Monday, September 14, 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Chumps, Suckers, and Losers

We're now apparently supposed to be all aghast that the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military thinks that people who get killed wearing a uniform are "suckers" and "losers".

 (pausing here to note that many of these same pearl-clutchers seemed juuuust fine with the same individual when he was raging and threatening any and all of his fellow citizens who happened to disagree with him politically in fine caudillo style. But we're not here for partisanship at the moment...)

Here's the thing.

If you are a GI, or someone who loves or cares for a GI, or just someone who “supports the troops” the very least be honest

Those of us who wear the tree suit are tokens in the Game of Thrones. I'm not whining about that. That's the nature of the business. We knew that when we took the re-up bonus. When it comes right down to it our job is, at the final throw, to be used - and spent, if need be - gaining or trying to gain some geopolitical thing.

We can hope that those spending our health and lives and futures are doing that wisely, judiciously, frugally, and for only the best and gravest of reasons.

All the while knowing that the opposite is very often the case; we will be thrown away for ignorance, pride, hubris, and foolishness. Our lives, or some portion of them, will often be wasted.

That's what we get paid for. That's our bottom line. That's the bargain we've made.

 And if you don’t like that, or that saddens or appalls, or horrifies you?

You need to be better citizens. Learn the issues. Question authority. Support people and policies...or protest against them! Vote...and vote with your head, not with FOX or Facebook or your old high school buddy’s latest email attachment.

Voting for some trashbag or fool or madman, or not even bothering to vote when there's a chance that trashbag of a human being might be elected, means that you lose the privilege to be shocked, shocked, when that trashbag trashes your precious "troops". 

We are your responsibility. We the People are supposed to be sovereign in this republic. So We the People are the ones who ultimately decide whether our futures are hoarded, or wasted.

If someone you helped vote into power - or someone you're not fighting with all your might to keep from power - is disparaging, or mocking, or wasting your soldiers’ lives?

It’s not their problem.

It’s yours.


Friday, August 14, 2020

V-J Day

10 August???  I called Ed this morning (14 August), Ed is  a 96-year old  vet who had served at Okinawa during that time.  He was in our local VFW chapter, but is now in a senior care facility near his children.  He recalled that all hands had gotten the word on the tenth that Japan had offered to surrender.  There was a lot of celebration.  He said the wild firing into the air was a bad mistake as several men were killed and wounded.

The US accepted on the 12th of August.  The only exception to the Japanese offer was that Hirohito could only remain in a purely ceremonial role and NOT as Japan's 'Heavenly Sovereign'.  There was a delay in Tokyo for debate about acceptance of Hirohito's eclipse - or continuation of the war.  So on 13 August (14 August in Japan) B29s from Tooey Spaatz Strategic Air Force Pacific resumed air raids attacking Iwakuni, Osaka, Tokoyama, Kumagaya, and Isesaki.  The PM, the Navy Minister, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs all opted for surrender.  The Army was more intransigent, or at least some firebrands there thought they could get away with a coup and continue the war.  They murdered a Lieutenant General who would not go along with them.  Hence the Kyūjō incident.

But wiser heads prevailed.  On the 14th (15th in Japan) Hirohito announced the surrender via radio to all in his nation so that they would know it was his personal decision to capitulate.  He stayed in that ceremonial Emperor role for another 44 years.  A good movie was made about the decision and the coup.  Back in 1967 the great Kihachi Okamoto directed "Japan's Longest Day" aka "The Emperor and the General".  Some dramatic license like all cinema, but well presented.

There is a remake out titled "The Emperor in August" released five years ago on the 70th anniversary.  I have not seen it yet but hope too soon.

 I also called today and chatted with a elderly former Woman Marine who was stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay as a supply clerk during the war.  She couldn't remember a lot.  Said she was on duty when the announcements were made so missed all the partying in downtown Frisco.

The formal surrender of course did not take place until two weeks later on board the U.S.S. Missouri on 2 September.


UPDATE:  Much has been said about the estimated casualties if the Invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall, had gone ahead.  In April 1945, a Joint Chiefs of Staff planning paper assessed possible casualties based on experience in both Europe and the Pacific given a troop list of 766,700 men and a 90-day campaign.   Based on the "Pacific Experience" JCS projected that the US Sixth Army could be expected to suffer 514,072 casualties (including 134,556 dead and missing).  There were three problems with that this assessment: 1] it only included casualties up to X+90 on Kyushu and not for the later invasion of Honshu on the Kanto Plain; 2] it did not include personnel losses at sea from Japanese air attacks; and 3] Japanese were easily able to accurately predict the Allied invasion plans and thus tripled their defenses on Kyushu from what the JCS estimates had been based on.  There were other estimates, MacArthur low-balled it at 105,000 total casualties but again that was only for Kyushu.  Mac had made a habit of underestimating enemy strength.  He did it in Luzon twice, here, and later in Korea.

Senior Navy admirals were against the invasion of the home islands.  This was based on their experience at the lengthy and costly Okinawa Campaign where 368 Allied ships were damaged while another 36 were sunk, and the 5000 Navy dead exceeded Army KIA and USMC KIA.  And probably based also on their experience at Iwo where Kamikazes sank an escort carrier, severely damaged a fleet carrier, and also damaged another escort carrier, an LST, and a transport.  They preferred a blockade with continuation of a conventional bombing campaign.  It might take longer but would save a lot of blood.

The Navy brass were also against the dropping of A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Truman, Admiral Leahy called it "the biggest damn fool thing we have ever done".  Admiral King called the rationale that the bomb would save American lives misplaced, because if Truman had been willing to wait a blockade would have "starved the Japanese into submission".  Admiral Nimitz considered the bomb "somehow indecent, certainly not a legitimate form of warfare".  Admiral Halsey, using military reasoning instead of humanitarian concern said "It was a mistake ever to drop it.  Why reveal a weapon like that to the world when it wasn't necessary."


David Sanger, NYT correspondent and author of a book on cyberwarfare, "The Perfect Weapon", tells his father's story about V-J Day.  His dad, LTJG Kenneth Sanger was a CIC director on a destroyer. 
Ahead of the surrender, he had to choose between two conflicting orders – one by McArthur instructing the fleet to allow Japanese officials to fly to Tokyo, and another from his captain, ordering him to blow them out of the sky. His Dad's account:

“I relieved the watch in the combat information center. As was routine I just read all the dispatches that had come in since the previous watch. And one of them was a dispatch from General MacArthur’s headquarters in the Philippines saying that if we intercepted any Japanese transport planes that were flying a red pennant from the tail of the fuselage that we were to let the planes through, I presume because they were flying the Japanese generals from China to Japan to receive the surrender. Anyway, we were to let this plane through."

"And about 10 minutes after I had read these dispatches, we had picked up a bogie, an unidentified aircraft, on that course, and I had 16 marines in Corsairs – they were marvelous pilots – and dispatched one division of these 16 planes, which would have included four planes including the flight leader. Marines being what they were all 16 marines went out to this intercept, and we intercepted this plane, of the type which was mentioned in the MacArthur dispatch. And it was flying a red pennant from the fuselage.

“And I ordered them not to fire, unless told to do so. Grudgingly, the flight leader acknowledged the order. And I got on the squawk box and called the bridge and told them what I had done. And our commanding officer said, “Shoot the son-of-a-bitch down, Sanger.”

Sanger's Dad debated this in his mind, while the planes were in air. In the end, “I returned the planes to us without firing. I guess I made the snap judgement that I would rather be court-martialed by my commanding officer than by Gen. MacArthur. So the plane went through as intended.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


My first thought on hearing the 70-plus dead was that they got off easy.  As compared to Oppau 99 years ago where 560 died and Texas City 73 years ago where 580 died.  Both, like Beirut 2020 were ammonium nitrate explosions.

But their search for the dead has just started, they may yet match Oppau and TC.  A larger problem is the 300,000 people now homeless due to the blast.  Plus food shortages and a destroyed port hindering aid relief.

Authorities have arrested port officials for never moving the 2750 metric tonnes (3030 US tons) for the last six years.  But will the original owner ever face justice?

I saw a few twitter conspiracy comments that disbelieved the 2750 amount, saying that  the Oklahoma City bomb (2 tons), caused almost as much damage.  BS!  Beirut damage is at least  an order of magnitude worse.  And they overlook the fact that at Oklahoma City the ammonium nitrate used was dosed with nitromethane.  That turned it into ANNM with double the detonation velocity of ammonium nitrate alone.  Plus ANNM has more capability to break concrete and cut steel, i.e. brisance. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Passing through

Busy day today, but thought I'd throw out a couple of nutty clusters to chew on for the gang here.

SecState Pompeo delivered a real tubthumper of an address at the Nixon Library last Thursday about those tricksy Chinese. They're devious heathen devils, and apparently all the Western efforts to civilize them since "Nixon went to China" in the Seventies have gone for naught, so now it's time to muscle up and beef them around:
(Pompeo said that)..."the U.S. will organize the free world, while alienating and undermining the free world; he extols democracy, while aiding and abetting its destruction at home; and he praises the Chinese people, while generalizing about the ill intent of Chinese students who want to come to America.

Pompeo is also ultra-loyal to a president who cares not one whit for democracy, dissidents, freedom, or transparency overseas. Trump’s long track record on this is well documented, and it has defined his personal approach to China."

As we discussed here a while back, I'm all in favor of treating the PRC with cautious skepticism. But the problem here is that, having made it clear that if you're a Trumpkin, you're "America First" all the way, this administration has little diplomatic throw-weight to actually mobilize any sort of large-scale pushback against Chinese geopolitical ambitions. And then there's the whole "you are, too!" problem:

"The Chinese Communist Party wants a tributary international system where smaller countries are deferential to larger powers, instead of a rules-based international order where small countries enjoy equal rights. The CCP also sees no place for universal rights or global liberal norms, and wants to ignore the principles of open markets to pursue a predatory mercantilist economic policy.

So does Trump."

All this will undoubtedly rachet up tensions in the East Asian littoral. What that means in practice? I'm not sure; right now the U.S. is too busy being devoured by the Plague to make anything as distant as the South China Sea fairly low on the priority list...

Meanwhile, half a world away the same U.S. administration has directed the USDOD to move about 12,000 military bodies out of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This does not, in case you're keeping score, count as a "Donald the Dove" peace proposal. These people aren't going to become VISTA volunteers. Many are going to other parts of Europe, including Poland(?), Belgium, and Italy. But some of this may tie into the aggressive rhetoric against the PRC:

“Several thousand troops currently assigned to Germany may be reassigned to other countries in Europe,” Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal. “Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia.”

It's difficult not to be cynical about seeing this as a Trumpian revenge against the German government and his bete noir, PM Merkel, for being insufficiently fawning.

Anyway...interesting times.

Monday, July 13, 2020

کمربند و جاده, or "How do you say "Belt and Road" in Farsi?"

So much for "maximum pressure":
"Iran and China have quietly drafted a sweeping economic and security partnership that would clear the way for billions of dollars of Chinese investments in energy and other sectors, undercutting the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Iranian government because of its nuclear and military ambitions.

The partnership, detailed in an 18-page proposed agreement obtained by The New York Times, would vastly expand Chinese presence in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects. In exchange, China would receive a regular — and, according to an Iranian official and an oil trader, heavily discounted — supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years.

The document also describes deepening military cooperation, potentially giving China a foothold in a region that has been a strategic preoccupation of the United States for decades. It calls for joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing — all to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes.”

The partnership — first proposed by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, during a visit to Iran in 2016 — was approved by President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet in June, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said last week."
This is an obvious move for Iran, given that it is unavoidably clear that any Republican administration - and 2016 makes clear that the US electorate cannot be counted on not to elect a Republican government, no matter how ridiculous - will treat Iran to whatever they can manage of the Ledeen Doctrine.

This is also obviously a very deep tarpit for Iran. Other "Belt and Road" nations have found that the PRC gives nothing that it cannot take, and have found themselves in hock up to their national ears.

Still...a worthwhile reminder that when your only tool is a hammer, and the tool using that tool is an utter tool, you end up with a "foreign policy" stupider than a bagful of hammers.

Oh, well. We're too busy catching the Plague to worry about any of this stuff anymore.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Vote by Mail

Everyone in the great state of Washington votes by mail.  Thank God our state capitol Olympia did away with the caucus system.  Ditto for Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, & Utah.  California allows everyone to vote by mail but also allows those who prefer to go to a polling place to vote.  No need to apply for a mail-in ballot, all registered voters get one.  No need to prove your inability to travel to the poll.  No need to prove you are out of state. 

There are checks in place to prevent fraud.  Sure, Junior can fraudulently vote for his senile parents.  But incidents like that are onesey-twoseys.  Large scale fraud is easy to spot via statistics, or by suspicious journalists or political analysts of any party.    Public election officials can easily prove or disprove fraud by checkin signatures. 

There is a system in place to insure secrecy & privacy of your vote.  It increases voter turnout.  It provides a legitimate backup record for recounts.  It lowers the expense to states and counties for holding elections.  What is not to like?

Reportedly two thirds of the country would prefer to vote by mail.