Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Maltese Rooster

Two o'clock in the morning, and the only light in the joint came through the window, red and mean. If I walked to the window, I knew it would say Paradise, winking on and off. I was only across the street but as far from Paradise as you could get.

The power was off, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. The condo board was gone, leaving me high and dry--dry except for the bottle I was drinking out of. The paper bag it was wrapped in was still damp from the rain. Another day, another chance for glory. But it was two a.m., and so far no glory had come knocking. I took another slug.

I heard someone tramping up the stairs, whistling. That would be Smitty from the condo. Never anyone so glad to give bad news to a woman drowning her sorrows with the last bottle on tap. There probably wouldn't be power for weeks, going by the whistling indicator.

Slam! Slam! Slam!
Okay, not Smitty. He always tapped the glass with his key, the jerk. I screwed the top back onto the bottle and set it in my desk drawer. They don't drink Doctor Pepper in these Northern burgs. I get tired of explaining.

Slam! Slam! Slam!
"Keep your shirt on," I growled. "Coming!"

I toddled my way to the door, in light as fleeting as my prospects. I took my pistol out of its holster and like a spring chicken, opened my door at two a.m. to a complete stranger. Call it the drinking, the red light, or maybe, just maybe, that trouble is my business.

"Now here's real sugar." The voice was low, cool.  I like that in a man.

"I'm fresh out of sugar, buster."
"I'm not Buster, I'm  Humf. Looking for a lonely angel."

Humf, like Humphrey. "I'm not alone." I brought up the pistol, aimed it right to the brisket.  "I'm entertaining Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. And if they don't like you, all your angels will be fallen ones."

"Fallen, huh? You don't have a clue. I'm making a delivery." He held out a bird statue.
"It's a Maltese Rooster," he said. "It's for you."

Some people say never to look a gift chicken in the beak. But in the end, nothing's free. I don't always mind paying. I just want to understand the lay.

"Right. I have a clue or two," I lied. "The bird contains some key to a state secret, but you whacked the goose with the golden egg. Now I'm supposed to fry while everybody scrambles."

He spread his arms wide. "It's on the sunny-side up, sweetheart."
"It's a chicken, and this ain't a roost." It's better that way.

"You just gotta say thanks, link up to the giver," he said. "Guy name of Slamdunks. He's got a blog, says you're familiar."

"Yeah, I know Slamdunks. But I don't know how you know him."
"Everybody knows Slamdunks. That's just how it is."

He was right about that, but I still had the pistol up. It was still two a.m. The Paradise still was the only light in town. Humf leaned against the door jamb, casual-like. But I wasn't fooled.

"The real catch is you gotta say five things about yourself," he said. "You do that, and you get me for life."

"Be still, my heart."

"I figure a dame like you has something to say for yourself. I hear you're always cracking wise." He grinned in the suddenly on-light of the Paradise. "You can keep the Maltese Chicken if you say how you like  your eggs."


"So, the Maltese Chicken is yours. Now you gotta give the Quillfeather Award to some other people. Spread the glory, you know."
"That's it?"
"Sure, that's it. Slam, he'd never set you up." He snapped his fingers. "I figure you can say five things. Come on, look at this mug. Don't you want my image for all time?"

"One rooster at a time, Humf." I was still cracking wise, but something about the big yegg--

I lowered my guard, holstered my pistol and accepted the Maltese Chicken. Now it was only Humf. I'm a sucker for a guy who doesn't give up.  I walked to the window. Humf didn't know it, nobody did. But talking from the heart isn't easy for a gal like me.

The lights of Paradise blew on again. So did the lamp on my desk. Damn if it wasn't Bogey. So it was true confessions time. Sometimes a gal just has to grab for the glory . . . or for its image . . .
1. The most embarrassing date I ever had was with one college student from a fraternity with bad manners. We were being waited on by another guy I had dated casually. Oooh, eek! Then the waiter brought our coffee. Mine was all milk with a dash of coffee thrown in. "That's how she likes it," he told my date.

Zing, zing, triple zing! I could not Wait to get out of there.

2. I sometimes make refrigerator magnets for a hobby. I take interesting pictures to Kinko's, reduce them on a color printer, paste them to magnet sheets, then cut them up. When I left RiverTown, I gave every employee at my store a set of hand-made refrigerator magnets in a theme they would like. The one I remember best was the series of Altoids advertisements for the guy who always had a tin of them, and who frequently shared.

3. My desk is a dining table, fairly old, from Ruff n Ready furniture. The guy that runs it has hair down to his waist and has obviously lost teeth from too many fights with pool cues. The table sheds sawdust. At first I was afraid it had termites (!), but no--it's from getting wet once too often. It works great and is still pretty. Next to my chair is a pile of books. Thesaurus, Atlas, and Rhyming dictionary, two maps of Manhattan and a poetry anthology are permanent in the stack. Everything else changes. A week or so ago, World War II. Yesterday, Joseph Mitchell. Today, Machiavelli--

4. I like beautiful things, and I like them to be a bit dilapidated. Unless it is a tube of toothpaste or a paperback book, new things are never quite as good as the things that have absorbed the stories of others. When I buy used books, frequently they have old bookmarks, old notes, old train tickets. I always leave them in the books. They are new every time I find them, and I see the signs of other lives.

5. I lied to the yegg. My real favorite way to eat eggs is over-easy, with homemade hash browns, whole wheat toast or a fluffy biscuit, and crispy bacon or link sausage. This is about a million calories, so I have it about once a year. And I Really enjoy it, too. With orange juice and strong coffee with some (not all) milk in it.
Now that I have claimed my Awards, I can confer the Award on others! All you have to do is keep the chain, link to me and then to your future awardees. That way people can backtrack their way across the blogosphere.

Quillfeather Awards
I'm giving these to the guys whose shells are tough to crack. Maybe they'll open up about breakfast.
Captain Joe Schmoe at Report on Conditions
For leadership, the love of the desert, and the Men of Moron . . .

Bob G. at The Pa-in Erudition
For flowers and bald eagles, crime reports, and boot-strappin' philosophy . . .

You're Going Places, Baby Awards
 Tell five things about yourself, large or small. And may the going places  be grand!
peedee at Queen of the Dogs
music, fun, self-improvement, and let's kick-it-back n' shoot the breeze . . .

The Observer at The South Kansas City Observer
she loves her hometown, stray animals, EMS, cars, politics . . .

Here's looking at you, kids! Thanks again, Slamdunks! And to all my readers for stopping by!

In Which Zombie Boss Looks Bright-Eyed

I took my troubles to the Board last night. Zombie Boss said he'd like to meet with me so that he could learn my expectations. Does anybody that reads here think I was not forthcoming about my expectations?

Just checking.
I meet with him at 1 p.m. today.


How I wish that young girl had lived.  How I wish this kind of beastly  Bacchanalia would end.

This Persephone
Was driven down by beasts.
She will not return.

If only someone
Had stood for her. If only
Someone had seen it--

Some stood, but never
Enough. Nothing that lasted.
Maybe we blame them.

Take this lesson hard.
Yesterday rioters said
What they wanted to,

Broke windows, threw stones,
Tried to maim and kill. A girl
hung herself at home

Because her classmates
Did as they pleased. The allies
To the rioters

Supported their view
More than they hated the means.
And they don't see it--

They're not standing up.
The one relates to the next:
Beasts, drunk on cruelty.

All this preaching to the choir. That lasting stand. I don't know how to make it. Yet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joseph Mitchell-My Ears are Bent

Down in our condominium's "Community Room" we have two couches, a fancy rug, a glass table and some framed antique maps of our city, a television set--and a conference table with six office type chairs, padded, brown. All this is new: picked it out myself, with one other condo board member, only last year. The other member also got the maps and frames, and I framed them up.  It was a fun project, and I like to remember it.

We also have this large library of rejected books. When people move, they drop heavy freight in the community room. So when we got the furniture, I went through the library to thin it down. And I learned it's a pretty good library.

Oh, yes, the Point-
So, I picked up this book in there by Joseph Mitchell: My Ears Are Bent. It starts:
Except for a period in 1931 when I got sick of the whole business and went to sea, working on a freighter which carried heavy machinery to Leningrad and brought Soviet pulp logs back, I have been for the last eight years a reporter on newspapers in New York City.
I knew his name. He used to write for The New Yorker and the Herald-Tribune. He was a crime reporter and a political reporter.

The book is full of interviews: female wrestlers, fan dancers who imitate Sally Rand,  and anecdotal crime reporting. You hear about old men trying to beat the summer heat by drinking wine, watermelon-sellers, the way police got tips out of drunks in Harlem (no longer allowed, but still somehow a relationship) and the oyster trade plied off the banks of Manhattan Island. Osinning Prison (Sing-Sing). He went everywhere. He met characters everywhere.

These stories are short, and true, and written in the way of a man who listens carefully to crazy people. I still can't decide if he was a romantic, a cynic, or the most deadpan writer in American lit.

So, my ears will be bent starting at approximately 7 p.m. tonight and I have to get ready. I will be spending some hours with my seat in a padded chair in the Community Room this very night: CONDO BOARD MEETING. Another contribution is this ceramic statue of Buddha. I find myself looking at it during meetings when I need some calm. Right now he is also holding up more books.

In the meantime, here is Sally Rand and the fan dance. She made a fortune not revealing very much.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Moscow: Terrorist Tools for Flat-Out Gangsters

My heart goes out to the victims, friends and family, transit officials, and law enforcement in Moscow today. Two suicide bombers entered two different Moscow stations and killed themselves and so far 35 others. It is suspected, but not confirmed, that the two women were working for Chechen separatists. The linked article gives a very good history of terrorist attacks in Russia--well worth a look.

Chechen Separatists
This is another war over money, not nationalism or separatism or even ideology. The Chechen separatists are bandits. Yes, they are Muslim. They would be anything at all, if it helped them run this insurgency.  What is the money tree here? There are three:
1. Oil pipelines into Russia from the Caspian region. These gangsters could hold up or steal significant amounts of oil and gas distribution up for the western part of the Russian Federation and Europe.
2. To this, add the opium drug trade from Afghanistan and
3. the human trafficking from all points East to West.

That's right. That's how Europe gets its heroin, its immigrant labor, and its sex laborers, and one way it has more difficulty getting fuel.

Chechnya sits on top of Westernizing Azerbaijan and Georgia, more or less, with Dagestan (another troubled state) to the East. Then Georgia periodically fights factions from Ingushetia and Ossetia. Karbadino-Balkaria also wants a separate nation. These states, if separated, would immediately become failed states. They don't have anything except this pipeline and railroad infrastructure, and a chance to extort from both North and South.

During the early oilfield development of the Caspian, after the USSR went bust, the Chechen Wars were funded by tapping pipelines. A lot of them blew up from inexpert tapping or were bombed during the [recapture] of Chechnya. The independent oil field execs and the Russian economic advisors were pulling their hair out, trying to honor contracts while all this was going on. Russia eventually built an entirely new stretch of pipeline, a grand detour, to avoid Chechnya altogether for one route, but it cannot avoid Chechnya altogether.
Further Security Issues
Those with a bigger map will see that the Caspian is East of Dagestan. This is an area with more than one former Soviet state (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan) and to the South is the Big One: Iran.

Russia patrols the Caspian where the Iranians don't. They control the trade. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan do not need exported security problems; Turkmenistan is a graft paradise, incapable of nearly everything. Kazakhstan is huge with oil and gas, but also uranium. So is Tajikistan. How are the Iranians getting their uranium? And how will we ever know?

I suspect Russia sells uranium to Iran too. But better to have Russia do it and keep track, then a loosely-congregated gang of bandits running the northern stretch of the Caspian Sea, not keeping track, and letting everything and anybody through for a price.

The people that died today in Moscow died terribly. In a way they died for the greed of bandits. And in another way, they are casualties of a war against nuclear proliferation and for stability in Central Asia--and indeed the world.
Map: Global security dot org. If you check there, be advised--its cyber-security is not good. The second map is available around, in this case from oped news dot com.

All Woo-Woo Aside, She Went in and Got it Done

When I was taking my class in Kant, I was completely overwhelmed. You could not get behind. You had to read every day. I could not take in a single word. Kant is completely covered in the 1800's version of GoreTex.

Our teacher knew it was difficult. Apparently Kant spent No Time polishing his magnum opus. It was an 1800's version of cut-and-paste. It jumped around, following an outline, but without good transitions or the intermediary reviews that help the reader assimilate. Just the facts, ma'am. If you can call it facts.

In this class of twelve, ten were guys. The other woman in the room was a dancer, beer-brewer, model and free spirit. I kept thinking we females made a poor showing in the room. Gradually though, I learned this was wrong. The guys were following the ancient model of 'silence will not reveal ignorance'.

We asked questions. The crazy woman asked a lot of questions. Truthfully? If it hadn't been for her, none of the other eleven would have learned a damned thing. She was carrying us all because she was not ashamed to ask. The class time, especially in the first weeks, was a dialogue between one abstract philosophy and an airhead.

Some of her questions were beside the point. But even realizing that was a victory. It meant I was 'getting it' after all. I was so enormously grateful to her that we became friendly.

Gradually I trained into the reading. I would go to a coffee house bringing: one pencil, one pen. A five-dollar bill. The book. If I brought anything else, it was a distraction. I would buy a cup of coffee and sit at the empty table in the corner. I ruined that book by underlining everything significant in pencil (the whole thing had pencil in it). I would write my questions on a cocktail napkin with the pen. Stoke on the coffee. I went from a half-a-page at one sitting before meltdown to eighty pages at a clip. The napkin became my bookmark.

But it was still like flying over a strange terrain. The points of understanding were like landing at a bush airfield. Gradually, my intellectual airplane made more stops, more points of contact. But I still needed the crazy woman. Not quite as much, but still a lot.

The class opened up a little. Some of the guys asked questions. I felt more confident about asking mine.

So one day we ladies were walking out of class together. She was comparing Kant to the study of some aspect of astrology. Something about Aquarian impulses, I think. I have studied astrology, and I didn't know what she was talking about.

"I just don't believe astrology any more," I told her. "Philosophy has knocked all the woo-woo right out of me."

Behind us on the stairs, our quiet, always-brownly dressed professor started to laugh out loud. We continued into the sunshine. I took his next class next semester on Hegel. Learning Kant was like taking some kind of super brain-vitamin.  Hegel was a snap.

I owe so much of this to a dancer, model, beer-brewer, woo-woo woman who was completely unafraid of engagement.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hazard Light: A Candle, Burning at Both Ends

Every day, people with difficult jobs prepare themselves to meet that day's requirements.  They measure their expected level of demand against their resources to meet it. When the demand exceeds the available resource, these people are officially stressed. Working life is no longer a challenge--it's tiring and somehow destructive. When the stress on the job takes more and more away, the individual feels 'burned out.' They become careless of their safety, disinterested in their jobs, less effective. They lose sleep or have less restful sleep.

Enter Researchers, Working 9 to 5 With Leisurely Lunch
So, the social scientists started researching Burnout  in the 1980's, probably about fifteen years behind the curve. The soc-sci's have the damndest ways of explaining things, but they did do some good work. Gradually they began to view this kind of stress as a combination of conflicts; role conflicts, organizational conflicts, and how they work on an individual.

I read a lot of blogs where people are stressed. I am taking my examples from them. I hope they don't mind.

Role conflicts
A role conflict occurs when one person must try to reconcile the needs of two roles at once. I see examples of this all over the Internet, where, for instance, a bank robbery is underway and a bystander wants their bank card back, (danger & use of force/ childish person who must be managed).

In another case, a fight must be broken up here, a call has gone out to back up a colleague,  but somebody lost their handbag. The role in the immediate situation is at war with the need to maintain collegiality or 'brotherhood' with other officers. Plus the crazy lady who left her purse in a bar.

Role conflict can also occur when an unaccustomed role shows up in the middle of the night. In this post, an emergency responder was suddenly thrust into a more long-term care-giver's role: talking to a family about the patient's death.

When this role conflict cannot be reconciled, or occurs repeatedly under more and more conflict, it leads to burnout.

Organizational conflicts
In every organization, conflicts over hierarchy, rules vs. discretion, and other conflict is inherent. But this can be made worse if extra duties are piled on, some of which introduce role conflict above. For example, this police officer feels he has become a customer service supervisor.  It is not a role he feels appropriate to his station.

Other examples include short-handedness, division between cadres that has been fostered through nepotism or favoritism , or the manipulated competition between factions.

The symptoms and process of burnout
So these steps are straight from Wikipedia. I don't think you have to hit all of them to end up at the bottom of the stairs. For instance, I think most people DO realize #6, the root cause of their distress. And I think Nos. 9 through 11 are all the same thing. I even think 1 and 2 may be the same.

1. A compulsion to prove oneself
2. Working harder
3. Neglecting one's own needs
4. Displacement of conflicts (the person does not realize the root cause of the distress)
5. Revision of values (friends or hobbies are completely dismissed)
6. Denial of emerging problems (cynicism and aggression become apparent)
7. Withdrawal (reducing social contacts to a minimum, becoming walled off; alcohol or other substance abuse may occur)
8. Behavioral changes become obvious to others
9. Inner emptiness--[deep emotional fatigue--ATH]
10. Depression--[this is where someone turns their anger inward, but actually it started at #3-ATH]
11. Burnout syndrome

Our Bias Against Remedies?
In our culture the burnout's responsibility falls on the individual. But the soc-sci's consider it a problem with the organization. For people in law enforcement or emergency care, unofficial caretakers or teachers in embattled schools, it becomes an intractable institutional situation. That is why the administration has to step in--with some organizational policies to defeat stress. That means allowing these officers to journal on the 'net to evaluate their day rather than cutting any thoughtful expression off, have some days off that aren't spent testifying in court, vary their job somewhat, work with colleagues, receive coaching or coach others, ask for tools or a teacher's aide and get them.

A Painful Situation with a Good Stress Response
To end, I want to recommend a video that came from a post at Behind the Blue Line. Video #2 is the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting, where a man brandishing a knife was shot by one of the police officers--a tragic event for all involved. Afterwards, you see that the backup arrives pretty quickly. Each of them works to minimize the stress for every other one on the scene. The officers involved are taken from the scene, which minimizes their role conflict (as participants they should not be guardians, and as victims themselves they should be given care). Those officers detailed to sit with the involved police are given that role only. Then others direct traffic, assist the medical responders, and divide up the other functions.

In this instance, the legal demands, psychological demands, and role demands are all parceled out in a non-conflicting way.  This is part of established procedure and also very wise.

This is the kind of thinking that schools, law enforcement agencies, emergency rooms, and fire departments need to make and need to be able to make for everyday stressors as well as out-sized ones. That means good leadership at those organizations. It also means a city council or school board that understands this (voter's choice!) and that can pay for it (taxpayer resolve!).

I am not a psychologist or a social scientist. But everywhere I see many people working in burnout conditions. Their budgets have been cut; they work without partners, which increases their isolation; they must reconcile the protecting with the serving, quality with quantity; the threats around them and the manners everyone expects them to have.

They are supposed to walk little old ladies across the street, care about the eggshell spattered on our doors while blizzards rage, and catch the violent offender. Or solve a child's psychological problems with twenty-nine other students looking on. Or fix in twenty minutes a liver which has been assaulted by bourbon for decades. Get to a call quickly but not drive too fast.

In a world where these people are renewed and the institution pays more than lip service to preventing burnout, the supersonic "space-and-time-defying response vehicle" is a good joke. But even good jokes get old.

Individuals sometimes make bad decisions when under stress. They sometimes take good care of themselves. People can learn how to take care of themselves, or we can reach out to them. But we also need to think about the institutions that these people work in, and how to structure work to reduce burnout. According the social scientists, it is a more productive way to work. We'd get more bang for our cynical buck. It is also the decent thing to do.

Blogs cited include Behind the Blue Line, The Johnny Law Chronicles, Inspector Gadget, Miss Brave Teaches NYC, Report on Conditions, and Ten-80 blog. I could also have used almost any blog on my blogroll. Not all of them are burned out, of course. But I hope they are each taking care of themselves. That their institutions value them. That an appreciative sector of the public steps up to the plate.

Articles cited: all linked above: mostly Wikipedia and a teacher burnout article that had good refs.
They are still doing research on this. If anything good comes up that's recent, I'll try to post it. I have my eye on a couple of scholarly articles--

For Bob G.

Hyacinths. I lucked right into them--I was sitting on a bench drinking coffee. They were growing behind my back.

And it was, as you can see, a huge cup of coffee . . . .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Respect Yourself (1972)

I've always loved this song. And the Staple Singers.
This is R& B/Gospel and good advice for the slacker in me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Honest Comments Solicited

I changed my template, not for change's sake--but because I thought the 'Scribe' template was a little too narrow. If this is unreadable, boring, or something of that nature,
or if you liked the old one better, let me know.

I may still like the old one better myself.

Y'all Have a Nice Weekend!

and come back again real soon.

"Who's On First" in Zombie Hell

On Monday, I went down
to the basement
to make an appointment about
Financial Doings.

I gave the Zombie Boss a choice.
Tuesday or Wednesday morning.
He chose Wednesday.

I wrote the Zombie Assistant.
I said,
"We made this date for Wednesday."

Tuesday morning, she wrote me back.
"I didn't know anything about it."

(And that's why I wrote.)

Tuesday evening the Zombie Boss wrote me.
"We can't do Wednesday.
"How about Friday?"

I wrote him back. "Friday means
"we lose momentum.
"But if it must be Friday,
then okay Friday."

Wednesday morning
The Zombie Boss wrote me again.
"Zombie Assistant is out Friday.
"I completely forgot.
"Can you come today?"

I move heaven and earth.
Unfortunately, I forgot
The Super Freeze Ray.

So on Wednesday,
I go to the basement.
Zombie Assistant says,
"I don't have anything."

I tell her what I need:
A complete record.
Today, she sends me exactly half.

They still live . . .

Tarzan & Janie Sue Eat Fried Bananas To Go

1. Oh-kay, the new health bill says we are going to know calories for everything at every chain restaurant with over 20 outlets.  Any chain contemplating an expansion past twenty just hit a barrier to expansion. Any chain of thirty just added an unforeseen, federally-mandated expense that might break them into bits. This may not make perfect sense in a recessionary economy.

2. Otherwise, it's great with me. Many is the time I've eaten a bad something with calorie information (candy bar) over a bad something with no nutrition information (Krispy Kreme doughnut).  I have more ways to count my bad.

3. But people are going to be Shocked and Amazed that that delicious Cinnamon Scone at Starbucks, no bigger than a slice and a half of bread, is 1500-2000 calories. (A slice and a half of bread is 150 calories.) Just apply that shock factor to all pastries and fried chicken sandwiches immediately.

They are still going to order the Scone or  the Chick San.

4. That scone or quick lunch is most people's recommended daily allowance of calories. Nothing but celery (2 calories) and Tic-Tacs (6 calories) for the rest of the day.

5. Texas Women are the calorie-counting Champeens of the universe. Ask me where I'm from. Note I did not say Texas was the founding home of good nutrition, only calorie-counting.

6. In a bold pro-active move, McDonald's has asked Weight Watchers to approve at least part of their menu, and Weight Watchers accepted. Who knew that a shingle of french-fried fish with cheese, tartar sauce, and white bread could pass into dietary rectitude?

Hon, you couldn't make it up. Life gets more like fiction every day. Pass the Tic-Tacs.

7. Photos of Charles Atlas and Bettie Page, don't ask me why. Nothing makes good sense in this post.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Xenophon (431 B.C.--354 B.C.) on The Ideal Leader

Cyros the Younger: A Respected Leader
Xenophon's Anabasis is a military memoir set around 401-399 B.C., written in seven Books (probably scrolls). This is from Book I, part VIII, upon the death of his leader Cyros the Younger (424-401 B.C.), "the most royal and most worthy to be king, as all agree [who have known him]". He was a descendant of Darius the Great.

Eager to Train
Next, he was the greatest lover of horses, and knew best how to manage them; and in war-like accomplishments, in archery and casting the javelin, they judged him the most eager to learn and the most careful to practise.

 . . . if ever he made a truce or bargain or promise he never broke it.  . . . . .
For he said, and he proved by his acts, that he never would abandon  [his soldiers] once he had become their friend, even if they lost numbers and lost luck.

Reciprocity + 1
If anyone did either evil or good to him, he tried to outdo them; and made that quite clear.

Justice, Motivated Armies, and Good Government
In justice and in honesty, if anyone showed himself glad to display these virtues, he took good care to make those richer than those who were greedy for unjust advantage. All his dealings were just, indeed, but he was especially particular to have a real army. Thus the captains and officers from abroad who served him for pay understood that to serve Cyros well was worth more to them than so much a month . . . If he saw one a skilful and just administraor, who managd his district well . . . he added to his trust; so men worked willingly, and got weatly boldly, and never tried to hide from Cyros what they got.

Generosity, with a Personal Style
More gifts were offered to  him, I believe, than to any other man who ever lived, for many reasons; and no one was ever more ready to distribute these among his friends, while he considered their tastes to see what each one wanted most. . . . He used to say, " . .   a man's best finery is when his friends go fine."

In great things it is no wonder he could outdo his generous friends, since he had greater power; but he took care to have the better of them in little attentions and graces, which appears to me more admirable still.

"So, from all I hear, I judge that no one has ever been better loved by Hellenes and Asiatics alike."
Xenophon had followed Cyros into battle. The Anabasis tells how he and "the Ten Thousand" soldiers of Greece were left stranded deep in territory not their own. The next six books tell how they made it home.

I edited the four-page elegy for blog posting and added the italicized headings to break it up.
Trans. W.H.D. Rouse. An Ann Arbor/U Michigan paperback. pp. 27-30.
Reproduction of a Persian horse from Persepolis, Ancient Sculpture Gallery. com

A Daffodil for The Observer(s)

Here's your special request, South Kansas City! I expect a trade when you get yours, over at your F8 blog.

Gia, I am still looking for tulips, looks like any day now. And thanks to all the other flower lovers that have spurred me on. Hey! Two hundred and fifty-first post, just unbelievable. I must be insane.

Urban Terrorism and a Response, in Riverside County, California

Chilling reports:
Right now, the Vagos are in the news for practicing urban terrorism against the police of Hemet, California. They are suspected for placing a pipe in the headquarters of the Hemet Gang Task Force and pumping in a lot of natural gas. Two officers, the first in for the day, realized this immediately and averted fire and explosion. (H/T Sergeant Says for the link.) A zip-gun booby trap was placed on a gate to the PD parking lot. An officer missed taking a head shot by eight inches. Only the poor condition of the gate (and luck) saved him. Then on March 5th, a car belonging to a Gang Task Force member was booby-trapped with a bomb.

The Vagos remain the top suspect for all three of these incidents. Certainly the style of the crime argues for some machining or inventing experience. I hope they get the shop, the makers, and everybody involved.

You have to believe that Hemet's Gang Task Force has been making large strides against the gang. But this response to their effectiveness is absolutely unacceptable to all of us. For those who tolerate the gang or their apologists, (I have seen a few sites), it's time to reconsider your affiliation.

Police Response
On March 17, a Riverside County-wide law enforcement operation targeted 100 Vagos and arrested thirty of them. Arrests were also made concurrently in two other states.

On March 19, an unidentified caller called 911 and stated that a Hemet PD car would be blown up in the next 48 hours. This threat has not so far materialized.

Best wishes to the Hemet Police Department 
and to all Law Enforcement.

Somewhat Related Business
This post announces the addition of a new entry on the gang page and the Sidebar--for Motorcycle Clubs.  I have one going on the Vagos (not quite constructed) but felt there had to be some groundwork laid first.

For those who are interested, I post on gang insignia, some representative news stories, and video or educational sites that show how to recognize gangs, the way they communicate, the modes and methods of their trade, and the threat they pose. I do it to help the law-abiding and maybe even law enforcement.

I am sure that the Hemet PD needs no help from me, but others may be able to use these reference pages to good effect. Because if things get too hot for them in Riverside County, they may go somewhere else.

Ee-jits plus Rodents equals no Candy Bars

The world is just full of people that get the point.
Are you laughing yet?

A corner shopping center has three restaurants, one abandoned video store, and one drug store. The top-floor restaurant remodeled last fall, and the city closed the food aisles for two weekends for R.A.T.Z. Oh, ick.  But everything seemed fine after that. Now the city is doing road/storm sewer work on that corner corner about two blocks from my house. I still don't eat at the restaurants, but I patronize the drug store for an occasional candy bar. Not any more.

Two weeks ago, I walked into my local CVS and saw the floor was moving. They use this grey brillo-textured carpet and the moving things were baby mice. Two days after that, I went in to speak to somebody, but I couldn't stay inside. Somebody had poured naptha all over the carpet (that's what moth balls are made of, and it's not good to breathe). It also doesn't kill rodents.

All the staff was complaining of itching and skin irritation. It's the inside of their lungs I'm worried about. They were also eating in there. It can't be good.

So I wrote the Customer Complaint Center. One week later, I got an e-mail back. "Thank you for your concern in the matter of letter xyz1546. This letter has been sent by Mary Doe."

Five days after that (at least two mouse life cycles, right) I got a call from the district manager.
"I don't want you to worry," he told me. "The store will get remodeled in May, and so there's no problem."

May?!! Four to eight more weeks, and not really rodent control? I was shooting cannonball before I knew it.

"What does remodeling the store front have to do with what's in the back room?" I asked him.

 "In my letter, I said you have to coordinate pest control with the other restaurants and one empty storefront in your building. Otherwise, the mice will just move and then come back.

What are your employees going to do in the meantime with all that carcinogenic naptha laying around?"

He could not get off the phone fast enough. And there I was, warming up to Hanta virus.

District Managers. I knew one good one.

Can anybody give me a big, fat Eeee-e-w/???

Monday, March 22, 2010

Japanese Magnolia

On the way to condo meet, in the rain, temp sixty F.
Mark it on your calendar. Ann T. has nothing to say . . . . 

States v. Markets in Health Care Bill

We continue to define national issues only as political ones, where the spendthrift vanguard meets the tight-fisted old guard, where the charitable spirit meets boot-strapping independence.  By focusing on liberal v. conservative, we are not seeing the real fight.

The National Health Care Bill
More than two armies were in the field.  They're all visible, but somehow we keep forgetting this has been a melee, with various feudal bands all going for the same patch of ground at once. See picture below: many flags, confusion. That's what this was. All the alliances were temporary.

I can assure you this is not a Democratic victory.
Yes, there was a Democrat president. Yes, there was a Democratic  Congress. Yes, no Republican voted for this bill but the Democrats carried the day.

This was a victory for various market actors.
Once again, some political faction (this time the Dems) has fought the war and traded the favors and gained the reputation, for good or ill. They didn't gain anything. The market actors did though.

Who Won
Small Players
1. Small business owners will be able to achieve cheaper pricing for health insurance and ensure their employees all have coverage without breaking the bank. This is a good. A lot of them vote Republican.

2. It's a victory for the working poor, who will be able to get health insurance. This is also a good.

3. It's a victory for the not-working poor, who now know what they can get for free or minimal cost. Democrats. They were mostly getting it anyway.

4. It may even be a victory for the illegal alien, who will be treated for free or minimal cost, depending on how many green cards have to show up in the E.R. They can't vote. But see small business above.

Big Business
5. It's a victory for the pharmaceutical companies and their stockholders and employees (except sales and R & D). Their competition will become less acute. The companies will ally and form joint ventures for R & D and share the wealth. This will cut their costs. There will also be less choices for consumers, from the rich on down to the poor. In general, conservative-minded people are going to benefit here, especially those involved in investment markets.

6. It's a victory for the health care conglomerates and their stockholders. Some employees will be let go when consolidation of the cartel occurs (a defeat).

7. Health-care manufacturers will be able to plan their production of everything from gauze to complicated machinery. They'll have a boom in some products and cut production in others.

**8. It's primarily a victory for the insurance companies. High-risk individuals or communities will go in a pool, and the burden will be shared. They will finally get EVERYONE as a customer, and can start regulating us in full.

As for pharmaceuticals and large health-care conglomerates, standardization allows the present actors to work out a cartel arrangement. They're already a cartel, but the insurance supplier just became more impenetrable. These are traditionally conservative.

The management of these various cartels will undergo some consolidation. There will be fewer actors in that market. Watch your portfolio if you have one. You could do well in the changes.

Win Here, Lose There
9. Under-served areas will have subsidized or lower costs in placement of health-care facilities. This is a victory for rural areas which frequently have nothing (and vote Republican). Urban hospitals and medium-sized areas will be overburdened. Urban areas lose.

10. The middle class will not lose their savings over severe health care issues. They will be the most aggravated, but as a class it keeps them from sinking into the lower class in the face of catastrophic disease. To this, add increased tax burdens.

11. Baby boomers get the federal government to subsidize their health care needs as they approach age. This is a victory for them and a burden on the subsequent generations.

Who Lost
12. It looks like a defeat for the Democrats. The cartels got what they wanted, and can now go back to funding Republicans in elections. The Republicans will not be able to abolish managed health care, but they're more likely to leave it alone once it is established. In my view, traditionally Republican "big business" was hand in glove with the Democratic party on this one. But big business is not loyal to the Dems. It's a temporary alliance.

13. It's a defeat for innovators outside the cartels. That includes most professionals, such as doctors and researchers.
14. It's a defeat for any medical consumer who does not respond to standard treatment, or who needs prolonged treatment.

15. It's a defeat for advertisers and those who depend on advertising revenue (the media, for instance). Reduced competition may lead to less advertising.

It's a mixed bag for us as market actors (suppliers, laborers, consumers. investors) and it is a defeat for us as taxpayers.

The health care bill underlines how governments bumble around restricting markets-- only to free the market actors from all kinds of costs. Standardization is viewed as a good in almost any market over time.

In this case, the federal government is agreeing to take on the costs and burdens of compliance with standardization, while realizing few if any of the benefits. The more convoluted the law, the more burdens the state takes on. It's going to work fine in a burgeoning economy (over time). The years of its inception, and the years when our economy weakens, it's going to sink us like a stone.

Illustration: word and game files

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Miss Ellen noses into North Africa

Well, Miss Ellen had her nose out of joint about the day's plans. But eventually she got off her high gear and wheedled, so guess where we went? 

After all her reckless talk about Desert Foxes and Patton smearing fascisti guts to move his vehicles onward, it was a flat uneventful ride. And did she want to charge up the steps to actually INVADE? No, no: she likes her new tire. Plus her motor is not Italian-make, and therefore refused to grease the wheels.

But as you can see, we had a splendid day. 
Our Sphinx had not got her nose popped off by a Napoleonic artilleryman, either.

The Kokoda Track, part 3--The Fight for Papua

Part 1: Intro, Terrain        Part 2: The Retreat from Kokoda

The Air Battle for Papua New Guinea
"I often wondered what MacArthur's reactions were when he read that a thousand planes took off from England to bomb a German base, when he himself at the start could rarely send more than a half dozen planes on a bombing mission to New Guinea . . . the maximum number of planes he was able to muster for one raid during 1942 was thirty-one and this was late in the year when the boys gave Rabaul a good going over."                     --Pat Robinson. p.34

Pat Robinson was a correspondent who beat MacArthur into Australia in 1942. He was the first U.S. correspondent in New Guinea and had a particular interest in the air battles and the men who fought them. His contention is that the local waters belonged to the Japanese, so MacArthur had no Navy support. He made the Air Corps do what a Navy generally did: control the maritime areas and the flow of materiel.
"Our boys would leave Townsville, often in the middle of the night, go up to Moresby, a four-hour flight, refuel there, and immediately take off for one of the Jap strongholds. No matter how hardened some of them may have become, they always showed the effects of the nervous strain of these missions. Fourteen or fifteen hours of almost continuous flight, with an ackack barrage and perhaps a dogfight thrown in . . . . I have seen some of them drop into their beds . . . others were so keyed up they couldn't sleep at all."  p. 45.
Once in Moresby, a pilot flew to protect his plane from Japanese strafing. He flew to protect his airfield from Japan's assault. And then he flew daily supply drops on the Track and/or Allied assaults. Robinson reports elsewhere that sometimes pilots and crews would go out, come back to refuel, go back out again--sometimes six missions before day's end. There were just not enough planes.

(Note: Costello agrees about the planes, but unlike Robinson, he's got no brief for MacArthur. Bergerud says the Pacific land war was not a general's war. It was fought and commanded by the officers who were actually at the front: Lieutenant-Colonels, for instance.)

The Land War for Papua New Guinea
With the embattled Australian 39th fighting a rearguard action to the Gap with scattered reinforcements from the 7th Australian Division, their backs against the slopes (C). The Japanese outflanked them at Isaruva along the Kokoda Track, putting them 50 miles away from Port Moresby.

Geoffrey Lyon, a young officer in the 21st Brigade of Australia's 7th Division said: (B)
It was a war of shadows. . . . before I went up the track a chap came down who was wounded. He said, 'I haven't even seen a Japanese yet.'  [The Japanese] had superior training and a more profound understanding of jungle warfare. At headquarters, Ours and MacArthur's, we profoundly underestimated the size of their force.
(Australian War Memorial 026852, near Uberi Village, pulling artillery up the track)

By August 25th, MacArthur learned the Japanese were going to attack Port Moresby with another landing of soldiers at Milne Bay (to the East). He sent in the 18th Australian military brigade and 1300 American soldiers by air for reinforcements to the Port Moresby area and tried to bomb Japanese carriers bringing more troops into Milne Bay. They were unsuccessful, but Port Moresby now had sufficient Allies to stop the invasion, killing 2000 Japanese soldiers and ending that threat. Some of those soldiers and some other efforts could now be turned to the bloody Kokoda Track.

On September 5, General Horii's troops were still advancing toward Port Moresby, but now their supply chain had lengthened, and the jungle began to defeat them. On September 17, they took Ioribaiwa on the Kokoda Track. And on September 18, Tokyo ordered them to retreat to Buna. They wanted some of his troops to reinforce Guadalcanal. (C). The war advanced again, back up the Kokoda Track, with the Australians pushing the Japanese this time.

General Horii mounted defensive stands, reinforced by troops from Buna. By October 21, they built bunkers on Eora Creek and held them for a week against the 16th Australian infantry, who had dragged artillery pieces by mule and native bearer through the jungle. On October 28, they lost Kokoda. They then made a stand at the Kumasi River, the same river that the Australians had left in July (Wairopi). The wooden Japanese bridge, built when the Australians cut the rope one away, had been bombed to splinters. General Horii drowned there, trying to cross.

The Golden Stair
(P02423, Australian War Memorial archive, the Golden Stair)

No discussion of the advance up the Kokoda Track is complete without mentioning the Golden Stair. "Near the village of Uberi, which served as an Australian supply depot in September of 1942. Logs were laid in a kind of staircase (held by stakes at either end), rising 1200 feet the first three miles, drops 1600 feet almost straight down, and then rises another 2000 feet in the last four miles." (B).

The stairs varied in height from 12 to 18 inches. Some of the logs were not securely staked. Therefore, those that climbed did not step on the logs, but beyond them, into the mud behind each log. Naturally the rear of any formation was stepping into nothing but soup. (B). Geoffrey Lyon again:
"Don't tell me about the golden stairs. We started in the morning and I finished abut 9:00 at night on my hands and knees. I wasn't worth a bumper. But we made it."
The Battles for Buna and Goa (November 15, 1942-- January 22, 1943)
On November 17th, MacArthur launched a new offensive to take Buna and Goa, with the Americans fighting for Buna and the Australians for Goa. At "Bloody Buna" the supply, the communications, and the sickness ripped through the troops. The front was completely demoralized and refused to advance.

In Australia, MacArthur (according to (C), wearing a pink silk bathrobe and eating lettuce when he wasn't screaming on the phone) finally sent General Eichelberger, who discovered none of the American troops had eaten in over a day, nor eaten anything hot in ten days. For both armies, the arrival of better artillery helped morale immensely. The renewed American assault began again on December 5. (C)

The casualty rate in the battle for these two towns was higher than that of Guadalcanal. (W). Some parts of the 7th sustained a 67% casualty rate. It was a brutal sign of things to come.

As I mentioned in part 1, the Guadalcanal Campaign (August 7, 1942-February 9, 1943) remains the symbol of American sacrifice in the Pacific. This fight for New Guinea, especially its land war, is the one that touches the Australian people. Which was the most important?  The Japanese believed that each was part of the other--a pincer action from both East and West in the Solomon Sea. (B). In both cases, the Japanese lost. The offensive started to shift from Japan to the Allies in the Pacific.

Costello maintains that the U.S. Navy built the supply chain/route over the first year, a more dependable and constant run from California to the Pacific Theatre. That in 1942, most Allied soldiers at the front did not eat turkey for Thanksgiving. That in 1943, they all did. The fight for New Guinea, for Guadalcanal and Tulagi, occurred in the year before the turkey dinners, the malaria medicine, or the replacement parts for planes showed up.

The sea is a kind of terrain, a three-dimensional one, with submarines underneath and planes above. The jungles of the Pacific are a concentrated three-dimensional terrain. The land works against you: you might be sucked down any minute. You might be bombarded by a Zero or a horde of mosquitoes. This is the terrain where Australians and Americans met that impossible, vertical corduroy road called the Golden Stair on the Kokoda Track. The Track led to a gold mine. But in 1942, it led to privation, horror, sickness, death. They ran, walked, climbed, and crawled up it anyway.

Now you can hike the Kokoda Track with a tour guide. It takes four to twelve days. It is a popular pilgrimage for patriotic Australians. For so many fine reasons.

The End

Bergerud, Eric. Touched With Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific. Viking, 1996.
Costello, John. The Pacific War, 1941-1945. Quill, 1982.
Robinson, Pat. The Fight for New Guinea: The Story of MacArthur's First Offensive. A Random House Wartime Book, 1943.
Wikipedia, where linked and The Battle of Buna-Gona

Photos are from the Australian War Memorial via the Anzac Day Organization. According to the site, the proper use of AWM photos ALWAYS includes the photo number. They can be reproduced for commemorative purposes. You can get more on their proper use at the site listed above.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Tulips Yet, Gia

But there are crocus. No fish this time.

Giving Poetry Its Power

I think a good poem is a little word engine. It's more than a clever saying, it's constructed to move.

A poet uses one of any number of verbs that mean the same thing. The one they pick has a sound characteristic that drives the engine forward (alliteration, assonance, rhyme). Or alternately, the word has a root meaning, a little different from another word, that sticks an implication into the thought. Sometimes there's a conceit--an advancing comparison or metaphor, that strikes you with its brilliance. The best-known example of that is John Donne's compass in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.--the perfect circle made by the travelling spouse and the stationary one.

Poetry has a rhythm. That's all that iambic pentameter, the rising and falling foot. (Trust the stuffy English to drag Latin into something easy, and make it intimidating.) The main thing to know, if you are not up on the iambs and the meter, is that rhythm advances the poem. Shakespeare's sonnets always sound like a heartbeat or a clock ticking. The rhythm reinforces the sense of a heart beating with love, the advance of time, the urge to be here now.

So every once in awhile (if not always) you should read poetry aloud. Give it the full play of the author's craft.  We listen to pop music and sing along. That's because poetry is better on the tongue than in the book.
I used to read poetry aloud on road trips with my husband. You would think, "oh, no" but it really worked out. One time I was reading Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn on a freeway. I got to the second stanza--

      Heard melodies are sweet/But those unheard are sweeter--

and he said "God!"

I stopped reading.
"No, that is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life," he said, and switched lanes. "Start over."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Glorious Monuments

Okay, I actually love these and the space they take up in cities, the parks around them, and the opportunities they give us to reflect and to play. But for those who wonder why art ever got abstract, here's your answer.

This is General Logan, surely preparing to sign some important document. However, it looks like he's directing the catering staff, possibly with a shot glass in hand.

At center, Daniel Webster had been declaiming, only to be suddenly struck with lower back pain. Daily sit-ups, Daniel!

Amid these political and military images in greenspaces, there's a doctor, the founder of homeopathy, in his bathrobe. Looks like he needed more fiber in his diet.

I'm sure they were all men of great accomplishment, and the bronze work in every case is stunningly beautiful and enduring.

If they ever When they make a monument to me, I would like to be dressed as Athena, only w/o the helmet, holding a scroll as well as a spear: take that, Buster, and with footnotes!  --

Pigeons will undoubtedly make most of the comments on my posterity. Then some unknown, future Ann T. Wannabee will come along and say, "This woman in a nightgown didn't like her bedtime reading much".

Have a great weekend, everybody! 
From Ann T. ,
scrolling and spear-heading her way through the 21st Century--

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shame: Bad Priests, Bad Policies, Bent Lobbyists

Priests committing child abuse. The Catholic Church covering it up. The abused kids and their families never able to reconcile the crime, the faith, the law, and themselves. Kids delivered unknowingly--in God's name and with good intentions--by their parents--to someone they trust. Then suffering this kind of ordeal. Sometimes over and over.

There was also recently a scandal involving a rabbi in Brooklyn, very similar, and a case of a rabbi in Israel who fled to Canada two years ago. It occurs in other faiths not mentioned here.

We've had heart-breaking priest scandals in Boston, New Mexico, New Orleans. We have one in Germany and a new one in Chicago. We have Ireland and Rhode Island. Another one in Switzerland.

I have no sympathy whatsoever that the Catholic Church only has a staff of ten to review these cases at the Vatican. Only Ten. That says something about priorities right there.

Insult to Injury: Conflated Agendas
In some circles, and in popular discourse/the press,
 this recurring situation is considered a slam against the Church's policy on priest celibacy/no marriage. In other words, if priests could marry, they wouldn't have sexual urges against children. That is Outrageous Bull Shit.

This is not about sexual relations in a marriage of partners. It's about sick bastards abusing their power over children who are physically, cognitively, psychologically, and spiritually unable to respond on an equal basis. It's rape. It's child molesting.

These so-called priests had an entire universe of illicit sexual contacts to choose from. They chose kids. Married priest advocates shouldn't use these victims again for their own purposes. Shame and shame again.

The Only Acceptable Agenda--Stopping This Crime
If  a priest or minister or rabbi abuses a child sexually, if he rapes anyone, he gets de-frocked, stripped of ministerial powers. No ifs, no ands, no buts. No cover-up. No special dispensation and no transfer to a new, unsuspecting parish. He gets to meet Justice in a court of law. He goes to prison. Then sometime after that, he answers to the hereafter.

If any church official of any church colludes to hide a rape or child abuse, he is dismissed, de-frocked, de-ordained, whatever that procedure is called. He answers to the accessory charge in a court of law. He meets that Justice.

And, if anyone uses these victims to advance some other agenda, no matter its solution to some other problem, they are out of the room. They speak no further. They carry no weight.

Anything else is Wrong.   Period, zero, the end.

Miss Ellen Steps Out

Instead of flirting with the flatlands of HotWinds, Miss Ellen wanted to go hill-jumping. All very well for HER, since I am the motor of this duet. But I'm pleased to say we rode up Mount Everest, obeying all traffic laws, including the stop signs at Sherpa Ridge, No-Air Pass, and Too Much Freaking Government.

Those people in Lexusii need to learn what Stop means. I'm sure they'll learn eventually. Hopefully my blood will not be involved in the lesson.

LOL, gang, we're all at home. Going to do it again tomorrow.

The Kokoda Track, part 2--the Rearguard Action

Part 1 discussed the assault on Buna, Goa, and Kokoda in brief--mostly the terrain, and some of the technology that made the difference. I decided the rearguard action from Kokoda deserved its own post.

Photo: Australian War Memorial 026320, the retreating wounded, August 1942

The Kokoda Rearguard Action
By the end of July, 1942, the 500 Australians of the  stationed around Kokoda had already withdrawn from Wairopi, taking care to cut the cables to the wire-and-rope bridge into the torrential Kumasi. (C). (Wairopi is about 20 miles north of Kokoda (B)).With their supply line far shorter, the Japanesewere able to build their own bridge and resupply efficiently. They continued their land offensive through the jungle toward Kokoda. They also took Sananda port along the coast.

On July 29, with their commanding officer killed in the fight for Kokoda and the battle unwinnable, the remaining members of the 39th and the Papuan Infantry (Native) (herinafter PIN) began a long retreat to the Gap (near Templeton's Crossing on map), the steepest part of the trail. The terrain was not well known by the Australians at base or on the Track. It was felt that the Gap was not only high but narrow, so that it could be held by a minimal force. The Gap is actually quite wide. (B)

The line of men evacuating would have been a straggling, long line. The Japanese troops continued to hack new paths threw the jungle and harry the Australians at every point they tried to hold. (C). By mid-August, the battle centered about halfway across the trail, at "The Gap", the highest slope in the trail. Those troops that survived to the Gap were "weakened by lack of food, sleep, and shelter", in Lt. Colonel Honner's words, who had arrived to take over command of these "nearly at a standstill" forces, mostly armed with World War I-issue Lewis firearms.

In the meantime, small parties of the 7th Australian division was ordered to relieve the 39th--fighters with desert experience, not jungle experience, who traveled the Kokoda Track from Port Moresby--a five-day walk and run expedition into battle, each carrying 60 pounds or more of equipment up steep and treacherous terrain.

Enter Technology Again-Modern but Broken 
Port Moresby, which had been Japan's initial strategic objective could not be emptied to help these soldiers.  MacArthur's staff learned that less than 50 of the 245 planes stationed in Port Moresby were functional, so little or no air power was available to aid the effort.

Two weeks of infighting (MacArthur v. Australian chiefs of staff (C); working soldiers v. the 'per diem' boys (R)) managed to get another fifty of those operational. These planes were able to drop food and supplies to the soldiers. They also conducted a series of air attacks on Rabaul. And the Japanese also had renewed plans to attack Port Moresby and Milne Bay, so much of the 7th was detailed to protect the three airfields in the Port Moresby area. Because each side's capability, just as in the Battle for the Coral Sea and at Midway, was extended  by air power. (C)  In short, air cover/capability was not really available to these troops for three weeks.

The 'Fuzzy Wuzzies'
Papuans acted as stretcher-bearers and medics to the wounded. The stretcher was slung onto a single pole, two bearers each. Each group of eight stretchers was under the authority of one native leader. (AnZ) According to this report (DH):
Along this track, day after day, the walking sick and wounded passed and plodded, those too desperate to stand being carried by native carriers. Carrying improvised stretchers, one or two blankets lashed with native string or vine to two long poles spread by stout traverse bars, as many as eight or ten native bearers would traverse the track day after day. To watch them descend steep spurs into a mountain stream, along the bed and up the steep ascent, was an object lesson in stretcher bearing. . .
If night finds the stretcher still on the track, they will find a level spot and build a shelter over the patient. They will make him as comfortable as possible, fetch him water and feed him if food is available, regardless of their own needs.  . . . . These were the deeds of the "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels"-for us! What can we do for them?
Hundreds were wounded. No known WIA was left behind. According to this account, of the wounded who made it out, only four died in the hospital. (DH)

The Japanese assault was a determined one, showing great fortitude in brutal jungle terrain. That determination was matched in full by the outflanked, undermanned, outgunned Australian and Papuan troops. They saved their own in the best manner possible. It is a truly remarkable story of loyalty and humanity under a kind of fire and privation that is impossible to imagine.

And the Allies came back. That's going to be post three. More heroism to come.

For those who are interested in the environment for soldiers in the Pacific (contributing to physical and psychic stress), as well as good battle accounts, Bergerud's book is rocking solid. I had forgotten how good it was.

ANZAC Day Organization--"The Battle for Australia"
Eric Bergerud, Touched with Fire, Viking Press
John Costello, The Pacific War 1941-1945, Quill Publishing
Pat Robinson, The Fight for New Guinea, Random House "Wartime Book" (in other words, fast propaganda for Liberty Bonds), 1943
Digger History, Kokoda Track page and 39th Bn page
Photos are from the Australian War Memorial Archives by way of ANZAC Day Organization above.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Teachers and Trainers--All the Good

Well, this will be a short and sweet.

A big shout out and a bouquet of Rembrandt Tulips to Miss Brave of New York City. Every day she is teaching manners, science, social skills and social studies, English, stories, legends and fun to thirty very small students. In addition, she has been trying to get one mother of one distressed child to wake up, smell the coffee, and help her own son get what he needs to succeed.

In her last blog post, she details her triumph to the max, in a week that includes field trips, barfing, heart-to-heart talks, and over-it bus drivers. Then one of her commenters told her she wasn't doing her job. Naturally, that commenter was anonymous.

Anonymous: your roses died two weeks ago. Sorry. I can still have them delivered.

My second shout out is to Bunkermeister at Sgt Says, and since he likes militaria, a couple of shields to him (these WWI Army Adjutant Corps Insignia). Just this week he has put out a statement of purpose: to provide short lessons for police officers who want to stay safe on the street. I read him every day, because I learn

a. I can always do better; b. situations can generally be mastered, even the bad ones, with a little forethought, and c. good sense comes in quiet packages.

The Sergeant Says blog is all about sensible thinking. I recommend it to anyone.

So there you have it: two very different people with two very different styles of blogging. Both of them just as interesting as they can be. Both of them committed to teaching.

Tulip painting, Joe Ray Kelley at; Militaria, Snyder's Treasures

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Kokoda Track, part I

In 1942, the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea was the scene of one of the bloodier campaigns in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. I have always found this battle to be compelling, chiefly after reading John Costello's wonderful book (hereinafter (C)).  I also consulted Bergerud's book, excellent for its constant inclusion of veteran accounts of battle (hereinafter (B)). These and other references below.

In the United States, we are more used to considering Guadalcanal as a touchstone for military sacrifice. For Australia, this is the campaign that resonates--Guadalcanal, only right next door.
This might take more than two posts to finish. I am not a seasoned military writer, so anyone who wants to add clarifications, please write in. I wanted to try--
Kokoda Track, 2006

Before and After
In 1890, the Kokoda Track was the way to the Yodda Kokoda goldfields. You'd leave northern Australia, hop across the water to Port Moresby, and travel 37 miles to Kokoda--in nearly a straight line by the map. An experienced, athletic hiker with modern hiking gear can now traverse it in four arduous days. Even today freight is either airlifted or carried in by human bearer. Three days is the record, for native New Guineans who use it regularly under peace conditions.

The Kokoda Track runs over the spine of the volcanic Owen Stanley range, topping out at altitude 7185 ft/2190 meters. It has mud: slippery slopes. It has creeks. Hot and wet during the day, it is also freezing cold at night. The track is completely surrounded by a jungle full of malarial mosquitoes. After the beach elevation, tall kunai grass stands, a more than decent cover for advance, but with no visibility. The kunai grass, according to veteran Ernest Gerber:
is a tall grass that grows from five to eight feet tall, [and as thick as a lawn, only tall] . . . the blades are razor sharp. Immediately after the kunai grass you enter the Owen Stanley foothills.
Another feature of the volcanic area is that going up was not straight up--or gradually higher--this is an area of "young' geological activity, with many spines, gorges--hard sharp rock in increasingly irregular "folded" terrain. The dense jungle surrounded the highest elevations of most of these volcanic islands, making high ground no real advantage as far as forecasting the advance of an enemy. (B)

Technology and Supply
The technology that made the early difference was the machete and the shovel. The machete was used on what U.S. Marines called 'Wait a minute' vines, jungle brush, small and large trees. It was a shin-breaking, back-aching, fever-making, nightmarish terrain, a place where any individual excuse to fail might seem justified--and yet both sides refused to fail.

The Allies that met the Japanese on the Kokoda track needed to be triathletes, Sherpas, and of a mental and moral fiber that enabled them to push their will through both Nature's and man's conceptions of hell. And at this early stage of the war for the U.S., supply chain for basics such as groundsheets, anti-malarial meds, and rations was not fully worked out. (C)

The Battle for the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7, 1942)
Both the Allies and the Japanese considered New Guinea one strategic placement for the invasion of Australia, and both calculated there would be no better place to launch such an invasion than Port Moresby. The Allies had already garrisoned Port Moresby and fought off navy interference in the Battle of the Coral Sea, around the Solomon Islands (to the East of Papua New Guinea). Then they smacked the Japanese Navy at Midway .  Both of these battles are significant in that aircraft carriers meant everything--sea power was extended by air power. Therefore, the fight was not just for ocean control, but for air supremacy, over land and sea.

At the end of Midway, the Japanese Navy still had lethal capability. But it could no longer implement its "Second Operational Phase"--the offensive--to Samoa as previously planned, and then island-hopping to New Guinea. (C). They reconsidered their options, but as we know, they weren't ready to quit. In particular, the Japanese Army saw this as their opportunity to mount some of their own campaign priorities. (B)

Map: The Battle of the Coral Sea. Papua New Guinea's Eastern peninsula at top left, Australia at bottom left. Samoa is further East, 2500 miles from Australia. Rabaul is top center, barely in the map, a leg of New Guinea. 

With their navy lacking offensive might, the Japanese Army stepped up for an overland war across New Guinea. Allied cryptographers had not finished cracking this permutation of the Japanese battle codes. But Australian reconnaissance planes noted the troop transport ships from Rabaul on July 18, 1942. The Allies tried bombing runs, but the aircraft carriers were barely in range for B-17 bombers to be effective. The Japanese plan was to land troops at Buna and Gona on the North coast, then travel overland to the south and harass Australia that way. (C).

The Japanese Campaign
The Japanese took Gona on July 22, 1942 under a determined General Horii.  Horii then sent an advance force of 2,000 soldiers, armed with machetes and shovels with holes in the blade (important technology here: the holes in the shovel are better for use in swampy muck). They were to hack their way through. The first man in each column cut back jungle until he fell from exhaustion, and then the man behind him hacked jungle after that. This pitiless method worked. Within days, 13,000 troops and 1,000 native bearers were poised at the top of that mountainous spine. (C).

No one expected the Japanese to work past such a formidable natural barrier, and especially not so soon. Australia had stationed 500 members of the 39th Infantry along with Papuan troops in the area. They would soon engage a force vastly the stronger.

The first engagement was 30 Australians of the 11th platoon of the 39th against an advance guard of Japanese, out-numbered and lacking weaponry. They had their revolvers, and one Lewis machine gun. The average age of those members of the platoon was 18.5 years (DH).

Kokoda Track, 1943

The continued fight for Kokoda continued to be unequal.  The 39th was ordered to hold. Their commanding officer was killed in a pitched battle for Kokoda town/settlement on July 29. The only way to resupply, reinforce the Australians/PIN, or retreat, was via the Kokoda track. This was being shelled and mortared by the Japanese, an already near-impossible road that had become a deathly path. With a large number of starving, wounded, and sick soldiers, the retreat to the "Gap" began.

The history of this rear action--ferocious on both sides, with the Australians saving nearly all of their wounded over the weeks of strategic retreat, should never be forgotten.
I'll return to this subject, but not tomorrow. Still working up the rest, and I want it to be right.
Adventure Out, Cross-section map of the Kokoda Trail (pdf)
Eric Bergerud, Touched with Fire, Viking, 1996. Gerber quote p. 75.
John Costello's The Pacific War, 1941-1945, Quill, 1982
US Army photos
A veteran's account of the retreat from Kokoda at Digger History
Wikipedia, as linked above.
Photos: Australian Age, Australian Broadcasting Corporation