DOG TAG MEMORIES by CHRIS DONNER – for Memorial Day

For all those who served, a good remembering post. Thank you!

Cee and Chris

Dog tags.  For years they were always with me.  Day and night, dangling over my heart.  I don’t know what became of them once I took off my uniform for the last time.  I kept them for a while but they were lost somewhere, some time ago, in a move from here to there.  

Mine were from the Vietnam era, the 1960s and 70s.  We didn’t have the fancy silencers on ours that they have today, those little coverings around the edges that keep them quiet.  Ours did tend to clink together, easily giving away your position if you were trying to be stealthy.

They always give you two of them, you know.  One stays with your body and the other goes back for the identification record.

I’m mentioning all of this because in the United States, we are going to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend.  I know many…

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WTF IS GOING ON? – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m so confused. I used to think I had some handle on what was going on in the news. Pretty much all bad, all crazy, all the time. But I had definite opinions on how I thought things would play out.

No more. I’m clueless now. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I was sure that no matter what Trump did or what Mueller found, the Republicans in control of Congress would not do anything to censure, let alone impeach him. I thought we would have to wait for Democrats to regain control of both houses in Congress before impeachment could even be considered. And even then, I didn’t believe that there would be enough votes in the Senate to actually convict Trump and remove him from office. So any impeachment by the House would end up being a toothless gesture.

At that point, my brain would freeze over. I had no idea what would happen next in my own scenario.

Now I’m less certain about this whole theory. I’m really not sure what will happen in the future or even later today. So much happens so quickly these days. Often out of the blue, or so it seems. Trump makes spontaneous, off the cuff policy announcements that no one in his own White House knows about or is prepared for. He often backtracks the next day. Or not! Headline news stories blare out constantly with revelations from various investigations, law suits and ethics probes involving the president and his merry band of unethical misfits.

I worry that Trump will bomb a random country and start another pointless war. I live in fear that Trump will fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, which would have the same effect. One minute I’m sure he’ll do it and throw the country into a major constitutional crisis with no satisfactory resolution in Republican controlled Washington. The next minute I’m sure he won’t risk the major political explosion he would trigger if he interfered with the Mueller investigation.

This perpetual uncertainty makes me very uncomfortable. I pride myself on staying informed enough to understand what’s going on in the news at any given time. I’m shaky on Mid Eastern and Far Eastern policy and economics. But I usually have a handle on domestic news and policies. I have to narrow my focus since I don’t want to spend even more time than I already do consuming news every day. I’m a slow reader so I can only cover so much territory.

Things are happening so quickly and so randomly that I can’t keep up any more. Even though I do try.

I have to admit that sometimes all the national drama can be exciting and energizing. But the crazy and the unpredictable are going into warp drive. Trump seems to be devolving and dragging us all under with him. It’s getting less and less exciting and more and more scary and insane.

I wish I could turn away from this slow motion train wreck, but I can’t. So I’ll keep reading and watching MSNBC and hope that my sanity survives longer than Trump’s does.

POSTWAR: A HISTORY OF EUROPE SINCE 1945 – TONY JUDT

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt


Available in paperback, hardcover and as an audiobook


Reading PostWar was a project, an immersion experience during which I first unlearned, then relearned everything I knew of modern European history. It was worth the effort. This is a long book — 960 pages — crammed with so much information I had to read it twice before I felt I had a grip on the material.

Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretence of being a neutral observer. Not that any historian is really neutral. Every historian has an agenda. Whether or not he or she puts it out there for all to see is a matter of style, but there is no such thing as historical neutrality. If an historian is writing about an era, he or she has an opinion about it. All history is slanted, changed by the historians who write it.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Dr. Tony Judt believed the role of an historian is to set the record straight. He undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of post World War II European history. He lays bare lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch — exposing an ugly legacy of entrenched anti-Semitism, xenophobia and ethnocentricity.

Although Judt follows a more or less chronological path from World War II to the present, he doesn’t do it as a strict “timeline.” Instead of a linear progression, he follows threads of ideas and philosophy. Tracing cultural and social development, he takes you from news events through their political ramifications. You follow parallel developments in cinema, literature, theater, television and arts, not just the typical political and economic occurrences on which most history focuses.

After two consecutive readings, I finally felt I’d gotten it. Postwar changed my view of  the world, not just what happened, but what is happening.

Tony Judt and I were born in 1947. We grew up during same years, but his Old World roots gave him an entirely different perspective. He forced me to question fundamental beliefs. What really happened? Was any of the stuff I believed true? Maybe not or at least, maybe only partially. It was hard to swallow, but he convinced me. I believe it.

If you are Jewish (I am and so was Judt), and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up painful issues. The depth and breadth of European anti-Semitism and collusion in the destruction of European Jewry is stomach churning. Pretty lies are easier to deal with than ugly reality. It’s easy to understand why so much of what we know is wrong.

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

Even though I knew history, I didn’t grasp the impact of these years until Postwar made it real. I assumed, having lived these decades and followed the news, I knew what happened.

I was wrong. What is reported by American media barely scratches the surface. The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of war to a modern European union is more extensive, complex and far-reaching than I had grasped. These changes affect all of us directly and personally. My understanding of current events is far better because of this book.

I read Postwar on paper, then listened to the audio version. Available from Audible.com, I recommend it to anyone with easily tired eyes. It has excellent narration and is a fine showcase for the author’s conversational writing style.

Postwar is analysis and criticism, not just “what happened.” The book is an eye-opener, totally worth your time and effort, an investment in understanding and historical perspective. It’s never dull. After reading it, you will never see Europe or World War II the same way.

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU?

DUNKIRK – TRAGEDY AND MIRACLE


Last night, I rented (from Amazon) “Dunkirk” and we watched in the comfort of our living room. I must say, it was a far better experience (and a lot less money!) than going to the movies, finding a parking space and dashing through the icy cold to finally warm up in the theater.

And at home, when someone needed the bathroom … there was a “pause” on the television. Ah the joy of the “pause” feature.

Sometimes, when we are watching something serious, it is hard to call it entertainment, yet surely it was. This movie took a rather different approach to Dunkirk, looking at the event from the aspect of the soldiers stuck on that beach. It was a movie of few words. Extremely visual.

So close to home they could just about smell Dover in the wind, yet with their back to the sea and every expectation of being destroyed to the last soldier.

When all those little ships from England appeared on the horizon, my eyes welled up. What more amazing sight than all of a nations boats crossing over to bring home a stranded army?

If it wasn’t entertainment, then what was it? Well, it was educational. Not that we didn’t know about Dunkirk, of course. If you know anything about World War II and Great Britain’s role in if, you have to know about Dunkirk. In many ways, this giant defeat-turned-miracle was the turnaround for England’s war. This was when — for the first time — the entire country said “We will never surrender” and they meant it.

They never surrendered and eventually, we New Worlders came and saved the Old World from destruction. Would we do it again?

I would hope so. Great deeds by millions of small and regular people give me hope.

GARRY ARMSTRONG – WITH LBJ IN VIETNAM

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, from 1963 to 1969. As President, he designed “Great Society” legislation, including civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and a “War on Poverty”.

Johnson’s civil rights bills banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing. It included a voting rights act that guaranteed the right to vote for all U.S. citizens, of all races. Passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 reformed the country’s immigration system, eliminating national origins quotas.

The push to get his legislation through ended Johnson’s political career. He called in every favor, bullied, cajoled, and bargained to get the needed votes. He got it done, but if any politician ever fell on his sword for what he believed was right, LBJ was that guy. Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and his readiness to do whatever it took to advance his legislative goals.


Location: A campfire in Vietnam near Saigon.

Year: 1967.

1967 and 1968 were very intense years for me. I had jumped directly from college and small time commercial radio, to ABC Network News. The time was right and the opportunity was there, but I was a kid thrust suddenly into the big leagues. My journalistic baptism started with the 6-day war in the Middle East which began on my first day at ABC. My professional life continued with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the volatile 1968 Presidential campaigns and a long visit to Vietnam, the first of several.

At headquarters in New York, my assignment was to receive reports from ABC’s field correspondents. I’d speak with them over static-riddled phone lines. Difficult to hear for anyone, harder for me. The daily MACV — or war front reports — were often significantly different from what the Pentagon reported. It was disturbing, worrying. Then, they sent me to Vietnam.

The sights, sounds and smells of Vietnam are still with me, 50 years later.

ABC needed a grunt to help the news team covering President Johnson’s visit to Vietnam. I was it. My job required I not allow myself to be distracted from the work at hand. I was a young reporter still learning the ropes. I had to stay focused on the story and exclude the other harrowing images around me.

LBJ vietnam 1967It was a typical evening, the never-ending noise of artillery in the background. It was what was called “down time.” Dinner around a campfire. GI’s, South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians and news media, all hunkered down for chow. Everything was off the record. Chow was beans and some unknown local meat. Most of us ate the beans. Skipped the meat.

President Johnson or L J as he told us to call him, squatted at the point of the campfire and told some colorful tales about dealing with his pals in the Senate and Congress. The stories were punctuated with smiles and profanities. L J was drinking from a bottle which he passed around. Good stuff.

Halfway through dinner, the beans began to resonate. The smell was pungent! I must’ve had a funny look on my face because L J gave me a withering stare and asked if I had a problem. I remember sounding like a squeaky 16-year-old as I responded “No sir.” L J guffawed and passed the bottle back to me.

Before completing his trip, President Johnson confided to some of us that seeing Vietnam up close confirmed his worst fears. He broadly hinted he was unlikely to seek re-election, given the backlash of Vietnam back home in the States. I thought he sounded like one of my cowboy heroes putting duty above personal gain.

But it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing. History,

The following day was my final encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson. There were handshakes, a smile about our campfire evening and L J was again President Lyndon Johnson, one of the truly great American presidents.

THE WAR TO END ALL WARS ENDED 99 YEARS AGO

I am 70 years old. For my entire life — all seventy years — there has been a war going on somewhere. Usually, the US has been involved in it — or is about to become involved. I keep hoping, if I live long enough, there will come a day when there is no war in the news. When the U.S. has no fighting men dying somewhere for reasons no one will remember a decade later.

The irony is, it would be much easier to count the years during which we have not been at war. There have been far fewer of them.

War doesn’t seem to be working out well. Maybe we should try something else?

Right now is the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I, supposedly “the war to end all wars.” Instead, it was closer to “the war to begin all wars.” Many of the wounds the world suffered then are still festering today. It ended at eleven in the morning, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year in 1918.


11-11-11


I intentionally posted this at precisely eleven in the morning. I didn’t know if anyone would notice, but I noticed.

I would like to see a world without war … but I’m not holding my breath.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND NAZIS, REDUX – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m writing this on Saturday August 12, 2017. I only mention this because I’ve noticed that many of the blogs I’ve written since November 8th 2016 about the  “Orange Fuehrer” (yup, I’m going there) which I thought were specific to that week or day, have become “evergreen”. By that I mean if it’s re-posted  six months later, it still seems like I wrote it yesterday. Today may be different.  But somehow, I doubt it.


Cognitive dissonance is defined as one mind simultaneously holding two or more conflicting beliefs, ideas or values.

I experienced a variation of that today. Ellin, my daughter Sarah and I went to see the movie “Dunkirk” this afternoon.

It’s a very good movie. It documents the reality of what 400,000 English troops experienced for a week. They were trapped by German forces at the beach of Dunkirk. The Germans, no excuse me, to be more specific, THE NAZIS, chose to send the Luftwaffe to bomb and shoot them like fish in a barrel.

They bombed RED CROSS HOSPITAL SHIPS FILLED WITH WOUNDED SOLDIERS! NAZI U-Boats sank every ship they could find overloaded with troops.  What eventually saved the English troops were hundreds and hundreds of private citizens. These people owned small fishing boats, small pleasure boats, any kind of boat, and sailed them across the English Channel, risking their lives to rescue British troops.

Churchill hoped to save 30,000 troops. Out of 400,000. The boats that went over rescued over 350,000. They had no guns. The troops only had rifles to fight back against U-Boats and dive bombers. Dunkirk was both one of the worst moments for the allies and the best moments for the allies. When the troops reached England, there was a volunteer who was handing out blankets to the soldiers. He told each one “Well done.”

One of the soldiers replied. “All we did was survive.” The man replied “Sometimes, that’s enough.” The NAZIS went on to do more horrific things before the war was over.

My point is. The Nazis were the bad guys. I mean, really REALLY BAD GUYS. It’s rare in human history to have really, really bad guys with no redeeming qualities. The best thing you could say about Hitler was that he was nice to his dog. And we sort of need really good bad guys. After the Nazis died out, we briefly had the Klingons.

They were really bad guys. Until Star Trek Next Generation where they became not so bad guys.

But Nazis? They have ALWAYS BEEN REALLY, REALLY BAD GUYS. Hell, in German schools, from grade school on up, they are upfront with their history. They make sure every German is aware of exactly what happened in WWII to make sure that it never happens again.

At least, in Germany.  I bring all of this up because when I came home from watching Dunkirk, I started watching the news. White nationalists, waving NAZI flags and Confederate flags, were rioting in Charlottesville at what they called a “Unite the Right” rally. A NAZI, drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and wounding 19 others. These were not Germans. White men, born here.

I cannot call them Americans. Their leaders claim that “they are fulfilling the promises of Donald J. Trump. They are taking back America.”

They led a nighttime rally reminiscent of Hitler’s rallies of the 1930’s. But they did it in polo shirts and with  TIKI torches! TIKI torches! Are you kidding me??? I went to a Luau clam bake and a KKK rally broke out!

The Governor of Virginia gave a stirring speech saying that these NAZIS were not welcome in Virginia. They were not welcome in America. He is right.

What did our Asshole-In-Chief say? He said a lot of people are to blame — but never mentioned …. THE FUCKING NAZIS!!!!!

Here’s the dissonance.

We fought a war against these assholes. My dad and his generation served and died fighting against these assholes. For those few who are still alive, what must they think watching the news — today, Saturday, August 12th. 2017?

What has happened to us? NAZIS ARE THE BAD GUYS!

I usually try to be funny with my posts.

I try to find the humor in the insanity that has become our reality. But not today. Maybe tomorrow.