Friday, October 30, 2020

The Story of Stalag 3B, Part II.

Unfortunately, the Blogger video sharer is a space hog, and will not let me add text.

So here is where I will give a little context.

The Soviet Union did not sign the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. The Nazi war machine was all too happy to exploit this, and Soviet war prisoners were treated abominably. Whereas the Germans generally, if not always, followed Geneva protocols for Western soldiers whose nations had signed the Convention. Including Jewish prisoners, albeit with gnashed teeth and some efforts to cull Jewish soldiers for the extermination camps. Such efforts were met with heroic resistance from their gentile comrades-in-arms. While I cannot call up the link, a German-speaking American officer told the Nazis much the same at another Stalag, snarling at the shocked Nazis: "I will not--I am an American officer!" 

In German. He was tortured for his trouble, but did not relent.

So now you have some background for why the Germans were culling Soviet prisoners through slow starvation, and why several courageous Americans refused to stand idly by. 

Another aside: shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the chaos disrupted once-reliable (in socialist terms) supplies of food and other necessities to a large nursing home for Soviet veterans of the Great Patriotic War. I believe it was just outside of St. Petersburg.

Once word got out, Western nations rushed supplies to the home. 

The Soviet veterans inspected the first shipment to arrive--and howled in outrage.

The supplies were from the Federal Republic of Germany, and they refused to touch the Nemietski crap, even if it meant they would suffer.

Shortly thereafter, another shipment arrived. The veterans inspected the shipment, and saw that it came from America.

No problem--they accepted it. The Americans had been their allies during the death struggle with the Nazis, and the Cold War was no obstacle.

The Story of Stalag 3B.

And the lockdown restrictions are returning.

I get it--record case count in Michigan yesterday.

What I would like to see is where the cases are coming from, and where the hospitalization rates are. Our dear friend Shelly is finally out of the hospital, and I know this is no joke. Especially for one of my demographic and health status.

What I have heard is that the colleges are swarming with new infections. My alma mater has a dorm where the sick are quarantined, per a friend who works there. They are near capacity and will have to start sending quarantined students home when they go over. While this is not a great development, it also seems to be the case that otherwise-healthy college age people shrug this off reasonably well.

I also have a good friend who is a small business owner. His business was one of the last permitted to reopen under the Governor's labyrinthine classification system. He can handle lowering capacity restrictions--to a point. But he won't survive another shutdown--certainly not without another stimulus to get him by. He already had to let go his No. 2 because he couldn't afford to keep him on the reduced payroll, and hasn't been able to bring him back.

We need to find the balance. 

 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

One of the generals of America's first "forgotten war."

The fighting in Korea is usually referred to as "the Forgotten War," a reference to how little of an impression it has made on the American historical consciousness. Outside of M*A*S*H*, the cultural markers of that War are non-existent.

But I would argue that America's involvement in the First World War has made even less of an impression. It resonated at the time, but the wrangles over Versailles, the League of Nations and repayment of loans issued by America soured the nation quickly.

It became the war America wanted to forget--and it must be admitted that our nation did a pretty good job of it.

The only Americans from the conflict who pierce the cloud of willful forgetting are Sergeant Alvin York, General John Pershing and, most poignantly, the Unknown Soldier. 

Which is truly unfortunate, since it was, in terms of actual casualties per day of combat, America's bloodiest war.

In April 1917, the United States brought into modern, mechanized warfare a first class navy, the Browning automatic rifle, the Springfield M1903 and a flood-tide of enthusiastic fighting men.

To say that America was criminally-unprepared to fight in the Great War is an understatement. 

And her officer corps' experience consisted of frontier policing, brief fighting in the Spanish-American War and the bloody counter-insurgency in the Philippines. The Army War College, an effort to systematically train officers along European General Staff lines, was not quite 16 years old when the War began.

And the process of promoting Army officers by merit instead of seniority was not quite 30 years old.

In the aftermath of the declaration of war on the Central Powers, America had to engage in a crash mobilization program, expanding an army from the low five figures to over four million by the end of the War.


Pershing became America's Generalissimo, which was helpful from the standpoint of administration and a steely determination to forge an American fighting force. But amongst his flaws were playing favorites, micromanagement, and being an at best indifferent tactician.

This would lead to a crisis in America's bloodiest campaign, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Pershing, retaining command of the First Army as well as being the overall American commander, was flatly-overwhelmed by the task. Small gains and large casualties were the result of the American assault on the formidable terrain. Exhausted, Pershing kicked himself upstairs and appointed Hunter Liggett to replace him.

Liggett was not a favorite of Pershing's, but the latter was smart enough to recognize the merits of the stocky, unassuming veteran. Despite some initial continuing micromanagement by Pershing, Liggett was able to reorganize and refit the exhausted First Army. He also ordered the air arm of the AEF to provide more close support and air cover for American attacks. After a two week breather, he out-generaled the German commander by finding a seam in the formidable defenses, enabling the First Army to outflank the Germans. From that day forward, the American armies were continually on the move, breaking out of the Argonne. At the time of the Armistice, American troops were a day's march away from cutting the major German rail line supplying the Kaiser's forces being rolled up by British and Commonwealth forces to the west. 

In short, Hunter Liggett had won the first modern American military campaign. Decisively.

And except for a fort in California, he is almost entirely unknown. 

Author Michael Shay attempts to remedy this historical injustice by composing the first biography of General Liggett, who died in 1935. For the most part, Shay's work is solid, with excellent attention to detail, showing a historian who slogged through the records and reports of the pre-modern U.S. Army. Liggett and his wife had no children, and his personal papers were either few or unpreserved after his devoted-but-impoverished widow died. Liggett's story is a very interesting one, as he began his career in an Army built mostly to police the Indian tribes of the West, and finished it after commanding a force of millions with tanks, airplanes, and poison gas. Shay outlines this slow military transformation, as civilian and military leaders alike recognized that the shortcomings of the U.S. Army were threatening to render it useless. He describes the end of the seniority promotion scheme, which was nothing short of idiotic, and the birth of the Army War College, which proved to be a useful training ground for army officers, even in its infancy. 

Liggett comes across as a dutiful officer well-suited for a modernizing army. He devoted countless hours to study of modern military problems and techniques, and as an instructor at the War College insisted upon in-person visits to America's Civil War battlefields to better understand terrain and decision-making processes. Liggett also shows how far America's post-civil-war reconciliation had come by the 1890s: his handling of Georgia militia impressed the State's governor so much that the latter became a booster of the Pennsylvanian Liggett's career. 

The book has three flaws. The first is not the author's fault, but the reality is Liggett's early career does not make for exciting reading. He had a knack (which frustrated him greatly) for missing out on combat operations until the Great War. So there are a lot citations to reports that read like most bureaucratic reports read. But the reports about his weight, which would dog him in WWI, are interesting--and tend to debunk the idea that he was obese.

Secondly, the book leaves too much useful detail in the footnotes which could have been made part of the text--e.g., mentioning Fort Hunter Liggett.

Finally, and most unfortunately, is that the depiction of the climactic Meuse-Argonne battle is curiously flat and under-detailed. Much more information should have been provided. As someone who is more familiar with the campaign, I understood what was going on. Someone coming new to the War would not be so lucky, and likely wonder what the fuss was about.

However, the post-war sunset years of Liggett's life are decently-covered. Not least of which is how Shay illustrates that large numbers of Americans wanted to forget the war. Starting with the Socialist city council members in his hometown, who brusquely refused a plaque honoring Liggett after his death. 

I recommend the book despite the flaws. There is no other biography of this forgotten American. And it is definitely worth a read if one is interested in America's participation in the First World War, or even how the U.S. Army gradually became a modern military institution.

An American hero.

One angry man declared war on debt scammers--and scorched the earth.

Thank you, Andrew Therrien.

Therrien was interrupted midpitch by a call from his wife. She’d gotten a voicemail from an authoritative-sounding man saying Therrien was in some kind of trouble. “I need to verify an address to present you with your formal claim,” the man had said. “Andrew Therrien, you are officially notified.”

A few minutes later, Therrien’s phone buzzed. It was the same guy. He gave his name as Charles Cartwright and said Therrien owed $700 on a payday loan. But Therrien knew he didn’t owe anyone anything. Suspecting a scam, he told Cartwright just what he thought of his scare tactics.

Cartwright hung up, then called back, mad. He said he wanted to meet face-to-face to teach Therrien a lesson.

“Come on by, asshole,” Therrien says he replied.

“I will,” Cartwright said, “and I hope your wife is at home.”

That’s when he made the rape threat.

Therrien got so angry he couldn’t think clearly. He wasn’t going to just let someone menace and disrespect his wife like that. He had to know who this Cartwright guy was, and his employer, too. Therrien wanted to make them pay.

At the same time, he worried that the call might not be a swindle. What if some misinformed loan shark really was coming for them? But Therrien didn’t have any real information he could take to the police.

Then he remembered Cartwright had left a number with his wife.

He dialed.

Somewhere—at the top of a ladder of dirty debt collectors that Therrien would spend the next two years relentlessly climbing—a man named Joel Tucker had no idea what was coming.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Friday, October 23, 2020

More nails for the faithful.

 

The Vatican announced that it is renewing its concordat with the Beijing regime.

There was never any doubt it would happen--this is what Rome is now. If you want a hint as to why the civil unions clip dropped when it did, here you go: no better way to hide a sellout than to stir up another controversy first.

Pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters, who have shepherds who appear to regard them as nothing more than mutton for a valuable foreign market.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Whew!

 


Prayer request.

I mentioned earlier that Elizabeth's godmother Shelly was stricken with coronavirus. 

She got slammed by the snapback effect, and is in the hospital, currently with supplemental oxygen. The medical care has been indifferent to callous at times, with her husband Brian getting a false report of improvement, when in reality they had to increase the supplemental oxygen. She is getting remdesivir and steroids, and she has been able to occasionally post on FB.

The rest of her family has recovered--for real--but she is still struggling. Prayers for this great-hearted woman and fellow convert, please.

You just never know where, when or in what form of media this pontiff is going to say something authoritative.

I direct your attention to Fratelli Tutti, footnote 198, wherein the pontiff quotes himself from a laudatory documentary film about him in order to set forth authoritative teaching.

Something to keep in mind regarding his statement in a more recent laudatory documentary film about him.

And as I have pointed out previously, whenever he repeats himself, it starts becoming magisterial.

The papal office, as set forth in the magisterium, is getting more difficult to square with the words and actions of the current occupant of the See of Peter.

I mean, the following sounds great and all--but what do you when a successor of Peter does not feel so constrained by tradition, custom and precedent?

The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.

So what do you do when you have a man who instead is more interested in what the office theoretically authorizes? Because the powers described under canon law admit of no real limits.

"Deeply troubling" is Carl Olson's formulation. 

Yeah, I'll go for the British understatement, too. While thinking much bleaker thoughts.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The next wave is upon us.

Michigan sets a new daily record for coronavirus cases

2,030 in a single day.

Hospitalizations have been creeping up, too, but not to March/April levels.

Colder weather and this scourge seem to get along famously, unfortunately.

The story isn't what's alleged to be Hunter Biden's laptop.

The story is Big Tech showing us the Orwellian depths to which they are willing to descend to protect their political friends on the left.

I strongly suspect the laptop data is garbage--my faith in Rudy Giuliani's reliability cannot be detected with the most sensitive of instruments.

But watching our Silicon Valley overlords straight-up censor entire newspapers and lock out the Press Secretary?

That's a promise of things to come.

Just imagine what they'd be willing to do to ordinary people.

Applying antitrust to these entities is long overdue.

 

Rubbing your faces in it.

The Vatican issues a new silver commemorative coin.

Neat. Reminds me of something.

Something synod-y.

 

Whatever you think it is, you're wrong. 

Unless you think it's hunky-dory awesome.

I wonder what kind of developing world mine the silver was dug from. 

Or what kind of conditions said silver was smelted in.

Actually, I don't wonder much at all.

Catholic social teaching is a topical cream--for external use only. 

And note that commemoratives are not for ordinary slobs to acquire from their local coin stores:

The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican, or UFN, issues coins every year to its own exclusive set of clients. It does not sell through its website but only through a curated list of larger coin dealers. At the beginning of every year the UFN publishes their schedule of coins and stamps that it will release that year. This includes a mint set of uncirculated coins with obverses depicting the current pope. The reverses of these coins feature a common euro design of a map of the European Union along with the coin’s denomination. 

In addition, the Vatican issues proof sets of the same coins with each coin in its own capsule inside a case that also contains a large silver medal. Both the mint and the proof sets are issued in the spring, but the UFN releases about 5 times as many mint sets as proof sets. 

The UFN also produces 2-euro commemorative sets in the fall of every year. The obverse of these coins depicts an event that reflects the theme for that year. The Vatican also offers for sale small numbers of silver and gold commemorative coins every year. These are themed coins, and demand tends to vary based on the theme or design.

The majority of coins that the Vatican produces are issued in mint or proof sets, but it has also released some Vatican coins into general circulation. 

Prices for Vatican coins vary. American collectors must pay a premium for Vatican coins because it’s difficult to become a client coin dealer for the Vatican. Nevertheless, the coins, because of their low mintage, historical and religious significance, and attractiveness, remain popular. There tends to be significant demand for first year issues like the 2002 euro Vatican sets. The proof set that year is worth around $1500 today. Coins with John Paul II are also very well received.




Marxist central planning or protection of the environment.

You can't have both.

The Aral Sea.

Norilsk.

And now "Lake" Baotou.

The environment has historically fared badly in socialist republics.

China continues that pattern. And despite the fact the regime in Beijing is willing to turn "our common home" into a public toilet, normally-voluble voices on that topic will remain conspicuously silent.



Thank you, Uncle Butch. Miss you, Aunt Jill.

Clarence John "Butch" Blaesing was my wife's uncle. He passed away on August 5 after a long illness. I posted about it on FB, but not here.

He was a good husband, father and all-around pillar of the family, appearing at every reunion despite the long haul from up north. He also wore the uniform of our country with distinction, winning the Bronze Star. Though the family had to learn that from the newspaper, not from him.

He didn't have to, but he included Heather in his will.

Because of that, we were able to square up on some big bills and necessities. And most importantly this week, replace our smoking ex-dishwasher with one grabbed right off the floor of our depleted local appliance store, deeply discounted to boot. 

A modern dishwasher is lighter than it looks, and fits into a 2005 Expedition with plenty of room to spare.

We continue to pray for the repose of his soul, and humbly request you do the same.

And while I am at it, my wife's Aunt Jill passed away in July, unexpectedly. Again, I mentioned it on FB, which now functions my bad news dump site and Messenger service.

She was a big-hearted woman, unfailingly kind despite the fact life too often was unkind to her. Her big laugh and earthy sense of humor is already missed. Prayers for her are also welcome. She was one of a kind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Peak Manualism!

In the Great Crusade Against Rigidity which followed the Council, one of the first things to go were the dread theology manuals.

You see, in the old days, priests learned dogmatic and moral theology through compilations in in multi-volume sets of authoritative manuals. So, of course, they had to go

But if you are like me, you just might suspect that the Vatican II generation went overboard or were even operating from wrong premises. 

And if you do, you just might be interested in one of those old manuals.

So let me suggest you take a look at the remarkable work of Jesuit Father Kenneth Baker. 

All he did was translate Sacrae Theologiae Summa, a 4 volume work of dogmatic theology authored by Spanish Jesuits in the 1950s, from Latin into English. 

Have I finished it?

Um...no. Of course not. 

But every time I have consulted it, I have been astonished by the clarity and depth of the answers. Which is not to say that every conclusion is firm or indisputable. But the authors are up front as to the level dogmatic certainty of the issue at hand. And in an age of intensifying theological bafflegab, that kind of clarity and candor are welcome.

Prayers for our friends.

Shelly and Brian are dear friends of ours. Friday she was diagnosed with C-19 and both are sick now. While it seems to have peaked (fierce fevers and coughing, but still breathing well enough), prayers are still welcome, for all of them.

Including her parents, who were diagnosed first and are in fragile health.

Yeah, a busy week.

But I'm back. Ish.

Let's see: the Impala is in the shop with assorted issues, our vacuum cleaner is in the shop with probably a minor issue, our carpet shampooer is in the shop with a perplexing issue, and we woke up this morning with the circuit breaker tripped for half our kitchen. When I flipped it, the dishwasher started to emit smoke.

Then the breaker tripped again.

On the bright side, we have an older Hoover vacuum cleaner that's still functional, so. 

Hopefully, the electrician will be able to get by today. And nothing else will smoke, break or both. 

God willing and the creek don't rise.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Eddie Van Halen, Rest in Peace.

I saw VH (the Hagar version) in concert in 1988 at the Pontiac Silverdome (sic transit to a building that was great despite being mediocre in every way imaginable).

Fantastic show, and Eddie was a fantastic showman. 

Was. Hurts to type that.

Cancer:

His death was announced by his son, Wolf Van Halen, on Twitter.

"I can't believe I'm having to write this," the statement said, "but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift."

Monday, October 05, 2020

So life imprisonment is now contrary to Catholic teaching.

 The Roman pontiff in October 2014:

In a dense and impassioned discourse to the Jurists assembled in the Vatican for a private audience, Pope Francis said that the “life sentence” is really a “concealed death sentence”, and that is why – he explained – he had it annulled in the Vatican Penal Code.

Many of the off-the-cuff comments during the Pope’s speech shone the light on how politics and media all too often act as triggers enflaming “violence and private and public acts of vengeance” that are always in search of a scape-goat.

Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II who condemned the death penalty as does the Catechism, Francis decried the practice and denounced “so-called extrajudicial or extralegal executions” calling them “deliberate homicides” committed by public officials behind the screen of the Law:

“All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom. I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed."

The Roman pontiff, almost six years later, in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, paragraph 268:

“The arguments against the death penalty are numerous and well-known. The Church has rightly called attention to several of these, such as the possibility of judicial error and the use made of such punishment by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes as a means of suppressing political dissidence or persecuting religious and cultural minorities, all victims whom the legislation of those regimes consider ‘delinquents’. 

All Christians and people of good will are today called to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or illegal, in all its forms, but also to work for the improvement of prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom. I would link this to life imprisonment… A life sentence is a secret death penalty." 

Note that he cites to and quotes from the 2014 address given to delegates of the International Association of Penal Law reported in the first link. The same quote-yourself-magisterium that dispensed with the death penalty has been applied to life imprisonment in an encyclical, the highest form of papal teaching short of infallibility. 

The news today isn't that the pope has definitively changed the teaching on the death penalty.  That happened with the white-out of the Catechism months ago.

The real news is that he round-filed life imprisonment.

Because that's what Catholicism is these days: whatever the reigning pontiff wants it to be.

 


A Churchillian insight.

This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.

An alternate version reads similarly, so I will have to see which is correct--assuming it's not one of those "attributed to" deals which can lead to rather surprising sources. 

The other version:

The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Michigan again has a republican form of government.

Our drag-ass State Supreme Court had to stop dodging the issue.

And, mirabile dictu, a 4-3 majority discovered that an unconstitutional delegation of martial-law-level power passed in response to Detroit's 1943 race riot doesn't allow a governor to indefinitely rule the State by decree.

Poor Gretchen--she'll have to start working with people who don't affirm her infallible judgment every waking moment of the day.

Of course, that also means our GOP-controlled legislature has to corral its own dubious quirks.

[WARNING: Gratuitous misuse of the Lord's name in the song. 

But other than that, it fits. Except for the part where Adams was a genuine intellectual titan and political thinker. 

Whereas Whitmer is....neither.

But she definitely shares Adams' bad judgment, penchant for needless fight picking and unshakable sense of righteousness. She also seems to, like the Adamses, have a happy marriage, so there's that. 

My jerkitude only goes so far.]


 

Friday, October 02, 2020

Kathy Shaidle.

There is a very, very short list of people who inspired me to start blogging. 

Kathy Shaidle is on that list, maybe at the top. "Relapsed Catholic" was a multiple-stops-daily place, and I've been fortunate to be a friend of hers on FB for more than a decade.

You may not be aware that she has been battling cancer.

And now it has returned, with surgery not an option at this point.

There are options, but she is definitely welcoming prayers.

Which I am happy to offer for her and her stellar husband, Arnie. 

Please pray--she is a great soul.

The unseen depression.

One morning earlier this week I went back to my office in Motown this week to grab a few things. 

I discovered I had a nearly-full container of cleaning wipes that I had forgotten all about--snagged that little cylinder of figurative gold.

What was worrying was the lack of parking. But not in the sense I normally use.

In this case, parking lots were almost empty. 

One of the ones I used is up for sale, and I hope and pray the attendant, who has a wife and five children, has some kind of work right now.

The other one has a kiosk that is manned by an attendant.

Not this time. There were maybe fifteen cars in a lot that usually has 200 by mid-morning. No attendant.

And mass transit has become so bad that the Detroit drivers walked off the job today, protesting the conditions under which they have to work. Which include violence, threats, abuse and, yes, coronavirus. DDOT usually runs a decent-enough ship, but I have watched a driver being verbally-berated by a bus full of passengers before. And that was before the world went mad.

Long story short: I worry about Detroit's revival prospects, even if we get a good-enough vaccine.


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Previews of Coming Attractions.

 A Biden staffer wants no orthodox Catholics, Muslims or Jews in the courts, eagerly awaiting the day when such retrograde people are regarded as taboo.

Their campaign's vice-presidential nominee is way ahead of her on this, as I've mentioned before.

But do you really think the true believers on the left are to just patiently wait for objectors to their creed to fade away?

That's what smearing membership in the KofC and cancel culture are all about. 

Revolutions don't mark time--they march.

Brace for impact.

Prayer request.

My Uncle Robert took a sudden turn for the worse, is unconscious and has been placed in hospice, all in the space of a few hours. My Mom'...