Avoiding Barcelona

(Or, how to discourage barbarism) 

Psychological warfare is a term that denotes actions designed to evoke a specific reaction in other people.  There are various techniques, of course, but all of these are aimed at influencing a target’s value system, their belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, and their behavior.  It works.  And it seems to me that if, by employing such methods against a common enemy we actually save the lives of the innocents, then we ought to employ psychological warfare at every opportunity.  I suspect that we don’t do this because our minds have been affected by a brain cancer called political correctness.

The other day, my good friend “Z” reported another one of President Trumps tweets wherein he suggested, in response to the attack in Barcelona, that we ought to do as General Pershing once did in the Philippines, which was to dip bullets in pig blood before shooting Moslem extremists.  Apparently, swine is anathema to the Moslem faith.  In any case, Z was reporting on a story published in the Washington Examiner; the headline was Trump Resurrects Tall Tale About General Pershing and Muslims After Barcelona Terror Attack.

Well, except that the story doesn’t fit the headline; it may not have been a “tall tale” after all.  In the same article, author Caitlin Yilek explains that pigs were used by Pershing’s troops in their war against Moslems.

“… there are historical accounts of U.S. soldiers burying pigs alongside dead Muslim fighters in the Philippines’ Moro Province.

“The tactic was supposedly used to scare Islamic insurgents known as “juramentados” into halting their attacks. To Muslims, pigs are unholy and the insurgents feared that if they died, Pershing’s practice would deny them entry into heaven.

“… A 2009 biography of Pershing by Jim Lacey, a military analyst for the Institute for Defense Analyses, claimed to confirm that Pershing did use the tactic.  ‘Until now the historical verdict was that this was only a vicious rumor and, while it may have happened on occasion, Pershing neither knew about it, nor, given his humane outlook, would have condoned such an action. That verdict is wrong as Pershing’s own unpublished autobiography states.’

“The book then cites an unpublished letter by Pershing, stating: ‘These juramentado attacks were materially reduced in number by a practice the Army had already adopted, one that the Mohammedans held in abhorrence: Their bodies were publicly buried in the same grave with a dead pig. It was not pleasant to have to take such measures but the prospect of going to hell instead of heaven sometimes deterred the would-be assassins.’”

Significantly, this tactic worked and more than likely saved a number of lives —both those of the American soldiers and among Moslems themselves.  War is not all about killing an enemy; it is about winning a war.  Killing other human beings is secondary.  If a nation can win a war without shedding any blood at all, then that is what nations ought to be doing.  So far in human history, I have not heard of winning a war without shedding blood … but I do admit it is a lofty goal.  Even if not entirely possible, we should avoid killing if we can and this takes us back to psychological warfare.

The goal of psychological warfare is to demoralize one’s enemy.  We want him to quit the battlefield.  We want the enemy to decide that there are means other than violence in resolving human differences, and this is especially true when the enemy targets unarmed, innocent civilians who are guilty of nothing worse than going to a mall to do some shopping.  If we hope to demoralize Moslem extremists, then in my judgment there is no better way of doing that than by tossing a bloody pork chop into the grave of a dead Moslem.

If doing such a thing has the effect of discouraging extremism (generally), or saving the life of innocent men, women, and children (specifically) … then that is exactly what we ought to be doing.  I will go one step further: if we do not employ such tactics in our war opposing barbarism, then WE are no better than the Moslem swine who murder our loved ones in cold blood —because we have at our disposal the means of preventing the death of innocents, but elect not to employ those means.

If we want to discourage barbarism, if we want to save the lives of innocents, then western nations need to grow a set of balls and use ALL the tools of war at our disposal.



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Nikki Haley

Tom Rogan, writing for the Washington Examiner, recently declared that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is the finest US Ambassador in fifty years.  At this point, Rogan has assumed the opposite view of one of Haley’s initial critics —a Democratic hack from the University of Baltimore.   She may be the finest ambassador, but I think we’ll need a bit more than eight-months to sort her out.  I’m not one of those people who easily admire public servants —at least not until they’ve had a chance to prove themselves.  In Haley’s case, I do have a few reservations.

Haley 001Yes, it is true that Ambassador Haley rallied members of the United Nations to approve new sanctions on North Korea, which according to Rogan, demonstrates that Haley has credibility with her contemporaries.  And it’s also true that Haley is (so far) a breath of fresh air following the past eight-years of diplomatic incompetence.  Yet, I am a bit concerned over Haley’s position on Syria.

History tells us that for the United States (and we are not alone), the Middle East has become a quagmire; a place where a prosperous nation is able to chuck away its material wealth and pour out into the sand the blood of their warriors.  Possibly the reason for this is that no American executive or diplomat appears to understand all they know about Middle Eastern culture.  I cannot say that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deserves humanitarian awards, but I will go so far as to suggest that he is a victim of Arab politics.  For starters, one should wonder about the clandestine machinations of Saudi Arabia in Syria.  A few relevant facts include the following:

  • Syria is a country predominantly populated by Sunni Arabs, but led by Alawites (Shi’a Arabs).
  • Al-Assad’s principle enemy are the Saudis, a land predominantly populated by Shi’a Arabs, but led by Sunnis.

The differences between Alawites and Sunnis in Syria have sharpened dangerously since the beginning of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, whose family is Alawite. The reason for the tension is more political than religious: Top positions in Assad’s army are held by Alawite officers, while most of the rebels from the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups come from Syria’s Sunni majority. ​

If we just stop there, who might be behind the so-called revolution in Syria?

As for Russia’s involvement in Syria, while George Bush was gazing into Vladimir Putin’s soul and finding a “truly good man,” and as Obama made the world tour apologizing for America’s sacrifices in the Twentieth Century, Vlad was embarked on a robust Middle Eastern diplomatic tour (as both President and Prime Minister of the Russian Federation) making deals with Middle Eastern potentates, primarily in Iran, Turkey, and Syria.  Who knew that a former communist would one day become a raging capitalist?  To summarize, while the United States was squandering its political capital, Putin was investing it.

So, as Mr. Rogan admits Haley has been unable to “guide Trump away from appeasing Russia,” he gloats over Haley’s condemnation of Syria’s slaughter of innocents.  Rogan told us, “… Haley has made the US the leading voice for Syrian Sunnis.”


Rogan thinks this is important because, “… it represents the return of American moral leadership after eight years of Obama administration neglect,” and “… it helps consolidate the Sunni-Arab monarchies in believing that the U.S. will not allow Iran, Assad, and Russia to set the path of the Middle East uncontested.”  If the Sunnis lack this faith in American morality, then the Saudis will double-down on groups like the Islamic State[1].

To me, it appears Haley merely continues a time-honored American ritual behaving as useful idiots to Arabs.  Who drove two airplanes into the World Trade Center?  Sunnis.  Why do our leaders continue to appease those who seek the destruction of western (Judeo-Christian) culture?  Is this the best America can do?  If it is, then I must reserve my judgment about Haley.


[1] The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also Daesh, is an Arab Salafi (Sunni) sect of psychotics who receive direct and indirect support from Saudi Arabia.  This “murder for hire” scheme is likely the reason Ambassador Stevens was murdered in Libya.

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Life Involves Taking Chances

The World Health Organization informs us that 1.25 million people are killed on our highways each year.  That would average um … about one person killed on a highway every 25 seconds.  One third of these people are pedestrians or cyclists.  Over 70% of these deaths occur in the so-called middle income countries.

Traffic Fatality TreeGlobally, the risk of traffic related death is measured by the number of fatalities per 100,000 in population.  It was no surprise to find the highest number of fatalities in African and Eastern Mediterranean countries. Although I did imagine fatalities would be higher in Italy where anyone getting on a Vespa is just asking for it.

Now, if we were trying to understand so many deaths, then one reason could be that only 7% of the world’s countries have adequate traffic laws, but I also imagine that it might be hard to find a safe driver who is also illiterate.  We may be able to keep morons from operating motor vehicles, but I’m not so sure there is much we can do about simpletons who walk rather erratically along our roadways.

Next up, the number of deaths that result from toxic air.  The World Health Organization tells us that 7 million people die each year from breathing polluted air.  The number of pollutant-related deaths in the United Kingdom, by comparison, is 40,000 annually.

Toxic AirDr. Frank Kelly (King’s College, London) suggests that if we are worried about air toxicity, then we should probably stop clamoring about converting to electric vehicles: it won’t help, he said.  True, electric vehicles produce no exhaust fumes, but that’s not what is killing us.  What IS killing us are minuscule particles from brake and tire dust … from which there is no acceptable safe limit.  (Note: Tony Blair’s cabinet convinced many Britons to convert to diesel engines, since, he told them, diesel fuel is ecologically safer.  It was an unfathomable proposition, but many people bought into it.  Now the government has taken the opposite stance and anyone in the UK driving a diesel-powered vehicle is either precluded from entering a city, or taxed into oblivion for owning one.  Still, what Kelly suggests is fewer cars inside our cities, period.  This may not be a bad idea if you’ve ever attempted to find a parking place inside any British city.

By the way … one commission reported that HALF of all particulate matter comes from brakes and tire dust, but I feel we need to have some perspective here: given a world population of 7.5 billion souls, less than 10% of the population dies from air pollution.  In the United Kingdom, experts tell us 40,000 people die each year due to toxic substances in the air … or, .04% of the population.

I could personally embrace Dr. Kelly’s suggestion, if for no other reason than finding a parking place inside British cities is far too difficult.  Yes, the park and ride schemes here are much simpler to deal with, but even that won’t have much of a life-savings impact.  Buses propelled by natural gas still produce brake and tire dust; if all automobiles are banned from inside the city limits, the number of buses may double or triple.

It’s a zero-sum game.

No, what we must do to save lives is develop vehicles that can levitate—you know, like in the Jetson’s.  Well, either that, or we’ll have to accept the notion that no one lives forever.  In life, we all take our chances.

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Obama’s Tranny Plan

Justin Amash is a US Congressman serving Michigan’s third district.  He is among the youngest members to serve in Congress and a first-generation Palestinian Arab of Greek Orthodox descent.  This probably explains why Congressman Amash opposes suspension of Barack Obama’s plan to destroy the US military … the plan to validate and accept transgender recruits into the Armed Forces, and offer to them life-time medical care.  It is difficult for me to understand the rationale of imposing upon the American taxpayer the tremendous costs associated with hormone treatments, expensive surgeries, and lots of bed rest while normal people, which is to say persons who are not confused about their gender, are in the field training for combat.

Let’s review: Obama’s Tranny Plan (OTP) is part of the progessive war on American culture.  It follows the absurd conclusion that we should classify gender according to an individual’s declared “gender identity,” rather than by their actual human biology.  The leftists have taken their argument a step further: the federal government should force Americans to accept the “gender identity” claims made by each person, regardless of science.

American leftists are big on forcing people to do things.

The OTP also demands dignity and respect to transsexuals in community showers, and sleeping spaces.  This is fine —we can respect gender confused persons while they maintain their status as civilians, where it doesn’t matter how they dress for work in the morning.

Service in the Armed Forces of the United States is a unique experience.  It isn’t the same thing as getting up in the morning and riding the subway to work at a law firm. The mission of our armed forces is winning wars and protecting the nation. Personnel policy must recognize that combat readiness is, and must remain, our first priority —not, as leftists insist, to use the military to achieve social engineering. We must also recognize that gender-confused people are not simply regular folks who like to play dress up.  According to Dr. Ryan Anderson at The Heritage Foundation, 41% of persons who identify as transgendered persons will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, as compared to 4.6% of the mainstream population.  More than this, persons who have transgender surgery are 19-times more likely to take their own lives.  Added to this are significant mental health issues, which include anxiety, depression, and substance abuse at a level several times higher than our general population.

Obama’s Transgender Policy ignored the reality that placing individuals who are at increased risk of suicide and who harbor significant psychological dysfunctions have no business whatsoever in the most stressful environment imaginable: combat.  This leads a logical person to ask, “What in the hell was Obama thinking?”

Well, if Obama was thinking at all, he was thinking about sacrificing the combat effectiveness of the Armed Forces of the United States to heavily flawed leftist ideology.  It is time to consider a few realities:

  1. Transgender persons require constant post-operative evaluation and hormone treatments.  How is this achieved when our number one priority for all service members is combat readiness and the constant likelihood of immediate deployment to a combat zone?  Related to the medical issue, do leftists intend for the American taxpayer to fund these surgeries, hormonal treatments, and psychotherapies?
  2. All service members are held to the same physical fitness and readiness standards; these standards apply to biological assignments, not self-defined identity.  Men who identify as women cannot be held to the lower standard than other men.
  3. Combat efficiency and unit esprit de corps comes from building and maintaining teamwork, where everyone is expected to perform to a high standard, where everyone participates in grueling field exercises (or actual combat), where everyone is expected to pull their own weight within that team.  People who are not able to do this, who are not willing to do this, are very often shunned by other team members.  Ostracizing service members, for whatever reason, detracts from combat readiness, and — given what we know of transgendered persons, shunning such individuals only worsens their already unhealthy mental condition.
  4. Our military does not discriminate in its treatment of its personnel.  Individual privacy must be respected.  Within the confines of military barracks/quarters, one wonders where leftists intend to house transgender persons so that they can attend to their unique circumstances in privacy.

Secretary James Mattis recently made the decision to suspend Obama’s ludicrous plans while the Department of Defense reviews the short and long-term implications of OTP.   Rethinking OTP is not enough because, if implemented, the OTP will cost the American taxpayer more than $3.7 billion over ten years.

President Trump recently signaled that he is disinclined to maintain OTP.  In my view, this was the proper decision.  However, the president has yet to put his order in writing and the military hierarchy awaits that formal decision.  The military does not operate on the basis of tweets; they require formal written authority.  Hopefully, Mr. Trump will provide this authority in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, leftists are howling at the moon.  None of these people ever served in the military, but common sense should suggest the uniqueness of the military and the lethality of what our combat soldiers do for our country every-single-day.  Social engineering has no place in our Armed Forces.  The sooner Americans demand an end to this war on American culture, the better —for everyone— including gender confused persons.

This brings us back to Congressman Amash, a Republican.  Why is he supporting the Obama Tranny Plan?  The engine of a member of congress is fueled by popular opinion, and on this issue, polls indicate that a large majority of the American people reject the patently absurd progressive notion that a man can be a woman simply because he feels like one.  I think we should evaluate Amash based on who he is and what he believes: he is Palestinian Arab.  Do Palestinian-Arab’s want to maintain a strong, efficient American military?

I think not.

Let me also note that as we waste time and effort on the issue of gender-confused persons, our government is not addressing the tens of thousands of homeless and starving Americans, ignores the plight of thousands of military veterans who are routinely denied proper medical care from combat-related wounds and injuries, and fails to deliver its promises of elder care to pensioners.  I have one final thought: if the Pentagon ultimately approves OTP, it will inspire mutant-gender activists to place greater pressures on idiotic judges and spineless politicians to impose farcical rules on civic groups, schools, universities, and in the workplace.

Earlier version posted at Bunkerville

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The Overload

In 1966, two academics by the name of Richard Cloward and Frances Fox-Piven developed an activist strategy for overloading the public welfare system as a means of precipitating a level of social crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of guaranteed annual income.  As with most academic radicalism, not much thought was given to the long-term consequences of such an idea … which is to say, unless Cloward-Piven’s entire purpose was to destroy the fabric of American society.  I should also say that this is something of an idea we ought to expect from Columbia University, and we can certainly understand why Cloward-Piven targeted the Democratic Party as their “test group”.  The nitwit who opened the door to Cloward-Piven was none other than Lyndon Johnson, who offered us his so-called great society.  In the final analysis, Johnson’s great society was fraught with economic catastrophes, the cumulative effects of which might have been completely repaired had it not been for the arrival of Barack Obama.

What did Cloward-Piven really want?  According to papers they authored in 1971 and again in 1977, what they wanted was unrest inside America.  They got that, but true to form, as dyed in the wool Democrats, Cloward-Piven made life within the black community more difficult than it had ever been before.  Realistically, I think we can give proper credit to Barack Obama for a resurgence of racial distrust in the United States today, but we should not discount the importance of Cloward-Piven in the strategies used by Barack Obama in the White House.

But if anyone should imagine that Cloward-Piven was only about welfare in the United States, or ending poverty forever, then they aren’t thinking deeply enough about the controversies of the past 40 years.  Underneath the surface of any provocative social issue today rests the handiwork of Cloward-Piven.  As a few examples, there was the so-called “motor voter” idea that continues to perpetuate fraud (disenfranchisement) in our system of elections, feminist anarchy, LGBT issues, demands for access to women in combat roles in our military, calls of gender confused morons to be something else at the expense of the American taxpayer, and, of course, Obama-Care.  I am not saying that Cloward-Piven were behind each of these issues because neither of them were smart enough to orchestrate such massive social unrest, but they did lay the foundations.  Disrupt the fabric of American society—that’s the ticket!

I wonder, thinking back to the mid-1960s, if the parents who sent their children to Columbia University now celebrate how much of their hard-earned money went into the pockets of such intellectual troglodytes as Richard Cloward and Frances Fox-Piven.

The decade of the 1960s was a long time ago … today, the grandchildren of that generation walk around enraptured with their social-media toys, oblivious of (or with hardly any interest in) what might loom just over the horizon, for them or their offspring.

“… [the Educated citizen] knows that knowledge is power, more so today than ever before.  He knows that only an educated and informed people will be a free people, that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of us all.”

—John F. Kennedy, 1963

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A Price to Pay

A young woman decided to take a walk with her father one early evening.  It was just a little over two years ago.  They were walking along the Embarcadero in San Francisco … near Pier 14.  I’ve been there and it is quite lovely.

Suddenly, a shot rang out and the young woman fell to the ground; a bullet had pierced her aorta.  Her father quickly administered the lifesaving steps until paramedics arrived.  Within a short time, the young woman was transported to San Francisco General Hospital.  She died there two hours later.

This isn’t a commentary about guns.  It is a commentary about justice.

Despite the passage of two years, the murderer of Kate Steinle continues to await trial.  It is —justice delayed.  It is —justice denied.

The law protects her murderer, but not Kate.  In fact, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has all sorts of rights now that he’s been charged with Kate’s murder: the right to remain silent, the right to an appointed attorney, the right to a fair trial, protection from cruel or unusual treatment, and —while we’re at it, the right to disregard immigration laws, evade federal immigration officials, and the right to demand sanctuary from deportation proceedings inside the city of San Francisco, the right to free room and board for the rest of his life —all of this at the taxpayer’s expense, of course.

What does Kate Steinle get?  San Francisco didn’t protect Kate from an illegal alien, that’s for certain.  No, what Kate got was dead.  Neither was Kate the only victim; her father now gets to live out his life in severe emotional torment, sadness, and painful memories of a walk that turned into a tragedy.

I realize that sometimes bad things happen to good people, but I am rather amazed by the number of people in the United States who are able to place political ideology ahead of common sense.  My opinion is based on the following: San Francisco officials steadfastly refuse to hand illegal aliens over to federal authorities.  House and Senate Democrats refuse to enforce compliance with federal laws.  The smug-faced louts among us maintain that anyone standing for the safety of our citizens is in some way “anti-immigration.”  Such claims are so illogical that they defy comprehension.

I’m not sure I understand these attitudes among so many Americans.  I’m not asking for emotional attachment to the issue; I’m asking for common sense.  Should there be a difference in the way the law behaves if Kate were suddenly your daughter?  I think not; our laws must be designed to provide maximum protection to as many of our people as possible.  There is never a guarantee, of course … but offering encouragement to law-breakers, which is what a blind eye to illegal trespass really is, only places all of us in greater danger.

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America’s First Female President

When I was a child, my mother always emphasized to me that if I could not say something nice about someone, I should simply keep my mouth shut.  “God hears everything you say,” she told me.  I don’t think I became profane until after I no longer believed that God hears … or even cares what we say.  Still, I think my mother gave me good advice and one that Confucius might even agree with.  Saying something unkind to (or about) someone can very easily back-fire.

That said, I have never had much respect for the current head of the Clinton Crime Family.  I have never trusted Donna Hillary, and have believed that her primary concern had anything to do with serving the interests of the American people.  So that during her many campaigns for election to high office, I used to choke whenever the Donna spoke of breaking the glass ceiling —one small step for woman-kind.  Hillary must have forgotten (conveniently, or otherwise) about America’s first woman president—and this surprised me because the Donna and Edith Wilson have so much in common.

Woodrow Edith WilsonEdith Wilson was the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson; they were married in December 1915 during Wilson’s first presidential term.  When Wilson suffered a severe stroke in October 1919, Edith Bolling Wilson assumed the mantle of the presidency and governed the United States as chief executive until March 1921.

Like her husband (and Donna Hillary), Edith Wilson harbored racist feelings toward African-Americans; nothing overt, mind you … just the condescending view that blacks were a problem that demanded a white solution.  Enter friend of the Wilson’s and founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger.  Sanger never concocted a plan to eradicate blacks from American society in one fell-swoop, but she did have a plan for controlling black populations through birth control and abortion clinics.

“We must have a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.”—Margaret Sanger, 1932

It was never a surprise to me that Margaret Sanger’s plan was incorporated into Germany’s final solution for dealing with Jews and Gypsies in 1937, nor even that Hillary Clinton publicly stated that Margaret Sanger was the woman she most admired.

It wasn’t simply that Woodrow and Edith Wilson were racists; after all, they were southern Democrats —but more to the point, they were politically progressive.  What progressives do best is divide Americans into little camps, and then by pitting one group  against another, destroy the fabric of American society.  This is part of the progressive (nee communist) agenda.  Now add to this the incorporation of millions of functionally illiterate people into the Democratic Party; it was clearly a win-win situation for DNC —and still is.

Edith Wilson was also curious in another way.  She proclaimed herself to be a descendent of a famous Indian princess: Pocahontas.  It was a claim she never abandoned for the remainder of her life.  Voila!  Several decades later, another progressive would make a similar claim: Elizabeth Warren.

Very odd.

One need only casually examine the Democratic agenda to detect a disturbing trend —and one that leads us to conclude that people who harbor a progressive mindset, if not clearly psychotic, do hover near the border of its clinical definition.

No matter.  The above only represents an interesting tidbit of American history that is probably unknown to most people today.  The curious reader will no doubt initiate additional inquiries to discover for themselves the veracity of what I have written here.

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An Aside

How dangerous is military service, even if you aren’t assigned to a combat zone? Ask this question of the 318 sailors and Marines once assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan, now suffering from exposure to radiation during the time they provide humanitarian relief to the Japanese victims of the Fukushima nuclear plant melt-down. Today, these men are suffering from leukemia, ulcers, brain cancer, tumors, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and stomach cancer. No matter what the future holds for these men, it won’t be very bright for them, or their loved ones.

Even if you detest the military, don’t smirk because millions of people around the world are now consuming dangerous amounts of radioactivity in the form of Cesium-134, which has become the fingerprint of the Fukushima disaster. The element has found its way into shell fish, sea bass, and salmon all along the West Coast of the United States and Canada. Scientists have also discovered significant contamination of sea lions, seals, and otters. Increasing numbers of polar bear have been found with skin lesions and tumors.

This is not a nutty rant about nuclear power or becoming better stewards of our planet, although I have a difficult time trusting scientists who, in the development of nuclear energy as a power source, never once considered what should happen to used-fuel rods. Apparently, there are idiots with advanced degrees who, unhappily, now advise Al Gore about global warming. At the same time, we need to understand that there are consequences to unfortunate circumstances. No one thinks that Japan could have prevented a tsunami; mother nature does what mother nature does, but one does wonder why a nuclear power plant was not constructed with secondary or tertiary cooling systems, and why these weren’t routinely tested.  The one thing we know for certain about large bureaucracies is that they are always complacent.

As for the unfortunate 318 sailors and Marines, they remind me that no good turn goes unpunished.  For people who enjoy a good sea bass or salmon, you might consider something from the South Atlantic, instead.

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The Jack of Hearts

In a deck of playing cards, we use the term face card to describe a card that depicts a person rather than a number.  They have also been referred to as court cards and coat cards (I imagine from “coats of arms”).  There are many stories about the origin of playing cards, and there may be some truth to all of them.  This is not something that matters a great deal, but I do find it interesting.

Playing cards originated in China, but cards used in China did not have face cards.  Over time, as people interacted with one another with greater frequency, as they exchanged ideas and cultural practices, playing cards made a steady westward movement—first to Persia, the first to place face cards into a deck.  Their human form was a mounted vizier and a seated king.  From Persia, playing cards made their way to Egypt; the Mamluk created a third face card.  The best-preserved deck of cards can be found in the Topkapi Palace and we find that these cards avoided idolatry by featuring abstract designs for royalty.  Playing cards used by commoners may have been configured differently, however, which could explain the appearance of seated kings and mounted knights on Indo-Persian and European cards.

A third court-card may have had a special role to play in Spanish, French, and Italian playing cards.  By 1377, the most common playing cards were essentially structured as they are today: each suit containing a seated king and two knights, one of these replaced by a queen in 1400s France, and the other was changed from a knave (servant) (page) to a Jack.  The re-designation allowed card manufacturers to change the card’s abbreviation from Kn to J.

Jack of HeartsThe Jacks, popularly named in France, were Ogier the Dane (a mythical character from early French poetry) for the Jack of Spades, Hector, from Greek mythology for the Jack of Diamonds, Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the lake, baptized as Galahad) was one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legends —our Jack of Clubs, and the Jack of Hearts, Étienne de Vignolles called La Hire, a French military commander during the Hundred-years’ War,

History remembers Étienne de Vignolles as the ablest military commander serving under the 17-year old field commander, Joan d’Arc.  He lived from 1390 to 1443 and may have participated in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, where the French were first introduced to England’s longbow.  He was clearly aligned with the cause to restore Charles VII after 1418.  History remembers our Jack as loud, vulgar, and quick-tempered and his nickname La Hire may be a corruption of Ira Dei (wrath of God).  He first fought with Joan during the Battle of Orleans and became her trusted right-hand during all subsequent battles.  He led an audacious charge against the English at Patay in 1429, an action that resulted in the virtual destruction of the English field army and most veteran commanders.  Over the next several weeks, subsequent gains in territory permitted the French to crown their new king on 17 July 1429.

Seeking to tame the beast within his breast, Joan’s influence over La Hire was a positive one, including his attendance at Confession … which, in addition to the filthy beast, soon included most of his lieutenants.  At the end of Joan’s life, La Hire was one of only two French knights making the attempt to rescue her from English captivity.  It was thus that La Hire found himself imprisoned by the English until a ransom was paid for his release.  Afterwards, La Hire continued to fight the English during Charles VII’s re-conquest of Normandy.  La Hire was appointed Captain General of Normandy in 1438.  In a few years, our Jack of Hearts would be dead —the reason for his demise uncertain— as he vanished, wrote one romantic, in the mist of battle.

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Bridge Over the River Kwai

We all recall the film starring William Holden, Jack Hawkins, and Alec Guinness.  Perhaps less memorable is the novel, which was the basis of the American/British film in 1957.  The novel was written by a French prisoner of war who was forced to participate in the Burma-Siam Railway project.  In his book titled Le Pont de la Riviêre Kwai (1952), Pierre Boulle later claimed that his character, LtCol Nicholson, was an amalgamation of French military officers whom Boulle observed did collaborate with the Japanese.

The fact that French officers collaborated with the enemy should surprise no one; the Vichy French were, after all, part of the Axis Powers.

Fred Seiker 1946The real allied commander of the Burma-Siam Railway prisoners was Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, who passed away in 1975.  He has been recently joined in death by a comrade, Mr. Fred Seiker (shown left), who on 1 June 2017 passed away at the age of 101.  Both gentlemen were preceded in death by around 120,000 victims of Japanese atrocities, including Asian laborers and allied servicemen.

Mr. Seiker tells of his trials as a prisoner/slave laborer in his book entitled Lest We Forget.  He is right, of course: we should not forget the trial and suffering that he and others endured.  If we do forget, then we are doomed to repeat a very sad history—and we will deserve no less.

Rest in peace, Mr. Seiker.

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