Friday, July 01, 2016

In the end, it will be the racism that kills the GOP

Just the first of many racist comments by the presumptive GOP nominee
Even though, as of this writing, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appears to be walloping her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, in the polls I expect that between now and November, there will be enough fluctuation in the numbers to have liberal hearts palpitating like those of frightened rabbits.

Nonetheless, I believe, ultimately, the GOP will crash and burn this fall. In an historic fashion. Because history teaches that any cause that has  racism and hatred at the core of its philosophy is doomed to betray itself.

Example 1: The Third Reich

In the summer of 1941, the German Wehrmacht was rolling across the steppes of the Ukraine, swallowing whole divisions of Red Army troops. The Ukrainians, who had only recently been overrun and oppressed by Russia, at first welcomed the Germans as liberators.

Kiev or bust!
But they soon learned the error of their ways.

As bigwig Nazi and lead administrator of occupied Ukraine Erich Koch said: "[Gernans] are a master race that must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here."

Well, the Nazis acted on that sentiment. During the occupation, whole villages were lined up and shot. Men, women, children. Those who weren't killed outright were enslaved and worked to death. If you've got the stomach for it, you can read more here.

Soon, Ukrainians began forming partisan paramilitary groups to fight the German occupiers. No longer were the Germans liberators, but brutal oppressors. Rather than a welcoming populace, they faced a desperate, no-tomorrow resistance that contributed mightily to their defeat.

The Nazi creed was infested with the cancer of racism. Even as they drove for Moscow, that cancer was eating away at them.

Example 2: Confederate States of America

Or consider the case of the Confederacy during the War Between the States:

In 1862, the Confederate States of America were at the height of their success. They had successfully stymied Union advances into Confederate territory. Their morale was high and bungling Union generals seemed impotent against the military mystique of Robert. E. Lee and his lieutenants.

Confederates fought to preserve their "property rights"
Things looked so rosy for Jeff Davis and his gang that Britain and France, ever wary of the growing power of the United States, considered official recognition of the Confederacy as a nation, which would have been a tremendous boon to the "Cause."

But what stayed the foreign interventionists' hand was the institutional racism of slavery. Britain had abolished slavery in 1833; France in 1794. Slavery was so abhorrent to the British and French populations at large that their governments dared not recognize the CSA.

The inherent racism of the Confederacy closed off the life line of international recognition that they so desperately needed. Although it took another 3 years for them to recognize it, their cause was doomed from the start.

GOP today

Which brings us back around to Donald Trump and today's GOP.

Let's not get carried away here. The GOP's evil is but a pale shadow of the Confederacy's, and not at all comparable to that of the Nazis. Nonetheless, with modern-day racists flocking to the Trump banner , one must accept that Trump's message resonates with them.

"[Trump] has sparked an insurgency," frothed Don Black, founder of Stormfront, a white nationalist group.

Making friends all over the world.
With every racist pronouncement that Donald Trump makes, he wins ardent support from a certain element in this country. But at the same time, he drives away people who might agree with his trade policies (such as they are) or who are attracted to his thumb-your-nose-at-authority rhetoric, but who are absolutely repelled by his demagoguery against Muslims, Mexicans, and women.

Just as the Nazis and the Confederacy enjoyed early success in their horrific efforts, despite any successes the Trump movement may have as we progress toward November, the malignancy of racism dooms it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The future of Sound and Fury

A serene stretch of the wild and raucous Deschutes River
Funny, isn't it, how things change?

The Sound and Fury blog has been running for nearly 9 years. As of this writing, there are a total of  1387 posts. However, over the past several years, posts have been a lot less frequent.

There are a number of reasons for this:
  1. When first I conceived this blog, the idea was that I would produce 5 posts per week. I held more or less true to that goal for six and a half years. Frankly, I don't know how I did it. The burden to write something original, that revealed genuine insight, was huge. Sometimes I succeeded, as with this post: Witchery. Other times, I mailed it in, as with this post: Teem. Well, the truth of the matter is that, with increased responsibilities at home, in my social life, and at work, I simply don't have time to throw together (an accurate description of my writing technique) 5 posts per week.
  2. Whatever it may say about my passions, much of the drive for this blog came from my utter rejection of Junior Bush. Anger and abhorrence fueled most of the political posts that I wrote. Some of the more successful political posts included these:
    Senator Gordon Smith: Moderate? Hardly!
    The Problem with Hillary
    Junior Bush: Still cashin' in on Iraq

    But Junior is gone now. And while an even greater demagogue is at the helm of the GOP, I (perhaps foolishly) view Donald Trump as a joke and the final nail in the party's coffin. (By the way, for what it's worth, I've been predicting the crack-up of the GOP since at least 2011: GOP Crumble.)  Watching the GOP die in such an ugly and obvious fashion doesn't inspire passion so much as disgust. And disgust is not the most inspiring of emotions.
  3. This one is painful to admit: I committed so much of my credibility to writing and completing the story, River, that when I hit a creative roadblock that, try as I might, I could not overcome, my confidence as a writer plummeted. Everything I wrote after that seemed trite and empty.
However, I've made the decision to continue this blog. When it was going successfully, when I was producing mostly quality output on a regular basis, I had as much self-esteem and sense of purpose as I've ever had in my life. Further, certain folks (I guess I can accurately refer to them as "readers") have expressed disappointment in my decreased activity.

So, for those interested, look for new posts. They will appear less frequently than before. (I won't be producing 5 posts a week.) My goal is to produce on a weekly basis. Subject matter will be as it has been: Politics, movie and book reviews, verse, travel logs, Advanced Squad Leader replays, posts in Spanish, posts about family and friends, short fiction. I might even resurrect the River story.

And so, dear reader, please forgive the self-indulgent nature of this post. There will be more, and better, posts to come. In the meantime, please know that I am deeply honored by your interest.

With gratitude,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Oregon comes through for Bernie

Not so fast, Hillary.

This morning, Oregonians awoke to the news that Senator Bernie Sanders won a big victory in our state's Democratic presidential primary election. Polling data before the election was sparse, but the polls I saw had Hillary ahead by a significant margin. So, this was a big upset. The margin of victory? A whopping 12 points!

Nonetheless, Hillary's delegate lead of ~700 delegates still seems insurmountable. The realist in me is resigned to it: Mrs. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

But Bernie's victory in Oregon, especially when aggregated with his other victories earlier in the season, is still important. Bernie has won approximately 43% of the popular vote (or roughly 10 million votes) in the primaries. That's a lot of voters, and it illuminates a very import political reality: Hillary needs the support of Bernie voters if she's going to win the general election in November.

I'm not among those who believe that a Clinton victory over the Republicans is assured. Hillary's "unfavorables," on the Left and the Right, are very high. There is a large portion of the electorate that will never vote for her.

Hillary knows that; and she knows that without Bernie's supporters, she will lose. Even to Donald Trump. So the manner in which the primaries conclude, and the manner in which the Democratic convention is conducted, becomes very important.

While they march to victory, the Clinton campaign is invested in making sure that Bernie supporters feel heard and respected. And the way to make that happen is to adopt positions that Sanders supporters can get excited about. Access to education, universal health care, increasing the federal minimum wage, Wall Street reform-- these are all issues on which Hillary must move to the left. Indeed, she has already done so on a number of issues. The campaign she is running today has changed for the better as a result of Bernie's success.

Today, I'm very proud of Oregon. We held true to our values in spite of the enormous weight on inevitability. It's going to pay off for us, too. Watch and see.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

ASL scenario replay: Clearing Kamienka

Note to readers: This post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.

Greetings fellow ASL players!  After a several-year hiatus, an old familiar sound has returned to the Cariaga Hacienda: the merry clacking of dice tumbling through the tower. That's right! I'm plunging once again into a world of hours spent hunched over a game table arranging little squares of cardboard on a map while nimbly performing arithmetic calisthenics. In a word, ASL.

As usual, my nemesis, Dave Hauth, is the face across the table. And the game? Clearing Kamienka by Vic Provost. It looks like a barn-burner. A mostly infantry fight pitting elite Wehrmacht troops against sturdy Russian rifles in the early days of Barbarossa. 

Dave and I are both going to blog our experience as we go. We've a Gentleman's Agreement that neither of us will read his opponent's blog until given express permission to do so. 

You can read Dave's blog here.

Readers are encouraged to comment!  Speak your piece! Just be sure not to inadvertently reveal any information about Dave's plan to me or vice-versa. 

Thanks to Vic Provost for designing this great-looking scenario. And thanks to my old friend, Rodney Kinney for developing the VASL gaming engine which I've used to capture images. 

Well, here we go. Barbarossa, July 1941. German units are pouring across the frontier, swallowing up whole armies of Russians.

According to the arcane meta-game rules that Dave and I have developed over decades of gaming together, I have choice of sides for this engagement. I choose the Reds. They have a strong defensive position, plenty of cover, and the potential to set up some lethal ambushes for Germans advancing across soft terrain. (Besides, I'm something of a leftist.)

The German force I'm facing is awesome. Assault engineers with all their toys, great leadership, big ordnance, elite troops , a platoon of assault guns --that's quite a bit.

Both sides receive reinforcements at different points in the game.

The Victory Conditions state that the Germans must control at least 24 building locations east of hexrow P. A quick tally off the map reveals that there are 30 such locations in total. Therefore, in order to win, I must retain 7 building locations east of hexrow P. By SSR, any locations that are rubbled or ablaze count as German-controlled, and given that the German OB includes a 150mm howitzer, it is not unlikely that we will see some rubbling and fire-setting in this game.

So, taking all this into consideration, here's what I came up with...

Clearing Kamienka set up. Acquisition markers indicate bore-sighted locations.
As you can see, I've set up in strength to defend the walled building complex on board 43. My reasoning? If the German is going to win, he is almost compelled to control all the building locations in that complex. He can't bypass it, and if he must commit to attacking it, I want him to completely commit to that attack, rather than cause mischief with lesser attacks on my flanks. The approaches to the board 43 building complex are all soft cover (grain, brush, open ground), and I've got everything trained on them.

My turn 1 reinforcements, which arrive on the western half of the northern board edge, will hustle into the buildings on board 42 to await the Germans when they overwhelm the board 43 defenders. (And they will overwhelm them.)

Organizationally, I've divided my on board forces into three groups. Facing west, we have: center, left flank and right flank.

Central defense
Pretty straightforward here. A light mortar is out in front with a dummy stack. The hidden half-squad in O7.1 will act as spotter for the mortar to avoid all those grain hex hindrances. The Commissar will direct the fire of the MMG in O7, looking to lay firelanes to hinder Germans advancing through the grain. The same goes for the 447 with LMG in the 08 ground location, while the HIP 9-1 leader and 248 manning the heavy will save their hidden status until they get a good clean shot at a leader, or a torch-wielding engineer, or maybe at the big howitzer. Once they give up their HIP status, they'll move to the ground floor post haste. The upper level will be a death trap once the Germans know they're up there. The 10-0 commissar waits with the reserves behind the building complex to provide back up support.

Left flank

I've placed 7 of my 12 allotted dummy counters in this area to make it appear stronger than it is. There are only 2 actual units over here: the 76* howitzer, which is set to subject enfilading fire on Germans approaching the board 43 building cluster through the grain, and a 447 with LMG that is there to protect the gun from infantry. If the Germans push for the P2 woods cluster, the units in 43O7 will fire to interdict.

Right flank
Counting on those reinforcements. The 447 with the ATR is hidden.
On the right flank I've placed the AT gun and the big mortar, plus some supporting infantry. The 447 with the ATR gets HIP status, completing my HIP allotment for the scenario. These units will be bolstered on Turn 1 by the reinforcing infantry and they'll need it. If the German is going to win the scenario, he will have to invest the buildings on board 42, and to get to them, he'll have to smash this force. But he can do it.

The commissar and MMG in 43L10 can offer some crossfire support if the German approaches this position through the grain, as can the 447 with LMG in 43N9.


I've aimed to put as much fire as I can onto the two big grain fields on either board that represent the most direct approach to the victory buildings.

The German force is intimidating. But we Reds are a wiley bunch. If I can avoid his hay-makers and nick him repeatedly, I can whittle him down so that he doesn't have enough at the end of the scenario to succeed in his final push.

At your leisure, Herr Hauth. Russian set up as seen by German player.
Dave and I will play some time after Christmas. I'll post an AAR when we're done. Wish me luck, comrades!

Update: Alas and alack! Dave and I got around to playing this game two days after Christmas. Our playing revealed it to be strongly unbalanced in favor of the Russian. Dave fired smoke with his big howitzer and two of his tank destroyers, but it wasn't enough. The Germans advanced into murderous fire. As strong as is the German order of battle, it's not enough to overcome the strength of the Russian position. I think, with a few adjustments, this could be a tight scenario and a lot of fun to play for both sides. My considered recommendation for balancing this game are these:
  1. Remove the radio and 80mm Mtr OBA from the German OBA and replace it with a guaranteed Smoke FFE which occurs during the turn 1 German Prep Fire phase in a hex designated by the German player prior to all setup.
  2. Allow the Stugs, AA gun, and 150mm howitzer to set up on either board, within the German setup area. Remove the unarmored half-tracks from the German OB.
  3. Disallow Russian bore-sighting.
If anybody wants to try the scenario with my suggestions, let me know and we'll play it sometime. I'll even give choice of sides.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Travel is life distilled

Fountain in Paris
I began making arrangements for this trip almost exactly one year ago. The journey I ultimately realized was very different than the journey I first imagined. Circumstances shape our lives in ways we can't foresee.

These extended trips are milestone events. They're pilgrimages. They have for me as much significance as did marrying, or leaving my hometown for the city.

Travel is life distilled. Every day brings new discoveries, new and diverse challenges, human interactions by the score.

Thirty-nine days on the road. Seems like a year.

So, while the memory is fresh...

Lisbon and Brussells
Praça do Comércio, Lisboa
Lisbon and Brussels are cities where I could live and be happy. Lisbon is sunny and unpretentious. Brussels is understated, down-to-earth. Lisbon is inexpensive. Brussels is diverse. Both reminded me of Portland in certain aspects.

Most people in Brussels speak French in their day-to-day lives. But nearly everyone can also converse in English and often German, Dutch or even Spanish as well. In Lisbon, people speak Portuguese which grants a level of comprehension of Spanish (and vice-versa). English-only speakers will have no trouble in Lisbon, though; there are many English-speakers --especially in service industries.

St. Gilles region of Brussels at dusk
How travel in Europe has changed

Near Flam, Norway, back in '99
In 1999, when last I did a Eurrail tour, traveling in Europe was different in many ways. Each nation had her own currency (francs, pesos, lira, etcetera). Now the Euro is here, there is no need to guess how much money to withdraw at each visit to the ATM! It's legal tender from Oslo to Naples.

Tour d'Eiffel
Note, however, that the Euro does not spend the same everywhere in the European Union! I found Iberia (Portugal and Spain) to be easy on the wallet. Paris and Luxembourg, on the other hand, took big bites out of my travel budget.

Another progression in modern-day travel is the smart phone. My iPhone served as camera, map, translator, reservation-maker, and communication device. Keep in mind, I accomplished all these things without telephone service. The ubiquity of wifi service (available at restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, convenience stores, Airbnb rentals, train stations, and on and on) makes telephone service all but unnecessary. (I wonder if that doesn't make phone company executives at all nervous...)

I never got lost on this trip. At times, I had trouble finding what I was looking for, but I never lost track of where I was. Thank you Google Maps! Maty and I kept in touch via video calls every day. Thank you IMO!

Gramercy to my hosts

Water trough in Nans sous Ste. Anne
I'm very grateful to Tim and Susan Hundsdorfer, who welcomed me into their home in the pastoral Franche Comté region of France. There I beheld a world I would never have otherwise seen.  They seem to have fit themselves into Nans sous Ste. Anne. It's a beautiful place and the life they are creating seems peaceful. A peaceful life in a beautiful place... Doesn't that sound like paradise? Tim is thoughtful and kind. Susan is a portrait of empathy. Tim and Susan, thanks for everything.

Utrecht at dusk
Brother Calee met me in Brussels where we spent the better part of two days before driving to his home in 's-Graveland (pronounced "SCRAW vuh land") in the Netherlands. My brother is generous, gracious, and accommodating. I only wish I could have seen Sister-in-law Sarah (who was away) before I came home. Thanks to you both! I wish I could tell you how proud you make me.

What was it like?

On the road in France
When I travel like this, the in-the-moment experience is one of constant low-level anxiety. There is stress, uncertainty, risk, minor disasters. There is very little "down" time. 

What day of the week is it? How many days should I reserve for Barcelona? How long will it take me to get from my room to the train station? How many days until I need to do laundry? Where are my Eurrail Pass and passport? Where is the key to my room? Questions like these plagued me throughout the journey. 

I saw many sights. The moments come frequently and fast. The onslaught can be overwhelming.

So why do it? Why go through it?

Obvious, of course. So obvious it's almost cliché. JRR Tolkien wrote a delightful allegory about it called The Hobbit or There and Back Again.

But here's my stab at it: Travel expands the horizon of one's mind. Travel adds texture to life. Travel makes you a better person. It teaches self-reliance. It strengthens skills: communication, organization, the ability to deal with stress.

Travel teaches things that can never be adequately expressed.

Travel is drinking deeply of the heady wine of being human. In this world. At this time.

Thirty-nine days later, October 1, the day Maty and I left Portland is a long time gone. 

Close now, with some pics...


Breakfast with Maty at a Mexican place in Staten Island
Mastodon skeleton, American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan
Sunset on the Hudson River
Feeling gnarly in Lisbon
Neighborhood folks in Lisbon
Sikhs in Lisbon
Turret in Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal
Breakfast in Madrid
Catedrál Almudena in Madrid
Agujas de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Arco de Triunfo, Barcelona
Parque Güell, Barcelona
Korean sailors on Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Saints outside the Catedrál de Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter

Glass-eyed busker in Barcelona
Turkish restaurant on Las Ramblas
Tim demonstrates the function of a vomitorium at the Roman museum in Lyons
Roman mosaic in Lyons
Susan and Tim, at home in Nans sous Ste. Anne
Stopped for a time in Franche Comté
Memorial to the fallen from the two world wars, Nans sous Ste. Anne
Fountain in Besaçon
Bad guys over the entrance of Notre Dame, Paris
Good guys, same
David and Goliath in the Louvre, in Paris
Macabre artwork in the Paris Catacombs
Adam and Eve according to Dalí
Medieval stained glass at the Musée Cluny, Paris
Cold morning on the Rue de Picpus, Paris
Playful turtles at the Paris acquarium
Color, in Luxembourg...
...and graffiti, in Luxembourg
German anti-tank position, diorama from the National Museum of Military History, Diekirch, Luxembourg
St. Gilles region, Brussels
Goose above the guildhouse door, in La Grande Place, Brussels
Stained glass, Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels
Calee in his kitchen
Street scene, Utrecht
O'Hare International, ready to be home