Stray Thoughts and Mental Misdemeanors

I’ve been quiet for the last several days* for several reasons. I’ve been heartsick; paralyzed with rage, unable to form sentences;** and, perhaps most to the point, unable to add much, if anything, to what everyone else has been saying.

What’s more, I’m well behind on my book project, and just about ever last erg of writing energy I may have by rights has to go there. Plus I’m heading off this weekend eclipse chasing, then off-the-grid resetting (a place in NE California that lacks cell signal and any form of internet, 13 miles from the nearest hamlet, no town electricity or services at all.  IOW:  paradise).  So I’m not going to be adding much to the conversation for a while yet, as in, for some months.

But I don’t want to remain completely uncounted, so here I’ll just say two things.  First, of course, is to sign on to what every other, more responsible poster has said here:  Donald Trump is not just a bad president. He’s an existential danger to the US and the world — and he is allowed to be so by a Republican Party that is wholly complicit in his failure, his corruption, and in accepting his embrace of evil.  As we do our best not just to resist but to overcome, we must aim not just for Trump’s fall, but for salt to rain on the fields of the entire, and thoroughly misnamed Grand Grotesque Old Party.

And second, because not even dire political straits can be navigated by rage and desperation alone, here’s a treat I discovered as I took one of my winding journeys through the ‘tubes.

That is:  I’m writing (inter alia) about the South Sea Bubble.  I was, for reasons that, trust me,*** make perfect sense in context, trying to discover a little more about the forestalled first voyage of the South Sea Company ship the Royal George.  Googling around that I was led to an image of the so-called South Sea shilling — part of a coinage in several denominations minted in 1723, three years after the Bubble, using silver the Company found in one of its few successful maritime ventures.

That led me to Spink and Son’s website to see if I could pick up such a coin as a curio and a keepsake.  Spink’s is a fabulous too-English establishment, with retail premises in London not far from the British Museum, and an astonishing collection of rare coins and medals.  It’s not really the right place to look for my coin — South Sea shillings are way too common and plebian, it turns out, and Spink’s likes to quote numbers with way too many zeroes in it for my bank balance.  But you know how it is.  Once there one can’t help mouse around — and cruising over to their private sale page, I found this:

The Dickin Medal

Awarded to 3 year old pigeon NURP.41.SBS.219 The Duke of Normandy, 21st Army Group, D-Day 6/6/44, AFS, No. 1086, DM No.45.

Here’s Spink’s photo of his grace’s medal:

The Duke of Normandy’s citation reads:

“For being the first bird to arrive with a message from Paratroops of the 21st Army Group behind enemy lines on D-Day, 6th June 1944 while serving with the APS (Allied Pigeon Service).”

That would have been the crucial information that paratroopers had managed to secure a key German battery overlooking Sword Beach in time for the D-Day assault on that position.

BTW:  if you want that bauble, it’s offered at £15,000.

Here’s the Duke himself, a fine specimen of pigeon-hood:

Some of y’all are likely much better informed than I am, but for me, the Dickin Medal was novel territory, so some further research was clearly required.  Of course in idle surfing, that means a quick trip to Wikipedia.  It turns out that the Dickin Medal is often termed “the animal Victoria Cross,” which apparently makes the human Victoria Cross people rather cross, which ISTM is their problem.

The Dickin Medal has been awarded 67 times since it was instituted in 1943.  The first went to the pigeon White Vision, who flew into headwinds for nine hours to deliver a message that led to the rescue of the crew of a flying boat that was forced down near the Hebrides.  The most recent award went, posthumously, to Reckless, a Mongolian mare who served with the US Army in Korea.  Here she is under fire…

And here in happier days:

She was, apparently, something of a character:

Out of a race horse dam, she was purchased in October 1952 for $250 from a Korean stableboy at the Seoul racetrack who needed money to buy an artificial leg for his sister. Reckless was bought by members of the United States Marine Corps and trained to be a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment1st Marine Division.[1] She quickly became part of the unit and was allowed to roam freely through camp, entering the Marines’ tents, where she would sleep on cold nights, and was known for her willingness to eat nearly anything, including scrambled eggs, beer, Coca-Cola and, once, about $30 worth of poker chips.

She served as an ammunition resupply horse–which is itself a reminder that for much of the twentieth century mechanized war was a hell of lot less internal-combustion-powered than you might think.  See, e.g., this glimpse of German resupply on the Eastern Front in 1942:

Back to Reckless: her medal-winning feats came during the Battle for Outpost Vegas, during which she made 51 trips, covering 35 miles, ferrying over four and half tons of artillery ammunition to the front lines.  She was wounded twice, and received two battlefield promotions, to corporal and then sergeant, and survived the war to live out a comfortable retirement in the United States.

As with the Victoria Cross, it’s not uncommon for Dickin Medal winners to have died in the action which earned them their award for valor, and many of the most recent winners have been dogs trained in the discovery of IEDs.  Here’s Buster, an RAF sniffer dog who, thankfully, survived his service in Iraq in 2003 to make it to the very respectable age of 16:

All of which is to say that there are so many much better creatures in the world than the vileness currently infesting the Oval Office, and all those who in any way made or make that continuing disgrace possible.

But we knew that.

So to close:  here’s to the Duke, to White Vision, to Reckless and Buster and the rest of their gallant company — and to all those who keep us company, who are, if unable to banish Trump, are still able to ease our spirits, the better to fight the bastards again tomorrow:

Over to y’all.  Try to have some fun.  We’ll all need it.

*not on Twitter, TBH.

**with more than 140 characters

***in general, whenever you hear that, or even more, Trump’s favorite imperative, “believe me,” put both hands on your wallet.  Someone’s lying to you.  But not this time.

Images: Spink and Sons, Duke of Normandy Dickin Medal.

Paradata, The Duke of Normandy,

Camp Pendleton Archives, Reckless Under Fire,

US Marine Corps history division, Sgt. Reckless, Camp Pendleton

Bundesarchiv, German Supply Wagon in Mud1942

Me, Tikka, Hairy Eyeball, 2017

 

 



The All American Division: The 82nd Airborne Jumps in to Provide Support

Several days ago these two sergeants, SGT Allen L. Stigler and SGT Roshain E. Brooks, were killed in the line of duty in northern Iraq.

On Saturday this lovely fellow showed up to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville wearing an 82nd Airborne ball cap:

The 82nd Airborne’s Public Affairs Office decided to jump in with both feet and make it very clear who are part of the All American Division, like SGTs Stigler and Brooks, and unlike the guy in the picture above giving the NAZI salute with the wrong arm.

The 82nd Airborne Division is 100 years old this week:

All the way!

And open thread.

 

 



Chill Pre-Dawn Open Thread: At Least You Don’t Have This Guy’s Job

The WSJ‘s foreign correspondent in Seoul…

Threatening nuclear war — again. Why does it always have to be nuclear war?
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The USS Sprinkles: Damn The Hot Fudge Torpedos!

The good folks at Task & Purpose bring us this great moment in US Navy gastronomic history:

On July 1, 1914, the U.S. Navy implemented the cruelest and most unusual punishment in its venerable history: a ban on alcohol.

Under General Order 99, drinking “alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station,” became prohibited, with commanding officers “held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order,” according to a U.S. Naval Institute reflection on the 100th anniversary of the ban in 2014. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels delivered the order; described as a “teetotaler,” Daniels was ridiculed in the press for the decision for years, only for the U.S. to constitutionally establish national Prohibition just six years later.

The Navy’s Prohibition pregame is memorable not just for its ridiculousness but also for giving American sailors (and eventually everyone else) an insatiable appetite for ice cream. Sure, ice cream’s been an American tradition since George Washington spent $200 on the treat in a single summer, but Prohibition created national cravings that persisted across military and civilian worlds even after alcohol was legalized again in 1933. If there’s nothing as American as apple pie, that apple pie tastes a billion times more patriotic with a scoop of ice cream.

Don’t forget the sprinkles!

With the ban on alcohol aboard ships in 1914, the US Navy sought to offset the loss of alcohol at sea and found that ice cream was popular among the sailors. It was so popular that the Navy borrowed a refrigerated concrete barge from the Army Transportation Corps in 1945 to serve as a floating ice cream parlor. At a cost of $1 million, the barge was towed around the Pacific to provide ice cream to ships smaller than a destroyer that lacked ice cream making facilities. The Navy proudly announced that the vessel could manufacture 10 gallons of ice cream every seven minutes and had storage capacity of 2000 gallons.

Back to Task & Purpose for a second scoop:

To that end, the Navy in 1945 borrowed a concrete barge from the Army Transportation Corps that, retrofitted with heavy-duty refrigeration units, functioned as a floating ice cream parlor for smaller vessels in the Pacific Ocean. Officially called a “BRL” (Barge, Refrigerated, Large, which sounds like a bureaucracy’s take on a Bond martini), the Navy’s beloved “ice cream ship” was basically a 265-foot-long ice cream factory, capable of churning out 500 gallons of the sweet stuff a day (USNI pegs output at 10 gallons every 7 minutes) and  stashing another 500 in its cavernous freezers — on top of some 1,500 tons of meat and 500 tons of vegetables.

The BRL wasn’t even the wackiest ice cream scheme that service members devised during those years at war. “By 1943, American heavy-bomber crews figured out they could make ice cream over enemy territory by strapping buckets of mix to the rear gunner’s compartment before missions,” writes Siegel. “By the time they landed, the custard would have frozen at altitude and been churned smooth by engine vibrations and turbulence—if not machine-gun fire and midair explosions. Soldiers on the ground reportedmixing snow and melted chocolate bars in helmets to improvise a chocolate sorbet.”

I’ll take a chocolate dipped soft serve swirl in a waffle cone with sprinkles please!

Stay frosty!

(what?)



Open Thread: The Prince Who Would Be Viceroy

Erik “Don’t Call It Blackwater” Prince would very much like to be out of the country, and behind a wall of his personal mercenaries, should something really bad happen…

The White House is actively considering a bold plan to turn over a big chunk of the U.S. war in Afghanistan to private contractors in an effort to turn the tide in a stalemated war, according to the former head of a security firm pushing the project.

Under the proposal, 5,500 private contractors, primarily former Special Operations troops, would advise Afghan combat forces. The plan also includes a 90-plane private air force that would provide air support in the nearly 16-year-old war against Taliban insurgents, Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm, told USA TODAY…

The plan remains under serious consideration within the White House despite misgivings by Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, an Army three-star general, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Other White House officials, such as chief strategist Stephen Bannon, appear open to using private contractors…

Prince rejects criticism that he and others would profit from it. He said it would represent a cost savings for American taxpayers. “The idea of innovation and risk taking is certainly part of America,” he said.

Blackwater has attracted controversy under Prince’s leadership. In 2007, four Blackwater security personnel were accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Last week an appeals court overturned a murder conviction for one of the guards and ordered the other three to be re-sentenced.

Blackwater was renamed Xe Services two years after the incident that sparked international outrage. The privately owned company is now Academi…

How bad, you ask?…


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Interviewed By a Warmonger!

As in LTG McMaster was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt for his Saturday AM MSNBC show. I’m going to embed the videos, but you have to actually read the transcript that Hewitt provided on his website, read the words on the page, to really see just how much Hewitt wants the US to attack the DPRK. Or, failing that, Iran. And how gleefully unhinged he is by the idea of the US getting involved in a third and/or fourth war in under 20 years. The transcript follows the videos. Pay close attention to LTG McMaster’s answers if you want to see what the current national security strategy and policy thinking is.

The transcript is after the jump.

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Open Thread: Supervising “President” Man-Baby

Q: Action movie screenplay, or real-life “governing”?

Raised voices could be heard through the thick door to the Oval Office as John Kelly – then secretary of Homeland Security – offered some tough talk to President Donald Trump.

Kelly, a whip-cracking retired general who was sworn in as White House chief of staff on Monday, had demanded to speak to the president alone after Trump complained loudly that the U.S. was admitting travelers from countries he viewed as high risk.

Kelly first tried to explain to Trump that the admissions were standard – some people had legitimate reasons to visit the country – but the president insisted that it was making him look bad, according to an administration official familiar with the exchange about a month ago.

Kelly then demanded that other advisers leave the room so he could speak to the president frankly. Trump refused at first, but agreed when Kelly insisted.

It was an early indication that Kelly, a decorated retired Marine general who served three tours in Iraq, is not afraid to stand up to his commander-in-chief.

Tapped to bring order to a chaotic West Wing, Kelly began to make his mark immediately Monday, ousting newly appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci and revising a dysfunctional command structure that has bred warring factions. From now on, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all senior staffers – including the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief strategist Steve Bannon – will report to Kelly instead of the president.

Sanders said Tuesday that Kelly had spent his first day on the job speaking with members of Congress, getting to know White House staffers and working to put new procedures in place.

“It definitely has the fingerprints of a new sheriff in town,” said Blain Rethmeier, who guided Kelly through the Senate confirmation process for the Homeland Security post. Rethmeier said that what stood out about Kelly during the time they worked together was the way Kelly commanded respect from everyone he encountered – and the way he respected others….

A: C’mon — fiction has to be minimally plausible.