Friday, October 24, 2014

October 25, 1944: Where Is Task Force 34? The World Wonders

Japan was in dire straits. Her navy fast disappearing. But it was not in disarray. Far from it. As US forces assaulted the Phillipines at Leyte Gulf, Japanese admirals planned an elaborate last-ditch gamble in an effort to disrupt the invasion.

One result, as the battle developed, was that Admiral Sprague, with a pitiful force of escort carriers ("baby flat-tops") confronted a powerful surface force of Japanese battleships and cruisers, who were first spotted as they drew within range of their big guns. The US battleships had drawn away from protecting the invasion force, chasing a toothless decoy force of Japanes carriers with almost no aircraft.

A handful of small surface ships, destroyers and destroyer escorts and a small force of carrier aircraft armed for a different mission had to do their best to keep "Taffy 3," Sprague's force of small, slow aircraft carriers alive.

Here is the story.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Election Is Here

Last Tuesday, the Pamlico County Board of Elections met to review the 32 absentee ballots by mail submitted so far. This is more than normal for the first week of absentee voting.

As we come closer to election day, various wise men and women explain various aspects of the issues at stake. I want to share some of them.

1. Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration:

"Years ago I wrote that all elections in America center on four basic narratives:

(1) The triumphant individual who overcomes huge obstacles to eventually succeed (the Right says anyone with enough guts and gumption can make it; the Left focuses on equal opportunity.)

(2) The benevolent community that joins together to achieve the common good (the Right celebrates private charities such as "a thousand points of light;" the Left emphasizes public services).

3) The rot at the top, comprised of the privileged and powerful who conspire against the rest of us (the Right focuses on government; the Left, on big corporations and Wall Street).

(4) The mob at the gates that threaten us from beyond our borders (the Right worries about foreign powers; the Left worries more about global trade).

The first and second stories are about hope; the third and fourth about fear.

In the 2014 midterm elections, the two fearsome narratives predominate. Republican’s “rot at the top” is Obama and Obamacare; Democrat’s “rot at the top” should be big corporations suppressing wages and the Right suppressing votes, but they’re not telling that story.

Republicans’ “mob at the gates” are immigrants, terrorists, and Ebola. The Democrat’s “mob at the gates” should be growing totalitarianism and intolerance around the world, but they’re not telling that story, either.

Why aren't the Democrats telling their versions?"

Gene Nichol, writing in yesterday's News and Observer is more blunt:

"Where’s the fight in North Carolina’s Democratic Party?
October 16, 2014 

It is impossible to miss the fact that an election approaches. Commercials launch from every corner and platform. You couldn’t avoid them if you tried. I’ve tried.

But despite all the money, outside influence, debates, consultants, phone calls and ads, this election, and its accompanying politics, is oddly removed from our challenges. It’s no match for our urgencies. North Carolina faces a fight for its decency. Our politicians, somehow, have largely missed the bout. We’re in the struggle of our lives. Our leaders proceed with a whimper.

The General Assembly has brutally denied health care to half a million of our most vulnerable citizens. Many will die as a result. It has required women to undergo a coerced, medically unnecessary sonogram and a Soviet-style propaganda spiel to shame them from exercising reproductive freedom.
It has enacted the largest cut to an unemployment compensation program in American history. It’s taken great chunks of our education budget – already among the worst in the nation – to subsidize unaccountable, discriminatory, often absurd sectarian schools. It has launched a regime of environmental degradation and acted to assure the presence of guns in every venue.
It has eliminated the earned income tax credit, raising the rates of low-income workers, to finance tax cuts for the rich. It has betrayed our national promise by boldly attacking the right to vote. It will now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to join a lawsuit that’s already over, to remind its base how much it detests lesbians and gay men.

Of all this, Republicans brag incessantly – declaring they’ve made “tough choices” to right the ship. Apparently it takes manly gusto to step on the necks of the marginalized. A clueless governor waved it all through. This is the worst, most destructive, record in modern North Carolina history. And we now lead the nation in a stunning effort to inter our defining aspiration to equality.
If that’s not enough to stir revolt, I’m not sure what would.

Still, most of our legislative races are low key – timid cobbling and patching. Democrats offer tepid support for education or environmental moderation or, on occasion, a woman’s right to choose. They announce that Republicans overplayed their hands, so an eventual return to power is assured. As if they care little for the destruction visited in the meantime. The fight of the century looks like a croquet match at the country club....

But North Carolina, itself, is on fire. Teachers and the parents of, and believers in, their students are intensely mobilized. Equality NC successfully presses the gay community and all those who believe in their full humanity. Planned Parenthood fights like the future of our freedom is in the balance, since it is. The AFL-CIO organizes tirelessly. The NC-NAACP is an energized and engaged activist force in every corner of the state. It makes our partisan groupings seem bloodless and lukewarm.
And, of course, the Moral Monday movement has emboldened the nation. The numbers who have taken to our streets to reclaim a humane mission for their homeland astonish. They know what’s at stake. And they act like it....

But despite the claims of its adversaries, Moral Monday is not a partisan, electoral enterprise. It doesn’t proffer and propose candidates. No politicians comprise its leadership. It is inspired by a brilliant and charismatic preacher and the hundreds of thousands who answer his call. It moves and ignites a people. It doesn’t run candidate campaigns....

Come Election Day, Carolina’s boldest hearts and brotherhoods will have to do the heaviest lifting."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Are Republicans Up To? Tom Edsall Knows

I want to share the following quote from the New York Times columnist, Tom Edsall:

"Democrats today convey only minimal awareness of what they are up against: an adversary that views politics as a struggle to the death. The Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice principle, including its historical commitments to civil rights and conservation; to bend campaign finance law to the breaking point; to abandon the interests of workers on the factory floor; and to undermine progressive tax policy – in a scorched-earth strategy to postpone the day of demographic reckoning."

Edsall's column here  spells it all out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: October 5, 1944 - Audie Murphy Gets Another Silver Star

Soldiers and sailors mostly understand that success in war involves a lot of luck. Who survives and who doesn't may depend on a slight difference in the ballistic trajectory of a warhead or the difference of a foot or so in where the soldier stands.

But some soldiers have more luck than others. Or perhaps enough skill and determination to make a difference.

Such a soldier was Audie Murphy.

Before he was a movie star, he won a lot of medals.

Here is part of his story: his second Silver Star in three days.

The Big Lie Technique in Action A Century Ago

Last August I published the link to an extract from Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August concerning the burning of Louvain in Belgium by German invaders. The loss of priceless historical documents and works of art from the incomparable Belgian library at the University should have concerned Germans in academia.

Rather than being outraged, though, ninety-three prominent German scholars, including winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke out against the charges, defended the German invaders, and blamed it all on Belgium. Their lengthy rationalization is here.

Academics, seem no more inclined than the general public to question assertions of their national authorities in time of war. We see this again and again during World War I.

But Germany's policies of  treating occupied territories severely long predated World War I and can be documented during their occupation of Samoa in the 1880's.

Was our own treatment of Native Americans more enlightened?

Not so much.

And we can all remember more recent events of misrepresentation.