India. Brazil? Outside shot at best. Mexico? Not quite, they want the Southwest back.

Other things to ponder: Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Congo - does anyone here see any chance for these nations to grow their economies greater than their population? Without that magic, you will have that toxic mix of poverty and - with the exception of Bangladesh - endemic ethnic conflict.

That doesn't even get in to the incredible demand for resources as basic as food and clean water - not to mention energy and quality of life products. The ecology? Fugetaboutit. Better than average odds that the balance of those nations will wind up making China's ecological nightmare today look like paradise by comparison.

Also note, all of those nations except for Ethiopia and Congo have significant coastlines. Trade, piracy, fisheries, natural resources in EEZ, and so on and so on. Migration? We have yet to see the pressure for migration.

Even if the Western Pacific by mid-century is a lake of eternal peace - the demand for long-dwell, multi-mission naval assets with reach for hard and soft power projection - and the logistics chain to support them - is going to be a keystone to the #3/#4 largest nation - and by then still the largest navy.

Building off that theme - our friend James Holmes over at TheDiplomat has a must read if you just want to run away from the future, A Machiavellian Age of Sea Power;
We cannot shift our burden to another ambitious seafaring power the way Britain, the weary titan, handed off its duties to the United States starting a century ago. Neither China nor India, the most likely candidates, yet possess the capacity or evinces any desire to take up this burden.

And again, the Maritime Strategy directs us to do all of this at a time when our capacity to found and lead coalitions is on the wane. It’s been said that he who has the gold makes the rules in alliances and coalitions. If the United States has less and less gold — and ships, and manpower — to contribute to preserving freedom of the seas, it will be less able to get its way in coalition circles than in bygone decades.
Oh yes my friends; it has only begun to get interesting out there.

It is going to get sporty; do try to keep up.

Monday, June 24, 2013

'48, '68, and ... '13?

Brazil is a BRIC, has the World Cup and Olympics on the way ... Turkey is young and vibrant ... so why the rush to the barricades?

Unlike 1848 and 1968, I don't see all that many red flags about ... which is good - I actually like the cosmopolitan, Westernesque, anti-Islamist, and liberty minded of what is going on it Turkey. Still not sure the angle on Brazil - but with a reformed Marxist at the head of the government, people protesting there is music to my ears there too.

While I still watch and process - Christopher Dickey at TheDailyBeast has an interesting thought bit to ponder;
... the fizz in Brazil and Turkey has yet to go flat, and the excitement and turmoil may well continue to spread across the globe.

What are the “root causes” of all this ferment? Is it the depredations of unfettered capitalism that makes people the servants of the market rather than the other way around? Is it a human lust for freedom? Is it Twitter? Or, at the end of the day, are all politics local, even revolutionary politics? In fact the answer could be yes to each of those questions, but even all those factors combined won’t necessarily lead to full-blown revolutions.

If you try to impose a left-right analysis, moreover, you’ll wind up with your head spinning. Left-wingers often identify with beleaguered workers and old socialist or even communist revolutionary movements, but a lot of the effervescence today is on the right and far right.

The Tea Party in the United States still operates within the system, but its base is full of fizz and is a political force. The Occupy movement on the left looks anemic by comparison. The huge protests in France over the last few months were largely the work of Catholic organizers and a loose constellation of conservative forces opposed to gay marriage, gay adoption—and just about anything else proposed by the current Socialist government in Paris. The most intense revolutionary rhetoric across Europe right now is on the far, far right, with the rise of a crypto-fascist party in Greece the most conspicuous example.

The protesters and rioters in Brazil may be from the classes for whom a ten-cent rise in the bus fare is suddenly unbearable, but they are lashing out at a government that grew from working-class roots. In Turkey, the massive outpouring of emotion on the streets comes from minorities, as the embattled and defiant Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists. But that’s just the point. They feel their country—and especially their cosmopolitan metropolis of Istanbul—slipping under the tyranny of a majority that will squeeze them out of a future.

Revolutions do not start simply because people are fed up with the status quo, in fact. Societies are not static. The uprisings begin when people feel cheated by change. And that can happen across the ideological spectrum. It can feed the fury of black bloc anarchists and the rage of neo-Nazi gangs. It can bring mothers with their babies in strollers out onto the streets, and send marchers protected only with handkerchiefs into the clouds of teargas and the torrents of water cannons.
Often, revolutions only see inevitable in hindsight with few actually seeing what was happening in real time. This too may soon pass as nothing but a passing whiff of gas in the air ... but I'm going to watch closer. Much closer.

History likes to sneak up and go "Boo!" now and then. Unrest in nations such as Turkey and Brazil? That has much larger implications than many may think. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mid-summer Melee; on Midrats

It's the Midrats version of an All Hands call today - don't miss out today from 5-6pm EST.

Here is your chance; the end of 2QCY13 and you haven't heard the topic you wanted on Midrats yet?

There is a question you would like to hear the hosts grapple with about maritime and national security issues?

Or, are you just interested in discussing the latest developments in unmanned systems, pacific pivot, budget battles, Russian relations, China intentions, and more?

On, above, and under the sea - we'll cover it today for a full hour free for all. The phone lines will be open (you can get the number from the link) and we'll also take questions directly from the chat room.

Join us live if you can so you can join with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quote of the Day

"I was on the phone with 9-1-1 while my roommate was reloading."

That is kind how Byron's neighbors roll. I'm just glad things ended well.

Fullbore Friday

A tip from a fan of FbF came just in time. This month, Mrs. Salamander has managed to find a few more direct ancestors of mine who fought in the American Revolution on the American side, ahem, from militia "Private" to Colonel ... and even a LT on RANGER. At last, all that "Tory Militia" slander can fade in the to the background .....

It is helpful that we are careful about talking too much about our generation's wee "War" on Terror. Perspective is important. Look at what others endured, what they suffered, what many never came back from. Little spots of horror many people look over and don't even know it.

Do you know who Philip Freneau is? I didn't, though I wish I did earlier. Sure, as a passing paragraph, I have heard of prison ships, but not paused to let it soak in. 

Via the NationalHumanitiesCenter;
The British Prison Ship as the first-person account of a six- week ordeal on British prison ships, on which an estimated 11,500 Americans died during the war. Although some facts in the poem conflict with ships’ records and Freneau’s own prose account, it is likely that Freneau was describing his own experiences as a young prisoner in his twenties.

Presented here are the imprisonment sections of the first and least-known version, published only months after Freneau’s release in summer 1780.
Having spent a fair bit of time on the water in calm and heat - one thing that comes to mind for me in what it must have been like in those ships ... the smell.
The Prison Ship.
THE various horrors of these hulks to tell,
These Prison Ships where pain and sorrow dwell;
Where death in tenfold vengeance holds his reign,
And injur’d ghosts, in reason’s ear, complain;
This be my talk - ungenerous Britons, you,
Conspire to murder those you can’t subdue;
Why else no art of cruelty untry’d,
Such heavy vengeance and such hellish pride?
Death has no charms - his empires barren lie,
A desert country and a clouded sky;
Death has no charms except in British eyes,
See how they court the bleeding sacrifice!
See how they pant to stain the world with gore,
And millions murdered, still would murder more;
This selfish race from all the world disjoin’d,
Read it all .. and think that in time, hate between nations can fade - but the knowledge of the sacrifices of those who suffered to give us the comfort and freedom we have now should not.

Our world was not granted, taken, given, or designed - it was earned, bought and paid for.

We should be thoughtful how cheaply we give away those things others paid so dearly for in order that we may enjoy them.

Hat tip MS.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Norman Polmar - Once More Unto the Breach for Frigates

Subscription required for the whole thing (I know you are all subscribers...), but there is a double-header in the latest Proceedings where Norman Polmar once again reminds everyone that yes ....
... the U.S. Navy needs frigates!"
While many are resigned to the Fleet we are being given, vice the Fleet we feel our nation needs, it is helpful to remind everyone that there are other, arguably better options out there. Foreign designed or ... even ... something that might even feel a bit ... familiar.
Thus, the LCS cannot be effectively considered a frigate replacement. At the same time, the size of the Fleet can be expected to decline significantly in the next few years or— at best —stay at approximately 275 ships. The LCS program has been reduced to 52 ships (from 55), but it is more likely that the final number of these ships will be about half of that figure.

This situation calls for the construction of new frigate-type warships for the U.S. Navy. In terms of time and money, developing a new frigate design at this time is unaffordable. While there have been proposals to modify the design of the Coast Guard’s national security cutter to serve as a frigate, that ship lacks growth potential and service life, as well as certain military features, to become an effective frigate. The Perry design dates to the early 1970s. Still, the efficacy of the design is proven. Further, the massive damage suffered by the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) from a mine and the Stark (FFG-31) from two Exocet missiles demonstrates the survivability of these ships. (Both were put out of action by the damage—“mission kills”—but they survived.)

The most cost/time-efficient approach would be to update the Perry design. For example, use the space and weight of the Mark 13 missile system for a vertical-launch missile battery for the antiair role; provide an updated, more effective gun in place of the current 76-mm Mark 75; and update the radars and electronic-warfare suite. Indeed, the Australian Navy has updated its Perry -class ships with its Mark 13 launcher capable of firing Standard SM-2MR as well as Harpoon antiship missiles plus an eight-cell Mark 41 launcher installed for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. (A total of 34 Perry -class frigates currently are in service by other navies—Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Poland, Spain, Taiwan, and Pakistan.)

Also, in an updated FFG design the hull could be lengthened by some 14 to 20 feet. This is feasible from a naval architecture viewpoint and has been done to previous surface combatants, and it should have no negative impact on the FFG design. In fact, it would increase speed by a knot or more (with the same propulsion plant). The additional length could provide improved accommodations and the space and weight for antiship missiles (lacking in the LCS). This installation could be an eight-canister Harpoon battery or more advanced weapons.

The ship would retain the current two-hangar configuration, permitting the operation of two Seahawk helicopters or a single helicopter plus unmanned aerial vehicles. Alternatively, one hangar could be used for mine countermeasures gear or other specialized equipment. Such modified ships could be employed for SEAL/special-operations support, mine countermeasures, and other missions. Such variants would be akin to the almost 100 high-speed transports converted from World War II-built destroyer escorts.
Ideal? Perhaps not ... I would prefer new-design, but especially in a modified new-construction of a proven design - Norman's idea would be much more useful than the sub-optimal LCS, the 21st Century "Jeff Boats" we now have.

You know what - there are worse corners to be in than Mr. Polmar's.

Are you a LMT or a BA person?

Place your bets over at USNIBlog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Boy, You're Just Whistling Dixie!

So, it’s you who is whistling Dixie now, Jamie?

To the uninitiated, "Whistling Dixie" is a phrase which roughly translates to, “a waste of time.”
Equivalence of experience was stretched to impute an equivalence of legitimacy. The idea that “now, we are all Americans” served to whitewash the actions of the rebels. The most egregious example of this was the naming of United States Army bases after Confederate generals.

Today there are at least 10 of them. Yes — the United States Army maintains bases named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers; indeed, who may have killed such soldiers themselves.
Changing the names of these bases would not mean that we can’t still respect the service of those Confederate leaders; nor would it mean that we are imposing our notions of morality on people of a long-distant era. What it would mean is that we’re upholding our own convictions. It’s time to rename these bases. Surely we can find, in the 150 years since the Civil War, 10 soldiers whose exemplary service not only upheld our most important values, but was actually performed in the defense of the United States.
He has written a lot on the Civil War, with the book And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart, and a writer in the series on the Civil War, Disunion.

He should know better. Then again ...
A member of the original staff of Spy, where he worked seven years, Jamie has also been an editor at Time, Esquire and Playboy, where he was Managing Editor. Jamie has also written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Washington Monthly, and The New York Times, ... Jamie lives in Westchester County NY
OK, fine - we have a Yankee partisan with an almost pun-worthy bio bitterly clinging to his view of the war and the evil South.

I find the South hating Yankees almost as tiresome as the anti-Lincoln neo-Confederates.

Well, there are still two sides to this story; here is mine. First of all, Jamie - take a powder son.

Simple; this nation fought a huge internal war. Some call it a Civil War – and it was in some states like Missouri and if you judge by the Union and Confederate units supplied by Maryland, Kentucky and others – then it was ... locally.

On balance though, it really was a War Between the States, with the North invading the South - for the record. The arguments on the causes of the war will always go on, but only the most simple minded, agenda driven, or mal-educated think that it was only about slavery, or that white racism in the modern context was a characteristic of only the South. 

Slavery was the linchpin issue that divided the nation, that is without question, but that did not make war inevitable, and from Chicago to Boston even today - white racism is not confined to any one area; nor is racism coming from any race group. No, to get to war – other issues played in. Brazil got rid of slavery two decades after the USA did without hundreds of thousands dead and maimed. We could have too – but we didn't so ... let’s not argue that. The war happened.

One thing that is generally agreed on, was that both sides fought with honor. Unlike the internal conflicts prior and after in other parts of the world – outside of what was going on in Missouri and Kansas, the generally agreed upon meme is that there were few massacres and atrocities to speak of. Depends upon your history - but it may be counter productive to push back against those like Jamie by simply cataloging War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, we won't go there today.

Let me personalize this a bit before I wander off again.

Sure, my family – like many – still has stories of the economic total war waged by rampaging Union armies – but people were not lined up wholesale against walls and shot. Town people were not loaded in to churches by the hundred and burned to the ground. In general – we fought like brothers do; tough but fair - let's stick with that narrative as opposed to the last link - as it is part of the agreement we nod our head to that follows; it is part of "the deal."

There are many reasons why victory was not followed by revenge. Grant & Lee set the tone at Appomattox. There would be no COA where the South would fight a long, nasty, and bloody campaign from the hills. No, we would simply go home. Not totally in peace, but mostly.

Reconstruction was by any standard after a civil war handled well. True, it took another century until the former slaves in the South could actually be looked at as being on equal footing; but we got there without additional tens to hundreds of thousands more dead. Blood was shed to finish the job; but blood is much better on a small scale than wholesale.

An aspect of this surprisingly respectful reunion of the States was one of exceptional political compromise and respect. The North knew the South was still an honor based society, and as such – respect was part of the healing process. As was a bit of polite forgetfulness on both sides.

The North recognized the fact that the South’s military leadership was as honorable as the North's was. It was. 

Like Lee, those who fought for the South on the most part did because their homes were under threat, as a family obligation, or that their State was invaded. Again, libraries are full of sound scholarship on this topic – this is not something that serious people debate any more than the Earth being flat.

Well … speaking of flat Earth types; there are now and were then people who decide to play the post-Civil War radical-Republican card. They are/were out to smear, attack, slander, and if they could – exhume the bodies of the Confederate leadership and gibbet their bodies out front of the nearest Post Office.

Well, in a mild fashion, here we go again.

Why are some Southerners, like me, still willing to argue mutual-respect? Well, to do otherwise is just ahistorical. I understand why the Union forces did what they did to my part of Mississippi. They did not rape and murder – just burned and stole. They showed mercy to persons and even a little to historic property now and then - or property of friends.

What I won’t do though is let someone paint with a wide brush of 21st Century standards on mid-19th Century people. I don’t know Jamie's family background, but I do know mine.

My family has been in the South since one side of the family got off the boat in Virginia in the early 1600s and the other branch got off the boat in South Carolina in the late 1600s and early 1700s. A century later, they helped found the State of Mississippi. My family owned slaves for over a century and a half; at the end being one of the largest slave owning families in the State.

It was what it was – that was the economic system they knew and were born in to. When I go “home” I can wave by the descendants of the slaves that made that journey as chattel with my ancestors - families that still work for/with mine within my living memory. 

They traveled with my family west through Indian Territory in the first decade of the 1800s to Mississippi. Through servitude and the long century wait from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Era to now – we have lived side-by-side. Relationships were a little bit more complicated than the Hollywood veneer most know - that too is a different topic for a different day.

As people have moved on and away – as my parents’ generation did – some of our connections to our history has been lost; but it is easy to find.

As is natural for a history buff; I am also an amateur genealogist. Being the last male in two lines of my family – it is kind of a requirement. My line goes extinct with me – so I need to leave the best record as possible for my daughters. I’ve been able to trace back some of my lines to right after the Battle of Hastings … it is interesting thing to do. I have two family Bibles from different lines that date back to the 1830s that makes things a bit easy. I’ve got Mrs. Salamander involved in the topic too, which adds a nice twist as from her side I’m learning the extra challenge getting American-Indian records, but we’ll get there even if we have to travel to Texas to dig around (BTW, is amazing).

Back to Mississippi: “back home” – though many have left, many remain. The families are all there, and the oral history is very strong. In our little world, the Civil War in not an abstract, you can ride the same routes. My mother grew up in a house built in 1840 and missed by Union raiders twice for goodness sakes.

It sticks for a reason; the war hit the South more. As scholarly works have shown, the South suffered a much greater per-capita loss rate. A few facts:
- 7 mil: Number of Americans lost if 2.5% of the population died in war today - that is what a Civil War in like.
- 2.1 mil: Number of Northerners mobilized to fight for the Union army
- 880,000: Number of Southerners mobilized for the Confederacy
- 3:1: Ratio of Confederate deaths to Union deaths

Just review that. The defeat was military, economic, cultural, and eliminated a huge cohort of young men – especially from the educated elite. They did not die in those numbers to keep their fellow man in bondage. War and history is never that simple.

I just want to pick one unit – it was a unit where I count 13 family names in my line – names that are still thick in the local phone book back home. These people, literally, flow in my blood.

I give to you the roster of the Amite County Rifles, Company C, 7th Mississippi Regiment. First mustered 29 April 1861 in Liberty, Mississippi, and after four years of war the remaining main body surrendered in Smithfield, NC 26 April 1865.

This Company was made of family members, neighbors, friends; 126 total mustered that day in 1861. They went to war, together, for four years. By the time they surrendered, with the most accurate information in hand, they suffered a 48.4% casualty rate for those killed, wounded, missing, or POW.

Of the 37 killed, 21 killed in action, 16 by disease. 18 were wounded in action, 2 were missing in action, four POW.

They fought major actions at Shiloh 6-7 April ’62; then Murfreesboro 13 July ’62; Munfordville, 14-17 September 1962; Chickamauga 19-20 September 1863; New Hope Church 25-26 May 1864; Chattahoochee 03 July 1964; Atlanta 22 July 1864; Franklin 30 November 1864; Nashville 15-16 December 1864. They also lost 5 of their KIA in minor actions, and 1 KIA in what looks like a slave uprising of some sort (still trying to get the details on that).

A little time on googleearth - and there is their war as the crow flies.

That one company from a small part of the state had almost half her young men killed, wounded, missing or POW. They came home to an economic wasteland and a culture that was burned to the ground with it.

In the decades that followed the Civil War, the North understood that though defeated, it would take more to get the Union truly together. The South was willing to move on. Indeed, like Fighting Joe Wheeler – former Confederate leaders fought again under the Union Flag in the Spanish-American War.

Southern military history is American military history. In 2013, to go around with buckets of paint and chisels like your own little Red Guard attacking the past through your own myopic prism is mindless.

I’ll tell you what Jamie; if you want to do that, then let’s move back one generation at a time from today changing names on things.

How about FDR? Executive Order 9102 anyone? Jesse Owens?

How about Woodrow Wilson?

By all means, if we are going to start changing names; perhaps we can start in living memory and go back. Hey, I have an idea as you can really rack up some numbers here; former KKK biggie Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Well, at least people aren't smearing the WWII generation too ... right

This is all mindlessness.

Here is a proposal Jamie - let us respect those who gave us the country we have - in peace and unity - and the things we agreed to leave behind us, and the compromises we made.

After all ... the South is winning in the long run.

A side-bar to this whole discussion. It has faded over time with television and the waves of Yankee economic refugees that have flocked south in the last half century - but there has always been, as outlined in David Hackett Fisher's Albion's Seed, a much greater difference between North and South - some of these 22 maps still show it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The things you do for football ....

Well, this was bad - got worse - and looks like our football karma is about to run over our sexual assault dogma.
Three members of the U.S. Naval Academy football team are being investigated for the alleged sexual assault of a female student,
The alleged incident took place in April 2012, when the student attended a party at the off-campus “football house” in Annapolis, Maryland and became intoxicated, her attorney, Susan Burke, said in a statement.

“She woke up at the football house the next morning with little recall of what had occurred. She learned from friends and social media that three football players were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated,"...
Note that timeline? Yep... nothing gets better with time.

There is so much twisted up here. It is mostly the inevidible byproduct of human nature manifesting itself in a fertile environment; ego, people who don't know how to drink, lack of moral courage from bystanders - and if I may mix my sports metaphores, part unforced error; the byproduct of Football Primacy.

Some of the specific 2nd order effects of human nature and Football Primacy at work here:

1. "Football houses" are nothing new and exciting - they have existed for years and not just at Annapolis. They are a common feature supported by grown men who for some reason seem to want to make up for something lacking in their lives by putting so much of their self-esteem and self-worth in young men playing a boys game. They are know by all senior leadership both in uniform and in the coaching staff. They exist, because insecure men allow some MIDN to be more equal than others in order that they can fill some gap in their lives - and the results are expected.  I went to a major land-grant university, and we had the same problem with entitled athletes as well - especially at social gatherings where we had to at least three times a semester call the cops and/or visit the nationally known head coach in order to get the mostly football and basketball players under control. All problems had to do with alcohol and women, not necessary in that order. Nothing is new.  As an interesting side-note, never had a problem with any of the baseball, track, swimming, soccer, rugby or any female athletes at all. Just the opposite, we either dated them or they were in our fraternity. Then again, alumni did not give them "special" treatment. Entitlement and special treatment were all significant variables in the problems we had with athletes. So, it seems, we have the same case at USNA.

2. People who view themselves as deserving with special privileges all of a sudden feel they can get away with anything they want - and can move whatever they need to in order to protect their status all of a sudden feel they are entitled to anything they want? Shocking - that has never happened. This is an ongoing problem at USNA specifically ... but the desire to play football at a certain level is so strong that compromises are made - and the whole body suffers for it.

3. Young women who can't manage their intake of alcohol all of a sudden wake up and find themselves taken advantage of? That has never happened. What is different here is that specifically in the culture around the football players, the loyalty to sports and the players has become larger than the loyalty to fellow MIDN and the Navy. That is the only reason a Shipmate who has stupidly become blackout drunk can be passed around like a multi-use happy-sock during and IO deployment. Every MIDN in that house from the ones that allowed themselves to become blackout drunk, to those who let her wander off by herself to become a victim to those who knew what was going on and shrugged - they all need to step up to the fact that they have some ownership here, they have some responsibility.

The next is very typical of the circle the wagons to protect the sport; Football Uber Alles. of the football players pressured the woman not to cooperate with an initial investigation into the case. She initially followed that advice, but was still “ostracized and retaliated against by the football players and the Naval Academy community.” She was also disciplined for drinking, Burke said in a statement.

In early 2013, the female student decided to seek legal help and the Navy re-opened the investigation, Burke said.

“Over time, the midshipman began to recover from the trauma, and became angered at the lack of justice and retaliation in her case,” she said.
She threatened the football team. Football Uber Alles ... of course. USNA delayed dealing with this - and now they are when the sexual assault feeding frenzy is in full force - but hey - at least they delayed it until football season was over, right?

All this will come out - and one of the central themes will be this - the Navy continues to sell its integrity to play a level of football beyond what it should be. It is only going to get worse as Navy prepares to push to the Big East.

This is, of course, madness. It is something that sadly Congress will have to weigh in on - and perhaps this sorted case will be what it takes for them to take action. 

Extract the cancer of misplaced priorities before it further undermines and institution that should be better than Moo U State.

Navy should be playing football at the same level as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or perhaps even Chicago. There is no reason for it or any of the service academies to play at the major land-grant university level. If people wanted their team to play at that level, then they should have gone NROTC.

We've covered for years the compromises USNA has made to keep football at a certain level - is just isn't worth it and isn't fair to the Navy  or the players involved. All the benefits to be gained by sports can be gained without selling your integrity for just a sport.

As for the sexual assault charge - that will just have to work its way through the system; UCI and all that jazz. The time difference is such that any result will do little but make the Navy and USNA look bad.

It will all end in tears - and who is to blame? A lot to go around there - including the people who support the "football house" - and especially the person who owns the deed on that "house." I hope they have a good umbrella policy.

Let me ask you this question - if this had happened at a party of the golf team - would it have played out the same way? 

UPDATE: Without further comment - here is a little factoid from 2011;
Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo leads the pack. ... . According to USA Today’s figures, he’ll make $1,538,190 in 2011.

That figure puts the Navy coach just above the national average of $1.47 million, according to the report. It also gives him a salary higher than those of Air Force coach Troy Calhoun ($866,250) and Army coach Rich Ellerson ($610,000) put together.

UPDATE II - Electric Boogaloo: Well ... the three have been named.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Caption Contest!

I saw this on Drudge ... and couldn't help myself.

What a bunch of sad sacks ... and will someone please get a tie?

UPDATE: There is so much win over at reddit ... I don't know what to do with myself. My favorite so far is;

Paul Revere, Matrix Math, and the NSA

There is a lot to say about the goings on with the NSA. Tough part is; what you really need to know will never make it - I hope - in to open source. Either good or bad from a personal liberty point-of-view, the answers are there - but odds are somewhere in the neighborhood of 312 million of us are not read in to the program, so we won't know.

That should be fine; as we have a system designed to check that for us.

We have a system of checks and balances, thankfully, that will as much as human institutions can, try to make it right, keep it right, and correct if needed. We have a revolutionary Constitution, thankfully, that has a bias towards liberty; one part of that is the 4th Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I have faith in our little experiment in self-government, hopefully most others do too.

It is helpful to remember that our system of government was designed specifically to protect the people from the depredations of human nature - specifically the lust for power - that caused so many previous republics to fall. The Founders knew what they were doing, and knew the nasty bits of human nature they and the future would be dealing with.

They knew that from time to time lines would be approached, walked on, and crossed over. As a result, they gave us all the tools we need to self-correct. If in this case self-correction is needed, time will tell.

Until then, let's look at one bit of lame excuse making, lazy reporting, and simple, "It makes my brain hurt, let's talk about Hilliary's twitter account instead." that have besotted the information sphere since the NSA issue broke.

One of my least favorite bits was the, "it was only meta-data, it wasn't like ....".

That obviously is an excuse made by those who never took graduate level mathematics. I remember well one of the most flop-sweat inducing parts of grad school - that was a semester of math I have tried to clear from my mind. I don't even know what the course was called, I just remember "matrix math." I spent half the semester having no idea what I was doing; I just followed examples and did tons of problems so I could get through it by simple rote memory. I really had no idea what I was doing or why - and it terrified me.

Then one day, it all clicked. I got it - and why it was so powerful - and there we have a mixing on a grad-school nightmare and the NSA scandal ... for me. 

A big thanks to Kieran Healy for bringing that merger together with the fascinating post, "Using Metadata to find Paul Revere."
I have been asked by my superiors to give a brief demonstration of the surprising effectiveness of even the simplest techniques of the new-fangled Social Networke Analysis in the pursuit of those who would seek to undermine the liberty enjoyed by His Majesty’s subjects. This is in connection with the discussion of the role of “metadata” in certain recent events and the assurances of various respectable parties that the government was merely “sifting through this so-called metadata” and that the “information acquired does not include the content of any communications”. I will show how we can use this “metadata” to find key persons involved in terrorist groups operating within the Colonies at the present time. I shall also endeavour to show how these methods work in what might be called a relational manner.
You really need to read it all, and then ask yourself - did the Founders inject a critical flaw or critical feature in our system? Was it designed to allow subversives room to maneouver? To hide their tracks? For subversive thought and groups to operate with relative ease?

Well, of course they did. That extra bit of chaotic and dangerous freedom is what also allows us to have all the fun and harmless freedoms. The safest people without worry in the world are slaves.

In a way, Kieran's article lets you know why some parts of our Constitution are designed the way they are - specifically the Bill of Rights.

Throughout its design, our Founders not only built firewalls and firebreaks, but they also built warning signs. They knew, because they were students of history, that there will always be people and movements that will strive for more and more power. As power is a zero-sum game, the only way the government can grow in power is to take it from the people. The firewalls must be breached, the firebreaks can slow progress - and the warning signs are there to alert the people, their representatives, and the courts - that something is afoot.

Of course, it takes the right people, right representatives, and the right jurists to take action. The Founders knew this too;
A Republic, if you can keep it.”
To grow in power, the State will need to violate or make meaningless one bit of the Founders' structure at a time. We have a system in place, if we use it - if it is functioning - to stop that from taking place or correcting it if that line has been crossed.

I believe our system in fits and starts still works, so I will wait for it to function. It works slowly, thankfully. We should all hope it works; the 1st Amendment should tell us in time if an attempt was made to violate the 4th Amendment. If so, the rest of the tools are in place to self-correct. We've self-corrected before, we can do it again.

All the latest scandalmania has been interesting to watch. How much of it is scandal, and how much of it is hype? Don't know ... right now; but the truth will come out.

Until then - how comfortable are you with the government's ability to have a database - if they access it now does not matter, someone else can later - that allows with a simple query to know everything about you and your relationships? Do we really want to live in a surveillance state? Does a data-soaked and video-soaked police and national security system have the ability to decrease threats? Sure, but at what price? What price freedom?

What price would you be willing to pay for freedom? Is one 9/11 strike every decade, two decades, three decades worth more freedom?

September 11, 2001 2,977 people were killed. We didn't care much for that - so in a variety of ways we went to war. We went to war for the reason we usually do - to protect our way of life. Our way of life is enabled and protected by the Constitution.

The numbers are greater when you expand the number of nations we have lost servicemembers in this war - but as a baseline, let's use the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; wars we would not have been in if not for the attacks of 9/11. That number is 6,717

You don't even want to know the number of those wounded and the amount of treasure we have spent. 

In all our wars - wars to defend our Constitution - we have lost 1,321,612 killed. That many people died so we would enjoy our freedom - not to enjoy being watched over by a surveillance state.

So, in our latest "War on Terror," are we just lashing out? Looking for vengeance? Or ... are we trying to keep the wolves at bay so we can continue to live our life our way? Maybe a bit of both?

If we throw away what makes us what we are in order to protect us from those who ... want to change us from what we are - then exactly what are we doing?

Going back to start - has our government moved too far in the direction of "security" and too far away from "liberty?" 

Are you willing to give up almost all of your privacy for a chance at a bit more security? Are you willing to take the occasional terrorist strike as the price we must pay as a free society to avoid becoming what we claim to oppose?

I think good people can argue both sides, even before the NSA part of scandalmania came out. I'm just glad we're having the conversation.