Go West

From Media Matters

From Media Matters

It’s been over two years since (now ex) Congressman Allen West popped up on my radar. I think I may have been disrespectful of him at the time, likening him to a Heinz 57 candidate, an allusion to the sparkling portrayal by actor James Gregory in the movie The Manchurian Candidate:

Angela Lansbury practically stole the spotlight from Frank Sinatra. The movie was a Cold War thriller about a “brainwashed” American soldier turned assassin. Lansbury’s on-screen husband is played wonderfully by James Gregory as lame brained Senator John Iselin, who is instructed by his domineering wife to proclaim there are (pick a number) communists working in the Defense Department. Ultimately Senator Iselin confronts his wife over breakfast and demands to know just how many communists. This he does while pouring Heinz ketchup on his breakfast eggs. Lansbury eyes the ketchup bottle and comes up with the number. Later Iselin is addressing reporters to announce there are 57 communists working in the defense department.

This was shortly after then-Congressman West was telling us how many (number varied) communists were serving in Congress as Democrats.

Anyhow, those were the fun days.

No wait. The fun days are back:

Fox News contributor Allen West, who has previously called President Obama an “Islamist” with unclear “loyalties,” is now calling on the military to ignore orders from its commander in chief.

The Military Times reported that the Department of Defense will expand an existing program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), to allow recruiters “to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mostly rare foreign language expertise or specialized health care training.” The program “is capped at 1,500 recruits per year. Officials say it’s unclear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, nonpermanent visas such as students or tourists.”

No, that’s not what the fun is all about. What the fun is all about is what retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West had to say about it. Again from Media Matters:

West, a retired Army Lt. Colonel whose service ended in controversy, reacted to the news on his Facebook page by writing that “Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation.”

He added: “This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military.”

Here is Allen Wests’ Facebook posting on the matter:

Morning folks. While you were sleeping, Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation. Obama has no constitutional authority to make any laws or rules concerning naturalization as stated in Art I Sect 8 Clause 4. This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military. As well, we are pink-slipping men and women in uniform, Americans, and Obama wants to enlist illegals. We are already outsourcing our national security to Syrian Islamists. This is intolerable and just another reason why we must flip the Senate and begin to reverse Obama’s tyranny. Any Democrat supporting this illegal order needs to be voted out!

The Military Times relates the details that so dismay Allen West:

On average, the military recruits about 5,000 noncitizens each year, nearly all of them permanent U.S. residents, or so-called “green card” holders. Starting in 2006, DoD began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they had special skills that are highly valued.

After entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform.

The MAVNI program began in 2008 and remains a pilot program. DoD notified Congress on Thursday that the program, which was due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, will be extended for another two years and will for the first time include DACA-status immigrants.

In the foregoing DACA stands for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals. These are typically children of illegal immigrants. They are people who, due to their age and the manner they were brought into the country, are not classified as criminals.

Over 50 years ago I served a standard tour in the Navy Reserves and observed back then we recruited a number of foreign nationals into the Navy. As a college student following my active service I had a room mate who was a Mexican citizen. After graduation he entered the United States Army.

According to the Times, “The military services are not required to accept recruits under MAVNI.” That leaves me wondering what Allen West is all about with “This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military.” It could be this is something known only to Mr. West.

In the mean time I am wishing we could have James Gregory back. We have a wonderful new role for him. The script has already been written.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

A man and a woman were having a quiet, romantic dinner in a fine restaurant.
They were gazing lovingly at each other and holding hands.
The waitress, taking another order at a table a few steps away, suddenly noticed the woman slowly sliding down her chair and under the table — but the man stared straight ahead.
The waitress watched as the woman slid all the way down her chair and out of sight under the table. Still, the man stared straight ahead.
The waitress, thinking this behavior a bit risque and worried that it might offend other diners, went over to the table and, tactfully, began by saying to the man, “Pardon me, sir, but I think your wife just slid under the table.”
The man said, “No she didn’t. She just walked in.”

This is so comforting.

Posted on Facebook

From a Facebook posting

When I’m down and depressed (that might be redundant) I can always count on somebody from the religious segment to lift my spirits. Where would we all be without the likes of Southern Baptist Convention President Albert Mohler:

What Gobry hints at and Dr. Mohler affirms is that the basis of our sexual ethic is not simply church tradition; it is scripture itself. We aren’t just defending marriage – whether we call it natural marriage or traditional marriage or Biblical marriage – because it’s the way we’ve always done things. We have a much more firm foundation than tradition.  We affirm marriage in the way that God himself intended it.

The church is not a Christian congress or Supreme Court. The laws of God cannot be overruled or deemed unconstitutional.

Of course, we ALL break those laws and being a homosexual doesn’t make a man a sinner any more or less than being a gossip. Both crimes deserve the death penalty, and only the one who relies on the righteousness of Christ can escape it.

You cannot imagine how much better this makes me feel. About myself, not Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry and Dr. Mohler. I’m telling you, I must be in really bad shape if it takes the likes of these two make me feel good about myself.

Perry on Stilts

Hard Time

Hard Time

Call me liberal if you want, but I’m beginning to think that Governor Rick Perry of Texas will turn out to be the salvation of this country. Before you haul me off the the loony bin, let me explain my logic.

Recall I mentioned before that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin saved the nation by becoming John McCain’s running mate in 2008.

It was summer of 2008, and I swear I was minding my own business. The news item on my computer screen said that John McCain had just picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That’s the instant I knew.

It was game over. The next president of the United States was going to be Barack Obama. Thank you, Sarah.

It is possible that our own governor, for whom I have previously expressed such admiration, may be about to step into Governor Palin’s mighty shoes and save us all from ourselves again. Here’s how it’s unfolding:

[21 August 2014] PORTSMOUTH, N.H. –On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry issued a pretty alarming warning. Terrorists from the Islamic State — one of the nastiest, most brutal terror groups ever — could be sneaking into Texas across the Southwest border at any time, thanks to the Obama administration’s failures in Iraq and in securing the border.

This is so uncanny. It’s as though he can see Mexico from the Governor’s Mansion in Austin.

Do you wish the same thing I do? Is it your hope of hopes that Governor Perry will somehow grasp the brass ring and secure the nomination for his party in 2016? Vice President would work just as well. It did with Palin.

Of course, there are the spoilers:

This morning, the Pentagon press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said there’s just no evidence of that — though it’s something to keep an eye on.

“I’ve seen no indication that they are coming across the border with Mexico. We have no information that leads us to believe that. That said, we do know they have aspirations to hit western targets and it’s something, as [Defense] Secretary Hagel said yesterday, that we’ve got to take seriously and with have to try to be ready for it,” Kirby said today on CNN.

Mexican officials are unhappy about Perry’s comments. They were eager to flag Kirby’s response, and this afternoon they issued their own stern rejection of the governor’s warnings.

“Mexican authorities have no record of the presence of Islamist extremist groups or individuals in Mexico,” said Ariel Moutsatsos, minister for public affairs at the embassy in Washington. “We take all possible measures to impede any terrorist activity in our territory.”

Noting that U.S. and Mexican officials share information constantly, he added, “There is no indication that would even suggest what Governor Perry has claimed. The U.S. State Department, in its most recent report on terrorism in the world, dismissed the idea that any international terrorist groups were operating in Mexico, and in recent hours the Pentagon also publicly denied having any indication leading them to believe that terrorists are crossing into the United States from Mexico.

In Portsmouth — the first of six public stops Perry will make on a two-day visit to the presidential testing ground of New Hampshire — the governor stood by his warning.

“ISIS has said they’re coming to America and they are going to attack us. I take them at their word,” he said, noting repeatedly that the U.S.-Mexico border is “porous” and therefore a potential entry point for bad guys. “I agree that there is no hard evidence. My point is do we need to wait until there’s an attack on America before we secure the border?”

Pay no attention to these liberal nut jobs, Governor. Keep on keeping on. That is, do what you do best, which is what you have always been doing. We want you to know you have enormous support in your quest from an enthusiastic and steadily growing mass. These would be Democrats.

Stupidity On Stilts

Some background: I attended public schools in this country for all of my academic career, such as it was. Coming from a small town, I had not much of a clue of the real world, and it was some time before the facts of private and religious schools came to me.

Run the tape forward, and public education has gotten real, leading to objections from many who take religion seriously, more so than sometimes seems healthy. Public schools now teach the Earth is 4.5 or so billion years old and that all living things on this planet share a common ancestry. Those who hold truth in lesser regard than tradition and who could afford it have started to pull their children out of public schools and to place them in private schools that accommodate, even emphasized, religious instruction. Regrettably, academic instruction tends to suffer in these schools. I’m going to say this lapse is unavoidable due to the very reasons these schools were established.

Twelve years ago I dropped in to observe a presentation at a Bible church in Dallas. The presentation was by Richard Stepanek from the Alpha Omega Institute in Grand Junction, Colorado. He had some interesting things to say:

The woes of modern life were laid at the feet of evolution. Evolution is the foundation of New Age we were told. Richard should know. He once taught New Age at a Coptic church before coming over to Christian fundamentalism. Turned out not to be a long journey.

Demons are bad we now know. Cult symbols tattooed onto the hands and bodies of young people or carried on ornaments are used to summon up demons. You have seen them all. There’s 666 for sure plus the pentagram and the “peace sign.” The latter is a broken cross Richard told us, a slight against Christianity. Apparently it doesn’t stand for the semaphore ND (for nuclear disarmament) as we were led to believe in the ’60s. Also there is, shudder, the “hook’em horns” hand sign made famous by University of Texas football fans. I feel compelled to feed my diploma to the shredder.

Worse, yet, these symbols have real power to invoke demons to deal death to others. Richard vouched this had actually happened in Tanzania where he visited and took testimony. They are in the air, demons are. Ghosts are part of the demonic realm, as well, and UFOs are manifestations of spiritual life in outer space.

Associated with the church was a religious school, and prior to the presentation children trooped over to the church from the school to obtain the benefit of Stepanek’s talk. I made the comparison of this religious school to the madrasas of the Muslim Middle East.

Bible church file photo

Bible church file photo

Going even further back, seventeen years ago I attended a presentation by David Bassett at a young Earth creationist meeting. At the time Bassett was in charge of science education at one of the private religious schools in the Dallas area. That given, here is an excerpt from the February 1997 issue of The Skeptic.

Additionally, there is the remarkable evidence of living dinosaurs in the Congo region. Although Polaroid photos of these specimens were ruined by the awful climate there, Bassett did have a copy of a copy of an audio tape that was made by a recent expedition. On this tape we could clearly hear the popping sound made by the dinosaurs as they bellowed just a short distance away in the forest. The high atmospheric pressure in this region accounts for the viability of these ancient species. The pressure there is 1.3 to 1.5 times normal atmospheric pressure. This is because of the dense vegetation, which keeps the air quite humid. Of course, water vapor is denser than dry air, David Bassett told the audience.

When he is not contributing to the science education of students at Ovilla Christian School, Bassett works the front desk at Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidences Museum near Glen Rose. Check it out.

I took from such as this that science education in religious schools can suffer gravely, and I lay this mess at the feet of the general disregard for fact embedded in religious thinking.

I continually receive encouragement for my conclusion. Raw Story carries a piece by Johnny Scaramanga relating his personal experience in a religious school in the UK:

I went to an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school from the age of 11 to 14, and I can think of many reasons why this kind of education is a poor preparation for university. I spent half of every school day alone in a cubicle, working silently though PACEs (Packets of Accelerated Christian Education) – workbooks that incorporate religious instruction into every academic subject, for example teaching that evolution is a hoax.

The author has more to say and much of it is down right scary:

In all of this, however, little attention has been paid to the pseudoscience that ACE passes off as education. PACEs sometimes get basic science wrong, but more importantly they demonstrate that ACE can’t tell the difference between science and nonsense obscured with long words. For example, ACE’s Science 1087 (aimed at students in year 9) suggests it might be possible to generate electricity from snow:

The explanation was essentially this:

  • From science we know that snowflakes are six-sided.
  • “Some scientists have theorised” this six-side arrangement is due to the three orbital paths of electrons in water molecules.
  • The air pockets between the spokes of snowflakes contain increased concentrations of oxygen.
  • There is a relationship “a snowflake’s attraction to oxygen and magnetism’s attraction to oxygen.”

Now, here is where it gets interesting:

Job 38:22-23New International Version (NIV)

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?

The conclusion is obvious:

How can this scripture, along with these observations about snowflakes, show us a physical truth? Scientists at Virginia Tech have produced electricity more efficiently from permanent magnets, which have their lines of force related to each other at sixty-degree angles, than from previous methods of extracting electricity from magnetism. Other research along this line may reveal a way to tap electric current directly from snow, eliminating the need for costly, heavy, and complex equipment now needed to generate electricity.

The writings of an early Iron Age tribesman from the Eastern Mediterranean region now trump modern science. That’s simply fantastic.

For a reality check, Scaramanga relayed this priceless knowledge to Professor Paul Braterman of Glasgow University. “Bullshit on stilts” was the response. Braterman contradicted the deepest sense of this bit of hogwash. For starters, “snow has no magnetic properties.” The bullshit flows downhill from there.

You may wonder, as I do, what value are students getting from education at these religious schools? There are extremes. Some of the top universities in this country are church supported or church founded. I can name:

  • Baylor
  • Notre Dame
  • Princeton
  • Brigham Young
  • Southern Methodist University

Even some of the lesser lights are not soft on science. A television news-documentary item a few years back highlighted the experience of Christian students who attended Wheaton College in Illinois and had their religious fundamentals challenged. They came home and informed their staunch Christian parents that evolution was true. Other of the lesser lights are less than lesser lights. Liberty University was founded by Christian televangelist Jerry Falwell and takes no stock in scientific modernism:

 Liberty University teaches young Earth creationism as an explanation for the appearance of life on earth. The university works with young Earth creationist organizations including Answers in Genesis. In biology classes students are taught both creationism and evolution and that creationism offers a better explanation of biological diversity than evolution. In October, 2006 the university published an advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an attempt to recruit staff to its biology department. The advertisement stated that the university was “seeking faculty who can demonstrate a personal faith commitment to its evangelical Christian purpose” and specified that “compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy [is] required.”

In the same month, prominent biologist Richard Dawkins was quoted saying the following about Liberty University: “If it’s really true that the museum at Liberty University has dinosaur fossils which are labeled as being 3,000 years old, then that is an educational disgrace. It is debauching the whole idea of a university, and I would strongly encourage any members of Liberty University who may be here, to leave and go to a proper university.” In December, 1991 Creation reported, Arlton C. Murray “excavated a dinosaur for Liberty University’s museum”, which proclaimed “this dinosaur was the first of its kind in any creationist museum.”

[Some links deleted]

The sorry academic standards at religious schools came to a head in this country eight years ago when the University of California system rejected some of the college preparatory courses at Christian schools:

The suit filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleged that the university system’s rejection of several courses, including a history course, a government course, and science courses, was “viewpoint discrimination” that violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. The books in particular were published by A Beka Books and Bob Jones University Press. They contained problems such as statements that where science and the Bible contradict, the student must choose the Bible, and judgment of the value of American historical figures on their religion. The UC board concluded that those books did not offer proper preparatory instruction for the university. The lawsuit was brought by the parents of six children who had not been rejected from the university, but were required to take additional, remedial courses. In August 2006, the case was allowed to proceed against the university while lawsuits against individual school officials were thrown out.

The Association retained leading intelligent design proponent Michael Behe to testify in the case as an expert witness. Behe’s expert witness report claimed that the Christian textbooks were excellent works for high school students and he defended that view in a deposition.

[Some links deleted]

The choice of Michael Behe was probably not a wise one. Behe is a legitimate college professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, but he has some bizarre views of science. I have previously reviewed his book Darwin’s Black Box and also his The Edge of Evolution. When parents sued the Dover Area School District over the introduction of Intelligent Design into the science curriculum in 2005 Behe was one of the defense witnesses. The PBS documentary Judgment Day re-enacted Behe’s testimony wherein he had to defend his statements regarding some basic biochemistry. Despite claiming there was no published science contradicting his position, he had to admit he had not read anything from a pile of published material presented to him on cross examination.

There are many who do serious science while holding deep religious convictions. One such would be Kenneth Miller of Brown University, who is the co-author of a series of biology texts and who also continually works in the public defense of modern biological science, especially against attacks by creationists. Miller also testified at the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, wherein the plaintiffs won their case while key defenders of creationism were exposed as perjurers.

I followed the Kitzmiller case in the news as events unfolded and was not surprised at the finding of perjury on the part of the creationists. My observation has long been that you cannot do very much religion without a load of perjury.

Losing Sight of Reality

Who is Pharrell Williams, and why is he acting like a fool in public?

From Wikimedia

From Wikimedia

Oh, wait. That’s being what Pharrell Williams calls “incredibly arrogant.” I get it now. What was I thinking?

If I look at the world head on without flinching, that’s being “incredibly arrogant.” If somebody offers me a $3 bill in change, and I back off, that’s being “incredibly arrogant.” Why, paint me lumpy and call me a potato. I must be “incredibly arrogant.” Of course I could instead be “incredibly ignorant.” But that job is already taken.

We do have a choice, you know. And Christian Today has some specifics:

US singer, rapper and producer Pharrell Williams has revealed that he believes in God, insisting that it’s “incredibly arrogant” to think otherwise.

“I believe in God but I also believe in the universe…and I believe in that innate ability to make decisions and to exercise our feelings as human beings,” the Happy singer told Stylist magazine.

“How do you see all the stars and think there’s nothing else out there?” he continued.

“It’s so incredible arrogant and pompous. It’s amazing that there are people who really believe that. It’s unbelievable.”

Yes, it is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that a modern, intelligent human being could harbor such outrageous lapses in reasoning. Then of course I could be wrong. About the intelligent part. Williams had a bit more to say:

“I’ll say this: at the end of the day, you can soundbite things in the Bible and be offended. But I’m sure that’s not the writers of the Bible’s intentions,” Williams, who has defended his involvement, said of the controversy.

“I’m clearly not comparing my song to one of the most respectful writings I’ve ever read…My point to you is, anything can be taken out of context.”

This last part had to do with a controversy over a song Blurred Lines written by Williams. This dainty piece of fluff apparently (I have not listened to it) takes a dim view of women. Here is an excerpt:

One thing I ask you
Let me be the one you back that ass into
Yo, from Malibu, to Paris bo
Yeah, had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

All right! That’s my kind of Christian.

Just kidding.

So what’s out of context. Let’s see.

19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

OK, so this is out of context. No wait. This is the context. The Bible was written by misogynistic tribesmen living over 2000 years ago on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. These people are hardly distinguishable from the Taliban. Only, the Taliban have Kalashnikov rifles, and they make home movies.

Take a deep breath and enjoy some more context:

19 In those days Israel had no king.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”

12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields.17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord.[a] No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

Please do not ask me for more context. I have enough to puke an elephant.

A note to Pharrell Williams and all the idiots out there who believe this stuff, and especially those who believe this stuff and also believe we should base our lives on the teachings of a bunch of incredibly arrogant tribal leaders: What really is incredibly arrogant is thinking the human race, the human race which has existed for less than 0.01% of the life of the universe and occupies far less than 0.00000001% of its habitable planets, this race is somehow special in the mind of a mythical person who supposedly created everything 6000 years ago, long after people starting writing stuff down. This is incredible arrogance.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Dealing With Facts

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

People who know me will generally say I’m a liberal sort of person. It’s mainly because I have an abiding interest in truth, and I find that political, and especially the social, conservatives tend to have a loose grip on what constitutes reality.

For example, conservatives tend to be more religious, and importantly, overtly more religious. Religious crazy stuff tends more oftenn to land within the socially conservative camp.

Some examples: Social conservatives are more quick to embrace religious convictions that transcend known reality. You think the Earth is only about 6000 years old? You are most likely socially conservative. You think a person unknown and unseen by any human being has created the universe and redundantly everything in it? Then you are most likely socially conservative. The complete list is longer. We know from science these are wrong-headed concepts. Social conservatives, as a consequence, tend to view science as a tool that can be shaped, often through the political process, to justify their personal beliefs.

All this brings us around to the climate denial thing. For a very long time scientists have observed a rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some carefully thought through analysis has presented the evidence that this increase is due to human activity. Principally, people have been taking carbon, sequestered within fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas) and burning it with atmospheric oxygen. The carbon comes out of the ground. It enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. And it stays there. For like 200 years before eventually being removed from the atmosphere, principally through sequestration within the oceans.

The problem with extra carbon dioxide in the air is that its presence causes extra infra-red radiation to be absorbed by the atmosphere. We get loads of radiated energy from the sun, on the order of 1000 watts per square meter. If none of this energy were reflected back into space or else radiated back into space by warm surfaces, then the Earth would continue to soak up solar energy and get hotter and hotter. The atmosphere and the oceans would be the first to observe the effect. The solid surface would quickly become unlivable, as well.

Fortunately we have the physics of reflection and radiation by warm bodies, and a balance of sorts has been reached. The temperature of the Earth’s solid surface, atmosphere and oceans averaged over the entire globe over long periods of time tends to be stable and within the livable zone for current living organisms.

However, carbon dioxide, and other complex gases in the atmosphere, work to trap solar radiation entering the atmosphere and also energy radiated from the Earth’s surface. The added carbon dioxide is causing the average temperature to increase. This has some near term and especially some long term consequences.

All that said, conservative of both types have a problem with most of this science:

  • Carbon dioxide levels are not rising.
  • People are not causing this increase in carbon-dioxide.
  • Average atmospheric (and ocean) temperatures are not increasing.
  • The effects of this temperature increase are being overstated.
  • The idea of global warming is a liberal hoax abetted by scientists conspiring to bring about a shift in political power.
  • We don’t want to change our lifestyle in order to forestall the consequences of global warming.

Some or all of these can be found in an American conservative’s quiver.

Now we have a liberal Democratic president, and he is pushing for action to forestall the consequences of global warming. It’s just one of the reasons I voted for Barack Obama, twice, as opposed to those other guys, neither of whom seemed to take the issue as seriously. I also voted for Al Gore, who has made a name for himself as an advocate to mitigate the effects of global warming. I also voted for John Kerry, who also seems to be an advocate of taking action.

So now we have a president who is taking action, but we may be needing to say, “Not so fast there.”

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Barack Obama glossed over some inconvenient truths Tuesday in his climate-change speech to the United Nations. For one, as the U.S. cleans up emissions at home, it’s sending dirty fuel abroad to pollute the same sky.

As well, the U.S. is not cleaning up quite as aggressively as Obama implied in his remarks.

Associated Press reporters Dina Cappiello and Seth Borenstein have done some fact checking on the president’s remarks and have noted a few points:

OBAMA: “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth.”

THE FACTS: Europe as a whole has cut a bigger proportion of its emissions.

The fact check does not directly say that another nation has cut pollution more than we have, but a little mathematical analysis reveals it would not be possible for a collection of nations to undercut the United States unless at least one out of the collection did. So, who is the over-achiever across the pond?

The bottom fact is the United States was the top producer, and it reduced its tonnage more than Europe, but Europe had the larger drop in share.

Here’s another:

OBAMA: “So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades — proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”

THE FACTS: About half of the 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions the U.S. has achieved in recent years can be attributed to the economic recession, not any specific actions from the Obama administration. Obama’s comments also left out that U.S. carbon emissions rose 2.9 percent from 2012 to 2013, the first increase since 2007, because higher natural gas prices spurred more coal use.

A side note here: I can vouch for the effects of the economic recession. I was out in California for a few months as business began to tank and at the same time the price of gasoline was heading for Mars. Early in the year getting anywhere on Los Angeles freeways was a bear. By the time prices peaked in July 2008 I sometimes found myself with a lane to myself.

More on that note, as the economy sank below the horizon, and the unemployed started leaving their cars in their garages the price of fuel at the Kroger’s near my house dipped to $1.259 per gallon. The economy does have an impact on the environment.

Cappiello and Borenstein have additional points to pick with the president, but they all turn out to be political puffery rather than voodoo science. Hopefully we have mostly dispensed with voodoo science in this administration. Can we ever expect to see the end of political puffery?

Precipitous Folly

Walter Russell Mead writes a daily blog for American Interest.

Walter Russell Mead (born 12 June 1952, Columbia, South Carolina) is James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest magazine. Until 2010, Mead was the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a co-founder of the New America Foundation, a think tank that has been described as radical centrist in orientation.

[Some links deleted]

Following the president’s address of 10 September, here is what Mead had to say in his assessment:

A President SurrendersThe most disconcerting element in the speech was that even now, six years into the job, President Obama still doesn’t know how to avoid telegraphing weakness even as he seeks to project strength.

President Obama is now exactly where we at The American Interest were afraid he would be when the whole Syria mess started: from the beginning it was crystal clear that all his choices were bad and we sympathized with his desire to do nothing—but we also warned that doing nothing was in fact the worst option of all. The longer he waited, the worse all of his options would get. In the end, procrastination would require him to take more action, and riskier action, than early intervention would have entailed, while both he and the country (not to mention the people of the region) would pay a high price for delay.

He goes on to opine that President Obama’s course has been one of “delay,” and what he terms “procrastination” has resulted in “an unmitigated disaster for him.” Like a number of the other of the president’s critics Mead maintains we should have recognized the ISIS threat early on and nipped “ISIS in the bud.”

And more.

Something about all this sound so familiar, and I have to wonder, what planet are these people coming from?

I have heard similar talk from John McCain, among others. That should have been sage advice. But there is a fly in the ointment, so to speak. I’m also hearing stories like this one:

These days John McCain has been a vocal opponent of ISIS. But it wasn’t long ago that he went to Syria to meet with factions of rebels fighting the Syrian government who now have turned out to be ISIS members.

While there are many factions fighting against the Assad Regime, those in the pictures taken with Senator McCain have been positively identified as members of the self-styled “Islamic State.”

From Counter Current News

From Counter Current News

It’s stories like this that remind me daily of the comfort of hind sight and the folly of “gonad logic.”

Remarkable, also, is Mead’s logic for supporting the 2003 Gulf War:

In 2003, Mead argued that an Iraq war was preferable to continuing UN sanctions against Iraq, because “Each year of containment is a new Gulf War”, and that “The existence of al Qaeda, and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are part of the price the United States has paid to contain Saddam Hussein.”

[Some links deleted]

I am not prepared to fault Mead’s logic—it was difficult for any of us to anticipate the disastrous manner in which the affair was managed. My point is that disastrous management tags along with any war and any foreign adventure of significant magnitude. Such caution should be a guide to any president contemplating precipitous action, such as the two gulf wars and any scheme to aid one side in a civil war. This caution, this reserved response, this is what Mead and others may be calling “delay,” “procrastination” and even “surrender.”

Should we have nipped ISIS in the bud three years ago? Even two or one? Ask John McCain.

Holdren On Top

John Holdren from the Daily Kos

John Holdren from the Daily Kos

Somebody, actually my brother, posted this on Facebook. I had to follow up:

On Wednesday this past week (Sept. 17), White House Science Advisor John Holdren made his way to speak with the Committee on Science, Space and Technology–a Republican lead brain trust. He was there to answer questions about President Barack Obama’s climate change initiative. Dr. Holdren brought his chalk, his number 2 pencil and probably a vat of Tums.

What you are going to see here from the Daily Kos is a collection of videos from Dr. Holdren’s interchange with some of our dimmer congressional lights. First up was Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, representing California’s District 48. A quick look at Rohrabacher’s entry in Wikipedia reveals some fuzzy real-world thinking:

During a trip to Iraq in June 2011, he said that Iraq should pay back the U.S. for all the money it had spent since the invasion, when it becomes a wealthy country. Rohrabacher also commented he would be holding a hearing with the Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations into if Iraq committed “crimes against humanity” at Camp Ashraf when a massacre occurred last April. The incident left 34 residents killed and over 300 wounded. The delegation was denied access to the camp by Iraqi government, citing their sovereignty. Rohrabacher’s delegation was subsequently asked to leave the country.

Rohrabacher’s foreign affairs missteps were not an issue at the hearings, however. What was at issue were his remarkably naive views on some basic science:

Rohrabacher doubts that global warming is caused by humans. During a congressional hearing on climate change on February 8, 2007, Rohrabacher mused that previous warming cycles may have been caused by carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by “dinosaur flatulence.” He stated, “In fact, it is assumed at best to be unproven and at worst a liberal claptrap, trendy, but soon to go out of style in our new Congress.” On May 25, 2011, Rohrabacher expressed further skepticism regarding the existence of man-made global warming. However, he suggested that if it is an issue, a possible solution could be clear-cutting rain forests, and possibly replanting. This was strongly criticized by scientists, including Oliver Phillips, a geography professor at the University of Leeds. They noted the consensus that intact forests act as net absorbers of carbon, reducing global warming.

[Some links deleted]

Rohrabacher’s response to this criticism was previously posted on-line, but that link is now defunct. The quote captured on Wikipedia reads:

Once again those with a global agenda have created a straw man by misrepresenting the position of their critics. I do not believe that CO2 is a cause of global warming, nor have I ever advocated the reduction of CO2 through the clearing of rain forests or cutting down older trees to prevent global warming. But that is how my question to a witness during my subcommittee hearing on May 25th is being reported. I simply asked the witness, Dr. Todd Stern, who is a supporter of a global climate treaty that would dramatically hurt the standard of living for millions of human beings, if he was considering a policy that would address naturally emitted carbon dioxide, which makes up over 90% of emissions. To suggest that I’m advocating such a radical approach instead of simply questioning the policy is a total misrepresentation of my position.

It’s difficult to review the life and works of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California without the word “nutter” coming to mind. For example:

Since the start of 2013, North America has seen a string of disasters involving oil-laden trains. But at least one federal lawmaker thinks government efforts to address the issue are “a facade” to cut Americans’ fossil fuel use.

The Transportation Department has begun implementing new rules to slow down trains and improve safety methodology in response to the incidents. So on Tuesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) suggested at a House Science Committee hearing that the new rules are “perhaps a facade to obtain what we clearly have as a goal of this administration, which is to reduce America’s use of fossil fuel, even though it is now being presented to us as something about safety.”

Taking into context such as this and his high-profile foreign policy gaffs, the bulk of thinking people need to review his thoughts and comments on global warming with a host of caution.

Rohrabacher has dismissed global warming as a “total fraud” in previous statements, and claimed federal efforts to tackle the problem are aimed at creating “global government to control all of our lives.”

In the foregoing it is beneficial to follow the two links. Here’s the pertinent part of the first:

“Just so you’ll know, global warming is a total fraud and it’s being designed because what you’ve got is you’ve got liberals who get elected at the local level want state government to do the work and let them make the decisions. Then, at the state level, they want the federal government to do it. And at the federal government, they want to create global government to control all of our lives.” [Huffington Post, 8/12/13]

The second only says the same as the first.

The item from the Daily Kos features two additional video clips, starring our own Steve Stockman of the Texas 36th District, and Congressman Larry Bucshon, representing Indiana’s District 8. I’m on the verge of getting overly wordy, so I will leave it to readers to watch the videos and do some healthy homework on these other two congress people.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Review: Hotel San Michele

Barbara Jean booked this reservation for us. She told me it was about the best we could do, given our budget and schedule constraints. It turned out to be an ideal choice.

Barbara booked on-line and paid in advance for four nights at the Hotel San Michele in Cortona. Then at the train station in Rome we phoned ahead to advise the hotel we would be arriving late. The receptionist was most helpful and told us not to worry. They would be available to greet us when we arrived.

Arrival was painless. The taxi driver at the Camucia train station knew the hotel very well, as it turned out to be one of the tops in Cortona.

Considering the building to supposedly be the oldest in Cortona, Cortona supposedly being one of the oldest cities in Italy, we found the essentials to be comfortably modern. The non-essentials were more fitting with the town’s historic past. An armoire and a dresser appeared to be true antiques, though in top condition. Additionally there was a work desk of similar antiquity. We brought along several devices requiring electrical power and immediately noticed all outlets in our room require the fat-prong European style plugs, for which we had adapters. Unfortunately the only outlet in our room not working was the one at the computer desk, meaning we could charge the computer battery, or we could work on the computer at the desk, but not at the same time.

I should not complain about the bed. I am accustomed to a firm mattress, for long periods having slept with nothing but a short-pile carpet on the floor beneath me. Barbara found the mattress too firm, enough to be disagreeable. It definitely did not sag.

My only complaint about the hotel would be the Internet service. It’s free at the hotel, but the signal in our room was practically non-existent. To get decent reception it was necessary to retire to the ground floor lounge area, and even this was out for a time, as the manager seemed to be having trouble with the network equipment.

Breakfast is included in a stay at Hotel San Michele, and it is first rate. Better still, it’s on the first floor (one floor above street level) and in our case was right around the corner from our room.

What’s outstanding? The location of this place and the most friendly and helpful staff. The address at 15 Via Guelfa is just a block from the town center, albeit a very steep block.


The night receptionist at the front desk scheduled a cab for our Sunday morning ride to the train station. Additionally the receptionist operating the morning shift on Sunday had the sad task of informing us the trains were not running that day due to a temporary workers strike. All turned out for the best, given the situation. The same cab that was scheduled to take us to the train station was agreeable, for a nice fare, to taking us to our next destination in Siena.

Final analysis: Yes, we would stay at the Hotel San Michele again if we ever get back to Cortona. Give it a thumbs up.

Rush to Judgement

I get emails from the Democratic National Committee. I guess that’s because I give them money, which just encourages them. When will I ever learn?

Anyhow, I just received this. I’m copying and pasting the mail into this post for your reading pleasure. Please read through and resume reading my post after:

  • John Blanton
1OO,OOO Signatures Needed Today: Demand Companies Pull Rush Limbaugh Ads >>

Since Rush Limbaugh’s disgusting comments on sexual assault came out, your response has been swift and powerful:

64,OOO of you and counting have already called on Limbaugh’s sponsors to pull their ads from his radio show.

But we need to hit 1OO,OOO signatures to put real pressure on those companies to drop Rush once and for all.

John Blanton
Signed to pressure Limbaugh’s sponsors? Not yet.

A rape apologist does not deserve a national platform. Rush’s comments that sometimes “no means yes” are wrong and damaging to our national discourse.

Can you help us get Rush off the air by demanding his sponsors pull their ads??

Click to add your name now:

OK, you should get the idea by now. Rush Limbaugh has done again what Rush is always doing, because that’s what he does for a living. But look what the Democrats want. Rather, look what the Democrats say they want. They want Rush Limbaugh off the air.


They don’t want Rush Limbaugh off the air. I don’t want Rush Limbaugh off the air. My world would just dry up like a taco that’s been left out on the freeway too long and run over by one of those steam roller things, not the new green kind, but the traditional yellow.

No, the Democrats don’t want Rush Limbaugh off the air for the same reason I don’t want Rush Limbaugh off the air. That’s because every time Rush Limbaugh does what he always does and says what he always says, the Democrats can count on another million dollars in contributions.

Don’t believe me? Then look at that big red button from the email that says “SIGN YOUR NAME.” You click that button, and not only will your name be added to the absolutely worthless petition to remove Rush Limbaugh from his gainful employment, but you will also be solicited to contribute additional money to the DNC. Which is why the DNC (as well as I) enjoy having Rush around for as long as he can stay sober. OK, forget about the sober part.

Anyhow, if you have a chance, send email and letters to Rush’s sponsors and tell them how much you like what he’s doing and urge them to keep him on as long he can… As long as he can… Well you know what.

Again, thanks for reading. Now I need to go find my check book.

My Fair Lady


One of the most bitterly fought campaigns in Europe during World War 2 was Operation Market-Garden, a drive under British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery into The Netherlands. The operation involved air drops by the complete American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the British 1st Airborne Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. Airborne troops were to seize bridges along the route, and the British XXX Corps was to drive up the road from the Belgium border and across the final bridge at Arnhem. The operation was a failure in that German forces thwarted the attempt on the Arnhem bridge. XXX Corps was unable to reach Arnhem in time to relieve the British and Polish airborne force there, and those troops were forced to withdraw with approximately 80% casualties (killed, wounded and captured). Fighting in Arnhem went on for days, and the town was devastated.

And Audrey Hepburn was there:

By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballet dancer. She had secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance. “The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performances”, she remarked. She also occasionally acted as a courier for the resistance, delivering messages and packages. After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse and Arnhem was subsequently devastated in the fighting during Operation Market Garden. During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans had blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch already-limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation. People starved and froze to death in the streets; Hepburn and many others resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits. One way young Audrey passed the time was by drawing; some of her childhood artwork can be seen today. When the country was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Hepburn said in an interview that she fell ill from putting too much sugar in her porridge and eating an entire can of condensed milk. Hepburn’s war-time experiences sparked her devotion to UNICEF, an international humanitarian organisation, in her later career.

The irony is that Audrey Hepburn’s father was a British Nazi sympathizer, and her mother divorced him for humping the children’s nanny. Her mother moved the family to Arnhem at the outbreak of war, since she considered that to be a safe bet.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

I always wanted to be a wit. I’m half-way there.

1. I changed my i-Pod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

2. When chemists die, they barium.

3. Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

4. A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray
is now a seasoned veteran.

5. I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says
he can stop any time.

6. How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

7. I stayed up all night to see where the sun went.
Then it dawned on me.

8. This girl said she recognized me from the Vegetarian
Club, but I’d never met herbivore.

9. I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put
it down.

10. I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a
play on words.

11. They told me I had type A blood, but it was a Type-O.

12. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

13. PMS jokes aren’t funny, period.

14. Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.

15. A class trip to the Coca-Cola factory: I hope there’s
no pop quiz.

16. Energizer bunny arrested. Charged with battery.

17. I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

18. How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it!

19. Did you hear about the cross eyed teacher who lost
her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

20. When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

21. What does a clock do when it’s hungry? It goes back
four seconds.

22. I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then
it hit me!

23. Broken pencils are pointless.

24. I tried to catch some fog. I mist.

25. What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive
vocabulary? A thesaurus.

26. England has no kidney bank, but it does have a

27. I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

28. I dropped out of communism class because of lousy

29. All the toilets in New York ‘s police stations have
been stolen. Police have nothing to go on.

30. I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

31. Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

32. Velcro – what a rip off !

33. Cartoonist found dead in home. Details are sketchy.

34. Venison for dinner? Oh deer!

35. Earthquake in Washington obviously the government’s

36. I used to think I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.

37. Be kind to your dentist. He has fillings, too.

38. Never fall in love with a tennis player, because to a
tennis player, love means nothing.

September Tragedy

No recounting of the Second World War would be complete without threading through the tragedy of Operation Market-Garden.


Cornelius Ryan was born in Ireland and was a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph during the war:

He initially covered the air war in Europe, flew along on fourteen bombing missions with the Eighth and Ninth United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), and then joined General George S. Patton‘s Third Army and covered its actions until the end of the European war. He transferred to the Pacific theater in 1945, and then to Jerusalem in 1946.

[Some links deleted]

His earlier major works included The Longest Day, the story of the Normandy invasion, which was published in 1959 and subsequently made into a blockbuster movie. Ryan died in 1974, the year this book was published. I’m just going to review the book. The movie is a good account of the story, and I will touch on some movie highlights during this review.

This is a dreadful story. I read it first over 30 years ago, and I dreaded covering it again. It is a tale of immense human suffering and loss. It is also a tale of possibly the greatest feat of arms in recent history. It was 70 years ago today.

On 17 September 1944 American and British parachute divisions jumped into occupied Holland, and simultaneously British tank forces, waiting at the Dutch-Belgium border pushed northward into German defenses. The battle lasted ten days.

The movie starts out like the book. Using news footage from the war it recapitulates the events that brought the German and the Allied forces to this point. British, American, Canadian advanced into France from the Normandy coast and pushed the occupying Germans north at a dizzying pace, joined quickly by French forces. The German army in France was crushed and retreated north in vast disarray. Then, as forces under British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery advanced north into Belgium, the attack stalled. Our forces had over stretched supply lines that ran all the way back to the beaches in Normandy. With sufficient material resources there was nothing stopping us from advancing on into the heart of Germany.

The movie shows Dutch citizens awakened in the night by a strange sound. They could not go outside until daylight, else the Germans would shoot them. But some did. And some peeked out windows. They saw the Germans retreating. The Allies were coming.

But this was not to be. The Belgian port city of Antwerp had been captured but not the channel that ran to the North Sea. Lack of command decision allowed the Germans to occupy Walcheren Island, now part of the mainland where Middleburg is. Look at this from Google maps. I have added a note on top of the jagged black line that is the Belgian-Dutch border. It would be long weeks before the Germans could be pushed out of there, and until then the Allied supply channel was sucking air.


But Montgomery had a plan, and he easily sold General Dwight Eisenhower on it. Montgomery wanted to push north along a single road through Eindhoven and Nijmegen and across the Rhine at Arnhem in Holland. American, British and Polish paratroops would seize needed bridges along the way. This is delta country, crossed by a multitude of rivers and canals, any one of which would stop a tank advance. And here is where the tragedy began to set in. Allied troops reached the Dutch border about the second of September.

The Dutch, seeing these developments, were sure liberation was at hand. Resistance fighters began to pull out weapons that had been hidden from the Germans for years. People bought out supplies of orange cloth, the Dutch national color. Dutch Nazis started running for cover. Train stations were crowded with Nazis heading for Germany.

The frantic flight of Dutch Nazis and German civilians had been triggered by the Reichskommissar in Holland, the notorious fifty-two-year-old Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and by the ambitious and brutal Dutch Nazi Party leader, Anton Mussert. Nervously watching the fate of the Germans in France and Belgium, Seyss-Inquart on September 1 ordered the evacuation of German civilians to the east of Holland, closer to the Reich border. The fifty-year-old Mussert followed suit, alerting members of his Dutch Nazi Party. Seyss-Inquart and Mussert were themselves among the first to leave: they moved from The Hague east to Apeldoorn, fifteen miles north of Arnhem.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 119-123). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

But the British didn’t come. For two weeks there was no movement. Weapons went back into hiding. People took down orange banners. And waited. The Germans regrouped and built up their forces. Even the military amateur Adolph Hitler saw the obvious and for once took correct action:

HITLER’S CRUCIAL MEASURES were already underway. On September 4 at the Führer’s headquarters deep in the forest of Gör-litz, Rastenburg, East Prussia, sixty-nine-year-old Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt prepared to leave for the western front. He had not expected a new command.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 287-289). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

By ordering Von Rundstedt to replace Field Marshal Model , Hitler was making his third change of command of OB West within two months— from Von Rundstedt to Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge, to Model, and now once again to Von Rundstedt. Model, in the job just eighteen days, would now command only Army Group B under Von Rundstedt, Hitler said. Von Rundstedt had long regarded Model with less than enthusiasm. Model, he felt, had not earned his promotion the hard way; he had been elevated to the rank of field marshal too quickly by Hitler. Von Rundstedt thought him better suited to the job of a “good regimental sergeant major.” Still, the Field Marshal felt that Model’s position made little difference now. The situation was all but hopeless, defeat inevitable. On the afternoon of September 4, as he set out for his headquarters near Koblenz, Von Rundstedt saw nothing to stop the Allies from invading Germany, crossing the Rhine and ending the war in a matter of weeks.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 366-373). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Rundstedt began to get things straightened out. The Dutch saw all of this happening, and resistance agents alerted the Allies. The warnings went unheeded.

From 2 September it took until 10 September for Montgomery’s command to decide on the Market-Garden operation. It was to be in two parts. The Garden part was the land operation. The Market part was an assault by the American 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne. The British would put their 1st Airborne Division on the north side of the Rhine at Arnhem to capture the major bridge across the river. This was to happen a few hours after the the start of the land drive.

Three days in the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade was to drop south of the river and help secure that end of the Arnhem bridge. Action was to commence on Sunday, 17 September. There were seven days available for planning and staging. Immediately there were touches of sanity. Many saw dangers:

  • This was to be a major advance into Germany along a single road for 60 miles. The operation would be vulnerable to flank attacks along the entire length of the road.
  • Roads in Holland were typically elevated above the surrounding terrain. Traffic on the roads would be highly visible targets. Surrounding ground was boggy and would not support heavy vehicles. Advancing vehicles had to stay on the road.
  • The loss of any critical bridge would halt the entire advance. The British troops north of the Rhine at Arnhem would be left stranded.
  • All supplies would have to come up the single road. Shortages were bound to develop.

These caused worry to many experienced officers, enlisted, as well. However, Montgomery’s prestige was such that nobody with the power to act saw fit to make a stand. Nobody wanted to rock the boat. Nobody wanted to be the person who called off a major Montgomery operation. The general who was to command the operation expressed early doubts:

After Eisenhower’s departure, Montgomery outlined the proposed operation on a map for Lieutenant General Browning. The elegant Browning , one of Britain’s pioneer airborne advocates, saw that the paratroopers and glider-borne forces were being called upon to secure a series of crossings— five of them major bridges including the wide rivers of the Maas, the Waal and the Lower Rhine— over a stretch approximately sixty-four miles long between the Dutch border and Arnhem. Additionally, they were charged with holding open the corridor— in most places a single highway running north— over which British armor would drive. All of the bridges had to be seized intact if the armored dash was to succeed . The dangers were obvious, but this was precisely the kind of surprise assault for which the airborne forces had been trained. Still, Browning was uneasy. Pointing to the most northern bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem, he asked, “How long will it take the armor to reach us?” Montgomery replied briskly, “Two days.” Still intent on the map, Browning said, “We can hold it for four.” Then he added, “But sir, I think we might be going a bridge too far.”

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 1113-1121). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The cancer of indecision became embedded in the operation and continued to plague it to the last. Besides ignoring warnings from the Dutch resistance, the Brits ignored their own intelligence. A low-level fighter reconnaissance mission brought back photos of German tanks in the Arnhem area.

Even as Montgomery and Smith conferred, across the Channel startling evidence reached British I Airborne Corps headquarters. Earlier in the day, fighters of the R.A.F.’ s specially equipped photo-reconnaissance squadron returning from The Hague had made a low-level sweep over the Arnhem area. Now, in his office, intelligence officer Major Brian Urquhart took up a magnifying glass and examined five oblique-angle pictures— an “end of the run” strip from one of the fighters. Hundreds of aerial photographs of the Market-Garden area had been taken and evaluated in the previous seventy-two hours, but only these five shots showed what Urquhart had long feared— the unmistakable presence of German armor . “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Urquhart later recalled. “There, in the photos, I could clearly see tanks— if not on the very Arnhem landing and drop zones, then certainly close to them.”

Major Urquhart rushed to General Browning’s office with the photographic confirmation. Browning saw him immediately. Placing the pictures on the desk before Browning , Urquhart said, “Take a look at these.” The General studied them one by one. Although Urquhart no longer remembers the exact wording, to the best of his recollection , Browning said, “I wouldn’t trouble myself about these if I were you.” Then, referring to the tanks in the photos, he continued, “They’re probably not serviceable at any rate.” Urquhart was stunned. Helplessly he pointed out that the armor, “whether serviceable or not, were still tanks and they had guns.” Looking back, Urquhart feels that “perhaps because of information I knew nothing about, General Browning was not prepared to accept my evaluation of the photos. My feeling remained the same— that everyone was so gung-ho to go that nothing could stop them.”

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 1976-1989). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

And that is just about it for the story of the failure of Market-Garden. Almost as a miracle, in the seven days from 10 September to 17 September all resources were gathered, and a huge attack force was put together. It was Sunday, and the weather was perfect. British forces were massed in Belgium along the Dutch border. They were going drive northward into Holland along a single road to Valkenswaard and on to Eindhoven. Here is another Google map.


That looks simple enough. But take a look at the road.


That’s a view of N69 today, 70 years after the British attack. After 70 years of rebuilding war-torn Europe, after 70 yeas of modernization, after 70 years of new highway construction and the addition of super highways that would put the old German Autobahn to shame, this is what that stretch of road looks like today. I am guessing it looked even worse in September 1944.

The movie shows General Brian Harrocks addressing his XXX Corps prior to the attack. Everybody is cheerful. Spirits are high. The weather is just smashing. They are are about to set off for a fine afternoon of invading Holland.

Hundreds of guns are pre-sighted along the advance route, and at the appointed time we see in the movie as the gunners get down to the business of killing Germans. The 155 mm howitzers open up. The British gunners can’t see their targets. It’s all mathematics and gunnery science. The shells fly off into the air, above tree tops and buildings on their way to predetermined points on the ground.

In the movie we see the Germans waiting. They are not on the road. They are concealed in trees long the route. They know for sure the British are coming. Some know for sure they are about to die. And they do. Shells burst among the German positions, and Germans start dying by the dozens. The Germans are brave troops. They don’t run. They hold their positions.

The idea in a situation like this is that the British shells won’t kill all of them. Eventually the British will come down the road, and those still alive will kill the British. And that’s what happens. British tank crew and ground troops who had a few minutes before had been cheering with their commander now die a horrible death as the lead tanks are hit by anti-tank guns, and the column is raked by machine gun fire. British tank guns and field artillery take aim at the now-revealed German survivors, and British troops wade into the trees to kill and flush out the Germans. In the movie the action is over in a few minutes.

In actual practice the British advance is stopped short of its first objective. A day out of the schedule is lost in the first few hours of fighting. Things are already going badly.

Ryan’s book gives a good account of the airborne offensive, said account being extremely well-staged but largely papering over many details in the movie. The combined parachute and glider offensive was costly from all possible sources. Accidents spilled glider troops into the air when their craft split open while being towed. Gliders collided and crashed. Accidents and problems with tow plans caused a number of gliders to be cut loose prematurely. Remarkably the seven-day preparation for the offensive also included a well-organized sea rescue, and hundreds of troops were pulled from the water.

German anti-aircraft had been attacked by fighters prior to the invasion, but the Germans had kept many units carefully concealed and unveiled them only when the airborne assault began. Not shown in either this movie or in the HBO series Band of Brothers is the heroism of the transport pilots. There is a history.

The Normandy invasion just three months before had been the first combat for many of the air crews. They became separated in a fog bank when crossing the coast into France, and German gunfire completely unnerved the pilots. Many jettisoned their airborne troops at too high a speed and too low an altitude. Very few troops landed in their assigned zones. Following this debacle, after the airborne troops were rotated back to England, commanders held a meeting with the survivors of the air crews and the troops. The air crews were advised to face the troops and to appreciate they had let them down in the operation.

In Operation Market-Garden the air crews made up for their past failings. There were instances of pilots continuing on to the assigned drop zone with one and sometimes with two engines on fire (the C-47 has only two engines). Some pilots held off for the correct drop point even knowing they would not be able to escape their doomed planes. At least one plane circled back over the drop zone to get all troops and equipment onto the assigned zone. Three grim stories of mid-20th century warfare stand out in the history of Operation Market-Garden:

  • The fight for control of the Arnhem highway bridge
  • The desperate stand of Major-General Roy Urquhart‘s 1st Airborne in Oosterbeek, west of Arnhem
  • The amphibious crossing of the Waal River and the capture of the bridge at Nijmegen by Major Julian Cook’s men of the 82nd Airborne.

The Arnhem bridge disaster flowed down from the decision on the 1st Airborne’s landing area. The nearest suitable place was eight miles west of the bridge in the region of Oosterbeek. Other areas were unsuitable for parachutist and especially for gliders. Those that were suitable for landing would take the transports over German guns after the drop.

British parachute troops given the choice would have preferred to jump into Arnhem. Higher command threatened to bring charges of homicide if any such operation were carried out. The movie shows General Browning pointing out the Oosterbeek area, “over here on this other map.” General Urquhart registers surprise and dismay.

But not in the book. Ryan has Urquhart suggesting the place. In any event, a few hundred crack troops pushed through German resistance and made it piecemeal to buildings facing the north end of the bridge. Then the Germans cut them off, and they was never any connection between these men and the remainder of the division after the first day. General Urquhart, trying to make contact with the contingent at the bridge got cut off by German forces and had to hide out for over 24 yours, completely out of communication with the rest of the world, and particularly out of communication with his troops.

The movie depicts an incident that reflects the close action in this battle:

Running ahead of Urquhart and Lathbury were two other officers, Captain William Taylor of the Brigade’s headquarters staff and Captain James Cleminson of the 3rd Battalion. One of them called out suddenly but neither Urquhart nor Lathbury understood his words. Before Taylor and Cleminson could head them off, the two senior officers came upon a maze of intersecting streets where, it seemed to Urquhart, “a German machine gun was firing down each one.” As the four men attempted to run past one of these narrow crossings, Lathbury was hit.

Quickly the others dragged him off the street and into a house. There, Urquhart saw that a bullet had entered the Brigadier’s lower back and he appeared to be temporarily paralyzed. “All of us knew,” Urquhart recalls, “that he could travel no farther.” Lathbury urged the General to leave immediately without him. “You’ll only get cut off if you stay, sir,” he told Urquhart. As they talked, Urquhart saw a German soldier appear at the window. He raised his automatic and fired at point-blank range. The bloodied mass of the German’s face disappeared. Now, with the Germans so near, there was no longer any question that Urquhart must leave quickly.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 4341-4349). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The men at the north end of the bridge held out days longer than required and inflicted severe casualties on German attackers. While they were there they prevented German use of the bridge, and forces seeking to reinforce the battle against the 82nd Airborne in Nijmegen had to cross the Rhine using a makeshift ferry upstream of the bridge.

In the end the Germans prevailed in Arnhem and took the survivors prisoner. In sharp contrast to German war atrocities earlier in the war and even in the coming weeks near Bastogne, the German troops who vanquished this small British force greatly admired the courage and fighting ability of the Arnhem contingent.

At one point the German’s advanced under a flag of truce and suggested surrender negotiations. One British officer offered his apologies. They were unable to handle any more prisoners.

General Urquhart’s gallant stand fared only slightly better. He had been required to hold 48 hours before being relieved by the British XXX Corps coming up the road from the south. Relief never came. Polish troops landed south of the river, but only a few were able to cross into Urquhart’s area. The Germans relentlessly compressed the Brits in Oosterbeek while the British drive stalled just a mile or so south of the bridge.

Nine days after jumping north of the Rhine, Urquhart had to withdraw his surviving troops south across the river. Even this was a disaster. The operation was carried out in the best of conditions for such an operation, in the middle of the night and in heavy rain and fog, but still the Germans managed to destroy half the rescue boats in the first crossing. Many troops made it to the south side by swimming the swift Rhine, 400 yards wide at that point.

Urquhart brought about 10,000 men north of the Rhine. Ten days later he had about 2000 back within British lines to the south. The rest were dead, taken prisoner by the Germans or else hiding out in the countryside, many of them aided by the Dutch.

In the movie Major Julian Cook is played by Robert Redford. Possibly nobody else could do the job. Tactical missteps coupled with lack of resources kept the Americans from capturing the impressive highway bridge over the Waal River north of Nijmegen on the first day. After that German defenses had a lock on the north end.

Look at a map. From the outskirts of Nijmegen to the German border to the east is just a short hike. The area was crawling with Germans.

German General Wilhelm Bittrich was in charge of German operations in the battle, and he ordered General Walter Model not to blow up any of the bridges. Bittrich had in mind a future counter attack. Contrary to these orders, the Germans blew up the Son Bridge north of Eindhoven and had wired the Waal bridge for destruction as well. American troops, aware of the fate of the Son bridge, did not dare to attack across the Waal bridge.

An amphibious assault across the river was the only answer. Everybody thought it was crazy, and the improbable thing is that it worked. But at a cost.

The movie shows the assault originally scheduled to begin at night. That did not happen. Boats needed for the crossing were way back down the supply chain, down that narrow road into Belgium. Ryan never mentions a nighttime schedule. Major Cook’s troops were to start across at eight in the morning. Tank guns were to fire smoke shells to shield Cook’s troops during the crossing.

The boats had not arrived by eight. The start time was pushed back to 1 p.m. Then to 3 p.m. Air support was scheduled for 3 p.m. and those planes had already taken off, but the boats had not arrived. As it was, the boats came just in time for the troops to unload them from the trucks, assemble them, and carry them over the levee and down to the water for the 3 p.m. crossing.

The tanks fired smoke shells, temporarily giving Cook’s troops some cover. Then the tanks ran low on smoke shells, and the wind blew the smoke away. Tank and field artillery assisted Cook’s men, and air support was much appreciated.

Even so, the river crossing was Medal of Honor territory from start to finish. There were not enough boats for all of Cook’s men to cross in one wave. The plan was for three waves. The first wave lost about half its boats. Each boat was delivered with only two oars. Men in the boats who were carrying rifles used them as oars. Cook, a devout Catholic was in the lead. He had joked prior to the assault. He would, he said, stand up in the lead boat and strike a George Washington pose. In reality he rowed, and with each stroke he yelled, “Hail Mary” (first stroke), “Full of grace” (second stroke). All the way across the wide river. Amazingly, men began to reach the far side.

Even more amazing, boats that reached the far side unloaded their men and cargo and headed back across to bring more troops and equipment. For those who survived the crossing there was no hesitation. All across the river they had watched as those beside them had been cut down by German bullets or blown apart by artillery shells. Survivors immediately charged the German positions behind the dike north of the river. They were in no mood to take prisoners.

Captain Moffatt Burriss had no time to think about the shrapnel wound in his side. When he landed he was “so happy to be alive that I vomited .” He ran straight for the dike, yelling to his men to get “one machine gun firing on the left flank, another on the right .” They did. Burriss saw several houses back of the dike. Kicking the door of one open, he surprised “several Germans who had been sleeping, apparently unaware of what was happening.” Reaching quickly for a hand grenade, Burriss pulled the pin, threw it into the room and slammed the door.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 6174-6178). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Germans behind the dike were quickly overwhelmed, and Cook’s brigade turned toward the bridge, itself.

Sickened and exhausted by the crossing, their dead and wounded lying on the beach, the men of the first wave subdued the German defenders on the dike road in less than thirty minutes. Not all the enemy positions had been overrun, but now troopers hunched down in former German machine-gun nests to protect the arrival of succeeding waves. Two more craft were lost in the second crossing. And, still under heavy shellfire, exhausted engineers in the eleven remaining craft made five more trips to bring all the Americans across the bloodstained Waal. Speed was all that mattered now. Cook’s men had to grab the northern ends of the crossings before the Germans fully realized what was happening— and before they blew the bridges.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 6184-6189). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

There was also a railway bridge, and it presented a disaster for the German defenders. The Americans got to the north end of the bridge and about that time the British on the south end attacked. The German defenses completely disintegrated, and German soldiers, some discarding their weapons, fled north across the bridge. The Americans were ready, and it was a slaughter.

Caught out in the open in the bridge 250 German troops were killed outright. At the north end of the highway bridge the Americans started searching for hidden demolition charges. On the south end the Brits prepared to send tanks across. Meanwhile General Heinz Harmel prepared to blow the highway bridge. He wanted to wait until it was loaded with British tanks. A tank column started across the bridge.

Standing next to the engineer by the detonator box, Harmel scanned the crossing. At first he could detect no movement. Then suddenly he saw “a single tank reach the center, then a second behind and to its right.” To the engineer he said, “Get ready.” Two more tanks appeared in view, and Harmel waited for the line to reach the exact middle before giving the order . He shouted, “Let it blow!” The engineer jammed the plunger down. Nothing happened. The British tanks continued to advance. Harmel yelled, “Again!” Once more the engineer slammed down the detonator handle, but again the huge explosions that Harmel had expected failed to occur. “I was waiting to see the bridge collapse and the tanks plunge into the river,” he recalled. “Instead, they moved forward relentlessly, getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer.” He yelled to his anxious staff, “My God, they’ll be here in two minutes!”

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 6295-6301). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The bridge was captured. A massive, carefully concealed charge was located. It had been painted to match the bridge girders and had been shaped to fit neatly in place in the bridge structure. Nobody has ever determined why the attempt to detonate it failed. It is suspected a Dutch saboteur was the hero:

Many Dutch believe that the main crossing was saved by a young underground worker, Jan van Hoof, who had been sent into Nijmegen on the nineteenth by the 82nd’s Dutch liaison officer, Captain Arie Bestebreurtje, as a guide to the paratroopers. Van Hoof is thought to have succeeded in penetrating the German lines and to have reached the bridge, where he cut cables leading to the explosives. He may well have done so. In 1949 a Dutch commission investigating the story was satisfied that Van Hoof had cut some lines, but could not confirm that these alone actually saved the bridge. The charges and transmission lines were on the Lent side of the Waal and Van Hoof’s detractors maintain that it would have been impossible for him to have reached them without being detected. The controversy still rages. Although the evidence is against him, personally I would like to believe that the young Dutchman, who was shot by the Germans for his role in the underground during the battle, was indeed responsible.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 6401-6407). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

With the capture of the bridge came tragedy and additional controversy. After British tanks rolled across to the north side of the Waal, the column halted. They could go no further. The road ahead to Arnhem was several feet above the surrounding ground, completely exposed and unshielded by any cover. Infantry would be required to support the tanks on this drive, but no troops could be spared. All were either too far back in the column or else were committed to defending assets already captured.

With Germans in control of the surrounding countryside there was no way tanks could make it the remaining ten miles to the bridge at Arnhem and the British troops there. The sluggishness of the ground forces is considered to be a major scandal of this operation. We had just witnessed General George Patton’s dash across France in the preceding month, and we expected to see the same kind of aggressiveness from the XXX Corps. This was not the way this unit operated in Operation Market-Garden, and at their feet is laid a large part of the blame for the operation’s failure. In the end this section of the Highway to Hell was not captured until after General Urquhart’s survivors had been evacuated to south of the river.

Support for the evacuation came not from the Arnhem road, but from a thrust to the west, north of Nijmegen through the village of Oosterhout and then north to the river at Driel. Initial contact between Garden (ground) forces and Urquhart’s division was accomplished by the expedient of some brave officers and men heading out through German territory east of the Arnhem road and barreling through before the Germans could react.

From the book

From the book

Bitterness among Urquhart’s survivors was intense. Many shaved for the first time since jumping in to make a good face when they confronted the XXX Corps after the breakout.

Perhaps because so few were expected to escape, there was not enough transport for the exhausted survivors. Many men, having endured so much else, now had to march back to Nijmegen. On the road Captain Roland Langton of the Irish Guards stood in the cold rain watching the 1st Airborne come back. As tired, filthy men stumbled along, Langton stepped back. He knew his squadron had done its best to drive up the elevated highway from Nijmegen to Arnhem, yet he felt uneasy, “almost embarrassed to speak to them.” As one of the men drew abreast of another Guardsman standing silently beside the road, the trooper shouted, “Where the hell have you been, mate?” The Guardsman answered quietly, “We’ve been fighting for five months.” Corporal William Chennell of the Guards heard one of the airborne men say, “Oh? Did you have a nice drive up?”

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 8090-8096). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

General Urquhart refused to meet with General Thomas of the XXX Corps:

On the road to Driel, General Urquhart came to General Thomas’ headquarters. Refusing to go in, he waited outside in the rain as his aide arranged for transportation. It was not necessary. As Urquhart stood outside, a jeep arrived from General Browning’s headquarters and an officer escorted Urquhart back to Corps. He and his group were taken to a house on the southern outskirts of Nijmegen. “Browning’s aide , Major Harry Cator, showed us into a room and suggested we take off our wet clothes,” Urquhart says. The proud Scot refused. “Perversely, I wanted Browning to see us as we were— as we had been.” After a long wait Browning appeared, “as immaculate as ever.” He looked, Urquhart thought, as if “he had just come off parade, rather than from his bed in the middle of a battle.” To the Corps commander Urquhart said simply, “I’m sorry things did not turn out as well as I had hoped.” Browning, offering Urquhart a drink, replied, “You did all you could.” Later, in the bedroom that he had been given, Urquhart found that the sleep he had yearned for so long was impossible. “There were too many things,” he said, “on my mind and my conscience.”

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 8073-8082). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The numbers tell of the disaster that this campaign was.

  • Total Allied casualties, dead, wounded, missing: more than 17,000
  • British: 13,226
  • Urquhart’s force, including the Polish brigade: 7,578
  • RAF: 294
  • American: 3974
  • 82nd Airborne: 1432
  • 101st Airborne: 2118
  • American air crew: 424
  • Germans at Oosterbeek: 3300, including 1300 dead
  • General Model’s troops: 7500 to 10,000, including about 1/4 mortality

Dutch civilian deaths were comparatively light considering a lot of the combat was fought in built up areas, and many civilians remained in place to provide intelligence and material support to the Allies in addition to tending to Allied and also to German wounded. The movie and the book end on the same note. The Germans were furious at Dutch complicity in the Allied effort, and in reprisal they ordered Arnhem completely evacuated. The city was not reoccupied by the Dutch until Allied forces moved in on 15 April 1945.

The movie ends with a scene of Dutch civilians, including children, trudging across the countryside, along an elevated road against a red sky. The operation left American Airborne troops in charge of protecting the road from Nijmegen up almost to Arnhem. This section was called The Island due to its elevation above the surrounding ground.

The HBO series Band of Brothers includes the actions of Easy Company of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment during this part of the operation. I’m reviewing that video in addition to the book by Stephen E. Ambrose, on which it is based. This episode of Band of Brothers includes the rescue of over 100 of the British 1st Airborne troops who eluded German capture and hid out north of the Rhine until late October.

During the battle Dutch railway workers staged a strike to hamper German operations. In reprisal, the kind of thing that continued to be the Germans’ undoing right up to the very end, the Germans cut off food shipments to Holland, and more than 15,000 Dutch civilians starved to death before German forces in western Holland capitulated in the final days of the European war. What some may not be aware of are some people we all know who were there:

Because Market-Garden was considered an all-British operation, few American correspondents were accredited to cover the attack. None was at Arnhem. One of the Americans attached to the 101st was a United Press reporter named Walter Cronkite, who landed by glider. Cronkite recalls that “I thought the wheels of the glider were for landing. Imagine my surprise when we skidded along the ground and the wheels came up through the floor. I got another shock. Our helmets, which we all swore were hooted, came flying off on impact and seemed more dangerous than the incoming shells. After landing I grabbed the first helmet I saw, my trusty musette bag with the Olivetti typewriter inside and began crawling toward the canal which was the rendezvous point. When I looked back, I found a half dozen guys crawling after me. It seems that I had grabbed the wrong helmet. The one I wore had two neat stripes down the back indicating that I was a lieutenant.”

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 2800-2807). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Actress Audrey Hepburn was a girl of just 15 living in Arnhem at the time of the battle. She was active in the Dutch resistance.

By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballet dancer. She had secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance. “The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performances”, she remarked. She also occasionally acted as a courier for the resistance, delivering messages and packages. After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse and Arnhem was subsequently devastated in the fighting during Operation Market Garden. During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans had blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch already-limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation. People starved and froze to death in the streets; Hepburn and many others resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits. One way young Audrey passed the time was by drawing; some of her childhood artwork can be seen today. When the country was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Hepburn said in an interview that she fell ill from putting too much sugar in her porridge and eating an entire can of condensed milk. Hepburn’s war-time experiences sparked her devotion to UNICEF, an international humanitarian organisation, in her later career.

As mentioned, this was Ryan’s last major work published before his death, and it’s an astounding monument to writing research. The story concludes with a one-page section:

“In my— prejudiced —view, if the operation had been properly backed from its inception, and given the aircraft, ground forces, and administrative resources necessary for the job— it would have succeeded in spite of my mistakes , or the adverse weather, or the presence of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps in the Arnhem area. I remain MARKET-GARDEN’S unrepentant advocate.” —FIELD MARSHAL SIR BERNARD MONTGOMERY, Memoirs: Montgomery of Alamein, p. 267

“My country can never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success.” —BERNHARD, THE PRINCE OF THE NETHERLANDS, to the author.

Ryan, Cornelius (2010-02-09). A Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Kindle Locations 8159-8164). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

And that’s 76% into the book. The remainder includes 10% of the book devoted to telling of the survivors, presumably ones interviewed by Ryan. The remainder comprises acknowledgements and a comprehensive index.

I have the same trouble with my Kindle copy that I have with a lot of Kindle books that have been restored from print. At the time this book came out in 1974 little if any composition was being done on computer. Only printed copies remain for these books to be converted to the electronic. This operation seems to be primarily performed by OCR, optical character recognition. This process works well when it works, but sometimes human guidance is required and lacking.

For example, words in the book that are hyphened over a line break still retain their break and their hyphen, even though the Kindle reader places the sentence breaks at other points and typically does not break words using hyphens. I read through these difficulties and resist the urge to get a Kindle editor and rework the text.

Besides Robert Redford as Major Cook, the movie has Sean Connery as General Urquhart and many other film industry notables you should know. Gene Hackman is Polish Major General Stanisław Sosabowski. Anthony Hopkins is Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, whose men held out for so long at the Arnhem bridge. Read the book. See the movie regardless whether you have time to read the book. This important piece of military action does not get a lot of attention in the 21st century. Quite frankly, when it turned out to be such a flop and such an embarrassment to Britain’s favorite field marshal, the American and British press found other things to write about.

Band of Brothers – Replacements

Easy Company in Nuenen (from YouTube)

Easy Company in Nuenen (from YouTube)

I set this up to be posted automatically by Word Press today. I’m on the move right now and looking for a place to stay for the night. As soon as I get settled I will post a link on Facebook.


This is episode four of the HBO production Band of Brothers. It’s based on the book of the same name by Stephen E. Ambrose. Stephen Ambrose was a historical writer, having previously written about Eisenhower the general and Eisenhower the president and about President Nixon. He was most notable for his works on the American Civil War.

The TV series is not the book. The video is a dramatization of the service of Easy (for E) Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and it follows this band of soldiers from their time of training at Camp Toccoa in Georgia to the end of World War Two. Video production faces obstacles not encountered in historical writing. Particularly, there is neither the time nor the production resources to show all that was important. Additionally, for viewer interest alone, the producers insert drama that never actually happened. Such is the case with this episode.

This episode is titled Replacements, which is not even close to descriptive of the action. This installment covers Easy Company’s complete involvement in Operation Market-Garden, which got under way on 17 September 1944, 70 years ago today. Market-Garden was British Field Marshal Montgomery’s scheme for thrusting through Holland and into Germany, a plan that would hopefully lead to a drive through northern Germany to Berlin, taking German resistance from the rear and bringing combat in Europe to a quick conclusion.

The Market-Garden plan was for paratroops to seize critical water crossings in Holland and for British ground forces to advance over these bridges, culminating in a crossing of the Lower Rhine at the town of Arnhem in Holland. The task of the 101st Airborne Division was to capture and hold bridges and land routes in the southern end of the drive, north of Eindhoven to Veghel. They were assigned to capture the bridge at Son over the Wilhelmina Canal. Not a lot of this is brought out in the video.

Episode four kicks off with the men of Easy Company back in England. They had jumped into Normandy in the early hours of 6 June 1944, were pulled off the line on 29 June and made it back to England the night of 12 July. They had left England with 139 officers and men. They got back to England with 74. The remainder were dead, missing/captured or invalided back to England.

In England a principal duty was to get back up to company strength. This is where the replacements came in.

The episode starts with interviews with men from Easy Company. Those who joined up after the first action recall being in awe of the combat veterans. These were supermen to them. They were old beyond their age. They were tough. And they were cruel. Men of the original Toccoa bunch who were interviewed recalled the shunning of these new men. They knew these green troops, without combat experience and lacking the rough training the veterans had gone through would not be likely to survive their first combat.

The opening scene is in a pub where newbie’s are insulted and bullied by the old-timers. The program producers cast these fresh troops as less worldly, less tough. In the opening scenes they are almost apologetic at joining such a fabled corps. The pub scene breaks up when the newly promoted company sergeant is introduced. It is Carwood Lipton, who showed exceptional initiative and ability in the first day’s fighting. Now he has bad news. They were leaving England and jumping into Holland. What nobody knew at the time was that Easy Company would never return to England.

The 101st Airborne parachute assault is one of the most spectacular scenes depicted in the series. Fleets of transports fly over the peaceful Dutch countryside under a canopy of high, white clouds, and the sky fills with brown parachutes. Men and equipment land in open fields, gather their equipment, regroup and head off to their assigned objectives.

Only it’s not even like that in the book.

In reality there had been considerable fighting in advance of the drop. Allied bombers had plastered German positions and suspected German positions, demolishing large amounts of the Dutch infrastructure and killing many civilians as well as German troops. The actual drop was not all that pleasant, either.

Disaster, both accidental and by design, beset the flights. Richard Winters, the Easy Company commanding officer recalled hearing a terrible commotion above the drop zone and looking up to see two gliders colliding and crashing to earth. Death stalked the troops all the way from England. Some never made it to the English coast. Glider mishaps dumped more than one load of troops into the sky, without parachutes. Rescue fleets in the North Sea worked constantly plucking downed crew and soldiers from the water. German fire and random accidents did for many others. The video skips all of this.

HBO shows Easy Company arriving in Eindhoven the first day. Actually there was much adventure and a night in the field before Easy Company reached Eindhoven. For one thing, the Germans blew up the Wilhelmina Canal bridge when Winters and Lieutenant Lewis Nixon were just yards from reaching it. Falling debris almost accomplished what the Germans had failed to in Normandy.

When the lead American elements were 25 meters or less from the bridge, it blew in their faces. There was a hail of debris of wood and stone. Winters, with Nixon beside him, hit the ground, big pieces of timber and large rocks raining down around him. Winters thought to himself, What a hell of a way to die in combat!

Ambrose, Stephen E. (2001-10-26). Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (p. 187). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The movie A Bridge Too Far, about the operation, bills this as one of its spectacular action scenes. Then, Joseph E. Levine spent $22 million of his own money to produce the film in 1976, so there was some small change available to blow up a bridge.

The Dutch were ready for the invasion. Not elaborated in the video, the Dutch resistance had been prepping for the invasion for days. Time and again they pulled out hidden weapons and got ready to go after the German occupiers, only to put their guns back into hiding when no Allied troops appeared the first two weeks in September.

On the second day Easy Company arrived in Eindhoven amid cheering crowds. In the video everybody is waving orange flags (Dutch national color), and men are given food, drink. And from the women much more. Some of the troops are stunned at the sexual advances imposed on them in the crowed street, but presently members of the resistance appear, this time with their weapons, and they drag off a selected few of the women. They strip off the women’s clothing and shave their heads, painting swastikas on their heads. A resistance fighter explains to Winters “They slept with the Germans.” Men collaborators, we are told, are being shot.

The Brits and their tanks show up, and Easy Company heads for Nuenen, which Harvard-educated Private David Kenyon Webster points out as the birthplace of Vincent van Gogh.

It’s at Nuenen that Easy Company meets disaster. Approaching the town, Lieutenant Bob Brewer is in the lead. A German sniper shoots Brewer through the throat and hell breaks loose. It’s some of the most intense battle footage in the series.

The firing is close and intense. Men of Easy Company attempt to point out a German Tiger tank to an approaching British tank commander, but he won’t take the advice. He advances until his tank is in full view of the Tiger and gets blasted. This is an event that closely parallels history. The Brits held fire to avoid unnecessary collateral damage (Holland is a friendly country), and several British tanks got knocked out their crews killed, before they could pull back.

The Americans and the Brits retreated from the scene, and the video shows Sergeant Bill (Bull) Randleman being wounded by fragments from an exploding shell and left behind.

Here the HBO produces get really creative. Randleman is given an extended dramatic sequence, wherein he eludes the advancing Germans and hides in a barn at night, nursing his wounded shoulder. The farmer and his good-looking daughter enter the barn, and the farmer treats Randleman’s wound, while the girl watches in fascination. Then Germans enter the barn to inspect it, and Randleman hides the two civilians, waiting for the Germans to leave. All the Germans leave but one, who remains behind to take a piss.

A sound catches the German’s attention and he goes looking for the source. The noise of aircraft flying gives Randleman his opportunity, and he attacks the German with his bayonet. The German’s gun jams, and Randleman stabes him to death while the farmer and his pretty daughter look on. Randleman sends the two away and hides out in the barn until Allied troops return.

Only none of this is in the book:

Randleman, who had been in the van, got hit in the shoulder and cut off from his squad. He ducked into a barn. A German soldier came running in behind him. Randleman bayoneted the man, killed him, and covered his body with hay. Then he covered himself up with hay and hid out.

Ambrose, Stephen E. (2001-10-26). Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (p. 194). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Those of you following the story in Ambrose’s book will note this is the second time Randleman killed an enemy at close quarters. His first action after hitting the ground in France in June was to fix his bayonet. His second action was to kill a German soldier in a bayonet duel.

In reality Easy Company was cut off from the rest of the regiment for a while until the Germans could be pushed back. The fourth episode concludes with the Americans holding their position and receiving word that the advance north to Arnhem has been unsuccessful. Winters observes, “I guess we’ll have to find another way into Germany.”

This was not the end of Easy Company’s tour in Holland. They were to stay through October. With Market-Garden the Allies had pushed a pencil-thin column deep into German-held territory, and they spent the following months holding it. In the weeks to come Easy Company would further distinguish itself in some spectacular encounters with German counter attacks.

Cornelius Ryan wrote A Bridge Too Far, about the Market-Garden Operation. I have reviewed that, as well, that review is also being posted today. See, also, the review of the movie.


From PZ Myers' blog post

From PZ Myers’ blog post

I need to revisit PZ Myers more often. His blog has to be just about the best commentary on creationism and other wacko. Here’s a recent post:

JBS Haldane is said to have responded to a question about how evolution could be disproved by saying, “A Precambrian rabbit”. What was meant by this, of course, is any substantial discovery that greatly disrupted the evidence for the chronological pattern of descent observed in Earth’s life. That pattern of descent is one of the central lines of evidence for evolution, so creationists would dearly love to find something that wrecked it — this is why they send expeditions to Africa to find a living dinosaur, Mok’ele-mbembe, or more conveniently, to Canada in search of a plesiosaur, Manipogo.

The Discovery Institute has it easy. They don’t mount expeditions, they just sit around, read scientific papers, and misinterpret them. Their latest abuse is to claim to have discovered the equivalent of a Precambrian rabbit.

A vertebrate swimming fish with camera eyes, blood vessels, digestive system, muscular swimming, and gills in the Lower Cambrian: for Darwinists, it should hardly be more surprising to find than a Precambrian rabbit.

Here’s what PZ was referring to:

All these traits show that Metaspriggina was not a primitive chordate intermediate to lampreys or other extinct Cambrian swimmers, but was in fact more “derived” in some respects than some of the alleged descendants. The Editor’s Summary agrees, stating clearly that vertebrate fish are now unquestionably part of the early Cambrian:

The Cambrian Burgess Shale of Canada has produced some of the most intriguing and spectacular fossils of early animal life, although fossil vertebrates have been rare to non-existent. New exposures close to the classic locality have remedied that deficiency with many spectacular fossils of the hitherto enigmatic fossilMetaspriggina, revealed in this study — by Simon Conway Morris and Jean-Bernard Caron — as one of the earliest known and most primitive fishes, basal to extant vertebrates whether jawed or jawless. The structure of the gills of Metasprigginaare revelatory, showing a simple structure that presages that of the jawed vertebrates in many ways, suggesting that the branchial basket seen in modernjawless vertebrates such as lampreys is a highly derived structure.

The creationists—yes, the people at Discovery Institute are certifiably creationists—like to highlight anything they think will cast doubt on modern biological science. They see modern biology—plus a lot of modern science—as a competitor to the failed belief that a supernatural being is responsible for the universe, including all life plus a lot of what goes on in our daily lives. They are correct in that supposition, facts are an enemy of superstitious belief. They are wrong in their supposition that their arguments have any validity.

Readers are invited to visit PZ Myers’ post for details. It pays to read the complete story. The Discovery Institute post is on their blog Evolution News, which I also troll from time to time when I need something unfresh to post on.

Catholic High School Girls in Trouble

Somebody sent me this:


There’s a lot more to it, and that’s what this post is all about.

You may not know it, but Christians in the United States under attack. Apparently people in positions of power do not like Christians, and there are movements, overt and covert, to suppress the Christian religion. For example, in the United States Senate 14 members are not Christians. Besides seven Jews and one Buddhist, there are three professing no religious affiliation at all. That’s out of 50 senators. Furthermore, some of these “Christians” are Mormons or Lutherans. The House of Representatives has 435 members of whom seven have declare no religious affiliation. Add to that the 22 Jews in the House plus two Buddhists, a Hindu and (gasp) two Muslims, and you can see that survival of Christianity in this land is going to be an uphill battle.

How dire is the situation for Christians in America? It’s not looking too good. Take the following, cited in the unseen part of the ad above:

The recent event involving Chick-Fil-A is just one example of the rising hatred, discrimination, persecution, and silencing of all Bible-believing Christians, churches, businesses, and employees if same-sex marriage becomes federal law. Many ask, “How will it affect anyone else if same-sex marriage is allowed?” If same-sex marriage becomes law, then there will be no legal barriers to prevent all institutions from forcing Bible-believing Christians to suppress their deeply-held religious beliefs.

Yes, people, Christians are facing hatred, discrimination and outright persecution. Bible-believing Christians (the only kind) will be silenced. Silenced! Do you get that? Here’s what’s going to happen if same-sex marriage is allowed:

  • All Bibles will be confiscated and burned.
  • People wearing crucifixes in public will be arrested and thrown in jail.
  • School children will be forced to pledge allegiance to Lucifer.
  • Federal judges will order locks placed on church doors, and armed troops will be posted to keep people from entering.
  • Nobody will be allowed to vote unless he agrees to forsake his Christian beliefs, and Christians will be forbidden from holding public office.

No, wait. That’s next years list. Here’s what’s going to happen this year:

  • Employers are not going to be allowed to hire and fire, promote and demote, make job assignments based on the religion of the employee. Except that religious organizations will be allowed to exercise religious discrimination. The Catholic church will not be required to hire a priest who is not a Catholic.
  • If your religion holds that homosexuals are sinful, you will not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals for that reason.
  • If you religion holds that the Earth is flat, you cannot refuse to hire an airplane pilot who thinks the Earth is round—for religious reasons.
  • If your religion holds that black people are subhuman, you will not be allowed to refuse employment to black people for religious reasons, neither, if you operate a business open to the public, will you be allowed to refuse service to black customers for religious reasons.

Bum-mer! What’s a Christian to do these days?

Of course, our hearts go out to persecuted Christians all over this great country of ours. In our busy lives it’s possible we have ignored this travesty right under our noses.

The ad was “Paid for by World Overcomers Overreach Ministries Church and Apostle Alton R. Williams.” There’s much more, and I will just show a few highlights:

    SHARING THE GOSPEL. Google: “Justice Denied to Philadelphia 11 –
    Repent America” Also YouTube: “Speechless: Silencing the Christians, Part 5”
    QUESTION. Google: “Betty Sabatino/Search Lubbock, TX”
    BELIEFS. Google: Chick-fil-A Protests Reach College Campuses In Conservative States

I have saved a copy of the ad for your viewing pleasure. Read it all here in PDF.

Apostle Alton R. Williams has asked readers to Google certain links for details. That seems to be a good way toward a little deeper analysis, so I started with the first and Googled “eleven christians arrested,” etc. Here’s what I got:

Appeals court rules against/for Christians arrested at “OutFest 2004” 07/17/08

PHILADELPHIA – Despite being vindicated of all wrongdoing in criminal court, the Philadelphia 11 lost their federal lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia when an appeals court ruled that their rights were not violated when they were arrested and jailed for attempting to witness and preach the Gospel at a homosexual event in 2004. The suit was filed on behalf of eleven Christians, who became known as the Philadelphia 11, who were cleared of “hate crime” and other felony and misdemeanor charges following their arrests at the City’s annual tax-payer funded homosexual event called “OutFest”.

So, what’s this all about? Google is still alive and well, so I Googled Christians arrested at “OutFest 2004 and got this:

Comments:  Allowing for the fact that this is a partisan call to action and not an objective account, it is broadly accurate.

Eleven members of the evangelical Christian group Repent America were arrested on October 10, 2004 during a confrontation with homosexual activists at Outfest, a gay pride block party held in Philadelphia. They were charged with misdemeanor counts of failure to disperse, obstruction of highway and disorderly conduct, as well as three felonies carrying a combined maximum penalty of 47 years: criminal conspiracy, inciting to riot and ethnic intimidation (a hate crime under Pennsylvania law). Charges against several of the protesters were later dropped.

Differing versions of events

Beyond those basic facts, however, there is a marked difference between the version of events offered up by Repent America and its supporters and that provided by the Philadelphia police. Whereas the text above describes the evangelical protesters as peaceably preaching the gospel and passing out fliers when police arrested them, city officials say the group was actually attempting to disrupt a stage performance by shouting anti-homosexual slogans and Bible passages through a bullhorn, which led to a raucous confrontation with the event’s voluntary security force, the “Pink Angels.” As an angry crowd surrounded them, the protesters repeatedly disobeyed a police order to relocate, at which point they were placed under arrest.

Pending a full airing of the evidence from both sides in court, it is difficult to say whose First Amendment rights — if anyone’s — were actually violated in the fracas.

I guess this confirms it. Christians have definitely lost their God given right to bust up celebrations that insult their deeply held prejudices.

That search seems to have turned out fruitful, so I again followed Apostle Alton R. Williams’ advice and Googled “Betty Sabatino/Search Lubbock, TX.” An extra layer down I got this:

DALLAS (AP) – A former bank vice president sued Chase Bank of Texas on Friday, claiming she was fired for believing homosexuality is wrong.

At a 1996 training session for Texas Commerce Bank, which Chase took over in January, Betty Sabatino questioned a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, one of her lawyers said.

“She expressed that she had some religious concerns about it,” said Kelly Shackelford of The Liberty Legal Institute. “There was some discussion, and she thought that was the end of it.”

But later, Ms. Sabatino’s supervisor at the bank in San Antonio said she was unprofessional for objecting to the policy, and a bank corporate officials called to suggest that she undergo counseling, Shackelford said.

A month later, Shackelford said, Ms. Sabatino was fired for what the bank called a “lack of confidence in her.”

And that’s about as far as I got. This was nearly 18 years ago, and when the law suit descended everybody clammed up. I was not able to determine whether Betty Sabatino eventually won her suit. What is not clear is whether this is a Christian issue. The woman said she expressed disdain for homosexuality for religious reasons, but the question not answered is whether this is a Christian issue or a Jewish issue or a Muslim issue. All three of these belief systems have been used to justify prejudice against homosexuals or at least the homosexual lifestyle.

I next Googled “Chick-fil-A Protests Reach College Campuses In Conservative States.” This is from the Huffington Post:

College students around the country do not want their waffle fries served on campus from a company they perceive as being against LGBT rights.

At least 30 colleges and universities have had students start petitions to remove the fast food chain Chick-fil-A from their campus, and many of the protests are popping up in states considered to be relatively conservative.

There are more than 500 signatures on a petition to close the Chick-fil-A at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C. — a state which recently voted to amend its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. Students and faculty members at the University of Southern Mississippi are collecting signatures to have the Chick-fil-A on their campus removed.

Yeah. I think I covered this before:

When you have a business, when you have a product, you want a public face, a brand. Brand identification gives your product, your service, your business an association in the public mind. You want customers and potential customers to think of a need and to associate your brand with it. Well established, your brand becomes a valuable piece of property.

“Fronting the brand” comes about when you use your brand to front a personal advocacy. You are putting your brand out front, not to represent your product, but to represent your advocacy. It’s double-edged.

On the front side your brand gives your advocacy additional sway, a momentum your advocacy would not have on its own. The other edge is that fronting the brand can cut backwards. Here are some examples:

Chick-fil-A is a privately held corporation founded by S. Truett Cathy in 1946. The current CEO is Dan Cathy. The Cathy family hold sincere Souther Baptist beliefs, and the restaurants are traditionally closed on Sundays and also on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Beyond closing on Sunday, which founder Truett Cathy attributes as much to practicality as to religious inclinations. There has been more, however.

The lesson to be taken away from the Chick-fil-A story is that this is a company that does business with the public. Apparently this is not a publicly-held company, else a bunch of stock holders would be asking, “Mr. Cathy, why are you playing fast and loose with the money we invested in your company?” If Dan Cathy wants to use his market share in the fast food sector to express his personal beliefs, then he is liable only to himself (and his family) for loss of business. People, when you stand up and tell a segment of your market that you don’t like them, then you need to be willing to take a hit in the pocket.

In conclusion, yes, Christianity in America is under attack. Christianity is losing market share because a small segment of the industry (Christianity) is telling people that what was written by desert tribes 2000 years ago is more important than good personal relationships today. In place of the term “good personal relationships” you can also substitute the term “good citizenship.” The Christians so loudly complaining of supposed persecution are foregoing good citizenship for the sake of a flawed ideology. They need to figure out soon whether they want to be a part of modern society.

Bad Movie of the Week

This is a Charles Laughton film. If I may slip momentarily into the vernacular, the plot is for shit. Charles Laughton makes this a movie.


This film came out before I was born, and this is the first time I’ve seen it. However, I did not need anybody to tell me the plot. From the title, Ruggles of Red Gap, you know there is going to be a proper English butler transported to the American wild west. The culture clash is going to provide the plot interest. It’s from Paramount, released in 1935.

The first scene opens in Paris in 1908. English lord Earl of Bumstead (Roland Young) is having a bad morning. He was out drinking and gambling the night before, and his butler, Bill Ruggles (Charles Laughton) is there to remind him it’s a new day and also to prepare him for the day. The earl has some bad news. While gambling with an American the previous night he lost heavily, and one of the stakes was Ruggles, himself.

Ruggles learns he's been traded

Ruggles learns he’s been traded

Here is a minor point in the plot. I never realized butlers were like baseball players, to be shifted from team to team (manor to manor). Anyhow, this detail just slides on by.

Ruggles’ new owner is American buffoon Egbert Floud, interestingly played by Charlie Ruggles. In a fit of plot justification viewers get a preview of what’s to come even before the action leaves Paris. Ruggles and Egbert go out on the town and begin to make comedy, said comedy consisting of grown men acting foolishly. Plot development warning: We get to see a new side of Ruggles as he gets drunk with Egbert and Egbert’s American buddy. Few but Laughton could pull this off. Anybody else would have fumbled the role at this point and foolishness is the only thing that would have come across.

The action moves to Red Gap in Washington state, but not before Ruggles, riding on the train, begins to become impressed with the openness of America and its spirit of individual freedom. Once in Red Gap Ruggles discovers his individuality, and ends up a hero of the Red Gap citizenry. I’m not going to force the remainder of the plot on you. I have the DVD, which you may borrow.

Unreliable Sources


Back many years ago when I lived in Dallas I made a big do about creationism. There was a prominent young-Earth creationist organization there, and I attended their meetings and reported on the goings on. The group was run by a local preacher man, who was a self-styled scientist but had no academic credentials in any kind of science. I got to know Don and a number of his followers, and even though I regularly disputed the truth of what he was preaching, we remained outwardly on good terms.

About ten years ago I received a phone call from a person I did not know, and what he had to tell me was some scandal about Don. This person said he could not go public himself but that I should get the word out, because the world needed to know. I listened to what the man told me and promised to look into the matter. It was an empty promise. I had no intention of using the information.

What I was told had no bearing on my area of interest, which is creationism and not the person in question. I never used any of the information I obtained anonymously over the phone, and I never repeated it to anybody else. It’s not the thing you do.

Besides that, there were a number of outcomes if I had used the information:

  • It was a set-up. The information was false, I would use it, and my source would later repudiate it.
  • The information was false, and I was just listening to somebody with a score to settle.
  • The information was true. It made no difference. It was not the kind of information I was interested in.

Considering the first possibility I figured I was avoiding a trap by ignoring this unreliable source. I figured I had just been introduced into the world of the set-up. It’s used, sometimes successfully, in politics. Somebody works to discredit an opponent by tricking them into making a false move.

I was intrigued again with some mechanizations applied against a now defunct organization Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) by conservative activist James O’Keefe. Put into operation in 2009, the scheme went along these lines:

In the Baltimore office, the released video lets viewers hear O’Keefe saying that he and Giles were bringing up thirteen girls from El Salvador “like 15” years of age to live in their house and work as prostitutes “just to get them on their feet so they can do this type of thing”. Giles remarks, “they are kind of dependent”. Although the Baltimore ACORN staffer pointed out their plans were illegal, after O’Keefe says, “we are going to be putting a roof over [their] head,” the ACORN employee states, “well then you know what you can always claim them as dependents”. Later, the employee says, “you are gonna use three of them they are gonna be under 16 so you is eligible to get child tax credit and additional child tax credit”. When O’Keefe asks, “what if they are going to be making money because they are performing tricks too?” the employee replies, “but if they making money and they are underage, then you shouldn’t be letting anybody know anyway.” The Baltimore employees were fired by ACORN after the video was released.

[Some links deleted]

In this case the tactic worked. Obviously in the foregoing case the ACORN employee acted inappropriately by effectively condoning and even abetting criminal activity. O’Keefe conducted similar set-up operations (stings) involving ACORN offices in Washington, Brooklyn, San Bernardino and San Diego, all of which produced usable results for O’Keefe’s operation. O’Keefe enriched his case by selectively editing the video clips before he made them public. Additionally, then journalism student Hannah Giles dressed as a prostitute.

I wasn’t sure what was meant by “dressed as a prostitute,” so I pulled up a clip from CNN that replayed one of O’Keefe’s videos. Hannah Giles’ charms are obvious to all.



O’Keefe even went one better. In his final releases he showed himself dressed in a classic 1970s pimp garb, but not in the offices he visited, where he wore a business suit.

Even though government investigations found no illegal activity on the part of ACORN or its employees, there was immediate reaction from conservative media and politicians. Federal ties to the organization were cut, and ACORN’s government funding was not withheld. The organization closed down in 2010.

Despite conservative indignation over the apparent abetting of criminal activity, what really concerned conservatives was the core activity of ACORN:

ACORN’s accomplishments included successful campaigns for better housing, schools, neighborhood safety, health care, job conditions, and more.  ACORN members would participate in local meetings and actively work on campaigns, elect leadership from the neighborhood level up, and pay the organization’s core expenses through membership dues and grassroots fundraisers.

Conservative media reaction was predictable:

The right-wing media complained about alleged media bias throughout the weeks as the ACORN video controversy developed. For instance, on September 15, Joshua Rhett Miller of Fox News accused the “mainstream media” of purposefully ignoring the story, and said that it was favoring the political left. Andrew Breitbart wrote in an article in The Washington Times that he had counseled Giles and O’Keefe to “… offer Fox News the full footage of each video before each was released”. Breitbart said he developed a strategy to counter such presumed liberal media bias by courting the Fox News Corporation: “We had to devise a plan that would force the [other news] media to see the evidence before they had enough time to destroy these two idealistic 20-something truth seekers.” Giles interviewed exclusively with Fox commentator Glenn Beck on the day of the first video’s release.

CNN began coverage of the story as early as September 9. CBS began to cover the story on September 11, the day after the story aired on Fox News. Breitbart and reporters of Fox News stayed on message, complaining that the “mainstream media” did not respond promptly or cover the story in sufficient depth. On September 11, 2009, Glenn Beck was reported to have said, “FOX has had 133 reports on it, CNN, 90, MSNBC, 10. How’s that possible? Hey, ABC, how’s it working out for you with two?”

Breitbart and O’Keefe on September 11 announced that O’Keefe would not agree to be interviewed by CNN staff. They said that CNN favored ACORN in its coverage. But, CNN had reported on ACORN-related issues of alleged voter registration fraud (which were not substantiated). O’Keefe said he felt CNN’s early coverage had been slanted in favor of ACORN, because CNN had interviewed both ACORN staff members and defenders.

FOX News said that, as late as September 15, the ABC anchor Charlie Gibson was unfamiliar with the story. It did not report that ABC’s Jake Tapper had been covering the issue since September 11. In a September 15 interview with Sean Hannity of FOX News, Breitbart said that O’Keefe and Giles “… have been impugned in the media”. Hannity said they had been “excoriated”.

On September 17, 2009, Turner.com posted a list of all CNN transcripts covering the ACORN scandal, from the day the story was first released. The transcripts showed there was no evidence that Giles or O’Keefe had been “impugned” or “excoriated” by news commentators. The listed transcripts include extensive, objective coverage and discussion by CNN reporters Abbie Boudreau, Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, and others. Lou Dobbs (then still at CNN) had offered an impassioned statement in support of Giles and O’Keefe on September 10, the day on which the videos were first aired.

[Some links deleted]

O’Keefe’s activities were sometimes less than legal, and he was forced to pay fired ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera $100,000. O’Keefe’s passion for conservative causes has not diminished, and more recent news outlines his attempt at pranking a United States Senator:

O’Keefe and colleagues were arrested in New Orleans in January 2010 during an attempt to make recordings at the office of United States Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat. His three fellow activists, who were dressed as telephone repairmen when apprehended, included Robert Flanagan, the son of William Flanagan, acting U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The four men were charged with malicious intent to damage the phone system. O’Keefe said he entered Landrieu’s office to investigate complaints that she was ignoring phone calls from constituents during the debate over President Barack Obama’s health care bill. The charges in the case were reduced from a felony to a single misdemeanor count of entering a federal building under false pretenses. O’Keefe and the others pleaded guilty on May 26. O’Keefe was sentenced to three years’ probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine. The other three men received lesser sentences.

[Some links deleted]

Apparently O’Keefe has since gone on to bigger things.

At the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), there is an awful lot of good fortune coming our way.

First, a mysterious Middle East millionaire wanted to give us a boatload of money to produce a documentary on fracking and global warming. Our administrative staff politely dodged the calls as senior staff warned environmentalists across the country that some sort of scam was afoot.

Then our Lisa Graves was showered with compliments on our investigations into undisclosed election spending, as a team repeatedly tried to get her on film at a recent Netroots Nation conference. When she asked them for their contact information, they claimed to have no email or Twitter accounts (at Netroots? Really?). The duo followed her to a private party, and one stalked her down a hotel hallway at 2:00 in the morning, prompting another writer to intervene.

This apparently involved O’Keefe’s fellow conservative Ryan Sorba:

Recently, Sorba seems to have dropped off the media radar. But he turned up at a Netroots Nation conference for progressives this summer, praising the work of the Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes PRWatch.org), and especially CMD’s research into undisclosed election spending. He claimed his sister was working to defeat Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and asked CMD’s executive director Lisa Graves for political advice on how to beat him, which she rebuffed.

Sorba was accompanied by a cameraman giving the name of Ernie Cruz. “Cruz” snapped one photo but rested the camera on his chest, perhaps for surreptitious filming of Sorba’s effort to get Graves to discuss electoral strategy.

Graves was skeptical of the questions and behavior of the duo and pressed them for their email addresses, but they claimed they had none. She pointed to Sorba’s lanyard which read Ryan Paulson, which, incidentally, is the surname of the woman who filed a restraining order thirteen years ago. Sorba stumbled, admitting it was not his actual name and saying it was his mother’s maiden name, and then proffered the email address RyanByotch@gmail.com. Graves turned to the older Cruz and said, “surely you have an AOL account?” He then gave one under the name erniecruz@aol.com.

Later that day, “Cruz” and Sorba would rush to try to get Graves on film again as she spoke with others at the conference, but she ditched them and tipped off other attendees that there was a rightwing undercover crew on site.

Like a number of other conservatives, Sorba has an obsession with homosexuality:

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) currently considers same-sex attraction a diagnosable and treatable mental disorder –if one is marked by persistent distress about their “sexual orientation.” The disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV TR (DMS-IV TR) as a paraphilia, euphemistically entitled, “Sexual Orientation Not Otherwise Specified.”

Psychiatrists began to use this clunky phrase to refer to homosexuality in 1987, after compromising with radical activists for more than a decade about what constitutes politically-correct verbiage. Negotiations have centered primarily on how to balance the demands of radical political activists with the right of the individual patient to self-determination, which requires that psychiatry leave the doors open to treatment and implies that homosexuality is in fact a mental disorder. Just think, would the APA treat a white man who wished he were black by encouraging him to believe that he is black even though he is not? Or would the APA seek to help the man reduce anxiety about being white? Each decision about how to label the mental illness has been driven primarily by politics, not science. In Homosexuality and American Psychiatry pro-sodomy author Ronald Bayer notes that in the APA’s original DSM-I published in 1951,

…homosexuality and other sexual deviations were included among the sociopathic personality disturbances. These disorders were characterized by the absence of subjectively experienced distress or anxiety despite the presence of profound pathology.

Said obsession has not always fared well for Sorba, even at some conservative gatherings:

Turns out CPAC isn’t quite the place for insane jeremiads against homosexuality.

During a lightning round of two-minute speeches by young activists, Ryan Sorba, of the Young Conservatives of California, decided to bash CPAC organizers for inviting GOProud (a gay Republican group that’s splintered from the Log Cabin Republicans) to have a booth at the event.

His rant began:

I’d like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPride [sic] to this event. Civil rights are grounded in natural rights. Natural rights are grounded in human nature. Human nature is a rational substance in relationship to the intelligible end of the reproductive act of reproduction. Do you understand that?

But then the crowd began to boo, and shout back at him. (“Ron Paul!” was the loudest shout in the part of the ballroom where I’m sitting; he was due to speak not long after the lightning round ended.) And Sorba — who’s the author of a book called “The Born Gay Hoax,” and whose speech at Smith College was shut down by protests two years ago — got angry.

Civil rights when they conflict with natural rights are contrary… Will you sit down? The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do. The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do.

But, I am diverging. I’m going to save Ryan Sorba and James O’Keefe for deeper analysis in a future post.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

On his 74th birthday, my next-door neighbor got a gift certificate from his wife. The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on an Indian reservation that was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction. After being persuaded to go, he drove to the reservation, handed his certificate to the medicine man and wondered what he was in for.

The old man handed a potion to him, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned, “This is a powerful medicine. You take only a teaspoonful and then say ‘1-2-3’. When you do, you will become manlier than you have ever been in your life and you can perform as long as you want.”

The man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, “How do I stop the medicine from working?”

“Your partner must say ‘1-2-3-4’”, the medicine man responded, “but when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon”.

The man was very eager to see if it worked so he went home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom. When she came in, he quickly took off his clothes and said, “1-2-3!” Immediately, he was the manliest of men.

His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes as she asked “What was the 1-2-3 for?”

And that, boys and girls, is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition.