Monday, November 30, 2009

GOP purity test

Who didn't see this coming?  Some deep-thinker in the Republican National Committee has come up with a list of ten sacrosanct policy positions, and has published them in an "RNC Resolution on Financial Support of Candidates."  Kind of a "Ten Commandments" for bewildered tea-baggers.  Here they are, in all their glory:
  1. [They] support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

  2. [They] support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;

  3. [They] support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

  4. [They] support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

  5. [They] support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

  6. [They] support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

  7. [They] support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

  8. [They] support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

  9. [They] support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion;

  10. [They] support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership;
Stirring, eh?  According to the resolution, in order for a Republican candidate to receive the financial support of the RNC, he or she must adhere to at least 8 of these 10 "principles." 

The supreme irony, of course, is that tea-bagger patron saint, Ronnie Reagan, whom they piously name in the resolution, would not even pass that criterion.  Reagan violated item #5 by supporting amnesty for undocumented workers; Reagan blew the deficit out of the water violating item #1; and, as Governor of California, Reagan signed into law the California Environmental Quality Act, violating item #3.

And, of course, this whole concept of "purity" has already cost the GOP a congressional seat in New York's 23rd district.

There is so much wrong with this list of inanities that, aside from its humorous value, it scarcely merits any attention at all. 

Besides, I think I could summarize the list with just six points:
  1. The infallible "market" must be free to work its magic unencumbered by the concerns of workers;

  2. Foreigners must be scrutinized and kept under suspicion;

  3. Gays must not be allowed to feel they are tolerated;

  4. The United States needs war and an armed populace to assuage feelings of inadequacy and helplessness;

  5. Health care must be available only to those who can pay for it.

  6. For God's sake, stop that black man from ruining our lives!
I wonder if the RNC needs an editor? 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eid Mubarak! 2009

 Portland Muslims, Eid al Adha, 2009
Once again, it is Eid al-Adha here in Portland, Oregon.  Eid Mubarak, one and all!

Eid al-Adha is the "festival of sacrifice," commemorating the occasion of  the trial of the patriarch of all Muslims, Christians, and Jews, Ibrahim (or Abraham).  Anyone who has lived in the western world knows the story:  God commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son, Ismael, on the altar.  When Satan came to tempt Ibrahim and his family, Ibrahim's wife, Hajar, and Ismael drove the devil away with stones.  Ibrahim prepared to complete the sacrifice, demonstrating his submission to God in all things.  God, at the last moment, revealed a lamb that was to be slaughtered in place of Ismael.

Heavy stuff.  If I follow my own rule and attempt to interpret the story as metaphor, I'd guess that the wisdom this story offers has to do with acknowledgment of the futility of human endeavor.  All will be as God (or whatever you may call It) wishes.  (A proper analysis of the story deserves its own post at a future date.)

At the Convention Center
Maty and our friend Nadiya (from Togo) went to the Portland Convention Center this morning to join the morning call to prayer.  I dropped them off and admired the Muslims in their finery, making their way to the ceremony.

Normally, Maty throws a party to celebrate Eid.  But since we feasted (and how!) yesterday, two consecutive days of feasting seemed a bit much.  So this year, Maty and I (and maybe Nadiya) will eat a simple meal at home.

Portland Muslims, Eid al Adha, 2009
But, as the husband of a Muslim woman, I'm obliged to buy a Halal slaughtered lamb to present to her as a symbol of my love and dedication.  Which I have done.  Maty and I picked up the lamb (which we had to special order a month or two in advance) just this evening.

So, let me say "Eid Mubarak" to all.  No matter your faith.  I always appreciated when someone wished me a Merry Christmas, even in my militant atheist days.

Eid Mubarak!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving thanks again

Another helping of candied yams?
Once again, I choose to overlook the reality behind the Thanksgiving tradition.  You know?  The bit about the insane religious fanatics who betrayed the very people who were moved out of pity to rescue said fanatics from starvation?   (Refer to Eugene's blog for specifics).

Instead, I choose to co-opt the Thanksgiving holiday and wield it for my own purpose; specifically, to express gratitude to the Great Whatever.  After all, what harm in adhering to the spirit behind Thanksgiving, rather than the sordid reality?

And so, to that end, I put forth this list of items for which I am eternally grateful:

  1. Maty Bombay Diop Cariaga, my wife.  Maty is the best stroke of blind luck that ever landed in my undeserving lap.  We've been together now for nearly five years.  Just like all couples, we've had our ups and downs, but never does a day go by when I don't say "Merci, Mon Dieu."

  2. Tribe of Ross.  Despite the ravages of time, the passage of many loved ones, and even a little internecine feuding, the Tribe of Ross remains strong and united.  That won't change.  Ever.

  3. Friends.  So many I can't possibly name them all.   Friends from today and from yesterday.  Coworkers, bandmates, and former lovers.  My life has been a catalog of good and decent people.

  4. Travels.  I've set foot on five continents, visited 23 countries and 23 states.  I've seen sights that becalm the heart, that roil the sensibilities, that stupefy, horrify, humble and amaze.  I wouldn't trade any of it for any amount of money.

  5. Home.  My house in Hawthorne.  In Portland.  In Oregon.  The best place in the world. 
The blessings I've received in this life are more than anyone deserves. Even if it were all to end today, even if the hopeful (in spite of it all) future were truncated abruptly, I could not have reason to complain or to feel cheated.

To do so would be an affront to God.

Best wishes to all on this Thanksgiving holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Harry Reid comes through

Nicely played, Harry
On Saturday, every non-Republican senator in the United States Senate voted to bring the proposed health care reform bill to the floor for debate, overcoming a Republican filibuster to do so.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came through.

In the long lead up to last weekend's vote, knowledgeable senators like Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had predicted that Reid would win.  "Harry Reid is the best vote counter and vote getter that I have ever seen in my 35 years as a legislator," he said, way back in October. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What will be

At night we lay and ponder what will be, what will be;
At night we lay and ponder what will be;

Will the bills be paid on time?
Will the morn bring rain or shine?
Will the tests the doctor ordered bring bad tidings?

Each day Cassandra forecasts what will be, what will be;
Each day Cassandra forecasts what will be;

Will the oceans drown our lands?
Will there be war with Iran?
Are the tides of human fortune now subsiding?

For unborn son I wonder what will be, what will be;
For unborn son I wonder what will be;

Will my house give love and light?
Will my fires drive back the night?
Can I ever earn such innocent confiding?

Blue mother ever spins to what will be, what will be;

Spin, blue mother!  
Spin to what will be!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

ASL: Back to the Barricades! (Pt. III)

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. 

Interested ASL players take note!  Dave Hauth and I are are engaged in another big battle over the Barricades.  We have come to mutual agreement to each maintain a "blog correspondence" wherein we individually publish our thoughts on our game with the agreement that neither will read his competitor's posts until our campaign game is complete. So, I present to those interested ASL players out there my half of said correspondence.

You can read Dave's half of the correspondence here.  You can read my previous entry here.

Plans for Day 2

So far, so good.  My retained forces from Day 1 are:

468 x 2
467 x 18.5
447 x 2.5
548 x 5.5
9-1 x 3, 8-1 x 2, 8-0 x 2, 7-0
HMG x 2, MMG x 2, LMG x 4, Lt Mtr x 2, DC x 1, ATR x 2, Russian HMG, Russian LMG

In the Chemist Shop pocket:  7-0, 548, 238 x 2
There is an immobilized PzKpfw IIIL in bypass of Z2 along the Y3 hex side.

After endgame bookkeeping, I was allotted 17 CPP for the coming Day.  My purchases are these:

Sturm Company  = 9CPP
548 x 12
MMG, LMG x 2, DC x 2
9-1, 8-1, 7-0

StuG B Platoon = 4 CPP
StuG B x 3
10-2 armor leader!

Nebelwerfer module = 2 CPP
Plentiful ammo
Pre-registered hex G13 = 1CPP

I have 1 CPP left, which I'll put in the bank for the following day.

My plan is to have two distinct attacks.  The smaller attack will occur on the German left.  My retained Sturm troops will advance south from the area around Y6.  They plan to reinforce the isolated troops in the Chemist Shop pocket, and expand south from there.  They will be supported by the reinforcing StuGs.  But no lightning breakthrough is planned.  Rather a slow, methodical attack, pushing south toward the Commissar's House.  The StuGs will probably enter on hex  DD1 and drive right up to AA9 to support the attack.  They'll put down smoke for cover.

The other attack will occur in the west.  The Nebelwerfer will be pre-registered for hex G13 and called down by a leader with a field phone. It will hopefully disrupt the Russian defenses so that my reinforcing Sturm company can come in right behind the barrage and seize ground.  I hope to gain ground to the south along hex rows F through I and maybe even seize building K10, if an opportunity presents itself.

But the rule for the day is this:  stay out of the factories!  Creep southward on both the east and west sides of the map.


A cursory inspection of Dave's set up seems to indicate that he has purchased 2 militia companies to defend the factory complex.  That's fine with me.  The militia can sit in the factories unmolested.  Of course, if he tries to move them out to support either flank, I'll have something to say about that.  And as soon as he leaves the factories, that Fanatic bonus goes away...

West side
At the end of the last campaign day, I discovered some minefields on the west edge of the map, north of building B12.  Apparently, Dave invested some resources into defending that building.  And, although his setup today would seem to indicate that he's now ceding it to me, I'm not so sure.  It wouldn't surprise me if he had some hidden units lurking in there, looking to give me a bloody nose when I try to enter.  Well, I'm afraid I won't oblige him.  I've got a platoon of 2nd line squads in that area, just to keep him from creeping north.  But building B12 is not on the agenda for the day.  If I can, I'll isolate it and leave it like low-hanging fruit for another day.  After all, I can always enter along the west edge of the map.

Looking at the setup, I'm pleased with my choice of hex G13 as the Nebelwerfer pre-registered hex.  No matter where it drifts, nor how far (up to 3 hexes) its going to hit something.  And I might get lucky and really hammer Dave's forces.  My observer is in the first level of hex M6.

My one functional PzIIIL is in the E hexrow to interdict any Russians trying to move east from the B and C hex rows and also to threaten a flanking move on Russians in the F hex row as they attempt to hold off my Sturm company (which will be coming from the north).  I have a machine-gun kill stack in H7 that will move to H9 on turn 1.

In the M6 building, I've got another kill stack that will support the attack in the west and also guard against any encroaching Russians that might want to cause me grief in the O6 factory.

I hope to get as far as the 14-15 hex rows by the end of the day.

East side
In the east, the attack will be more limited in scope.  Here, I hope only to get  as far south as hex rows 12 and 13 by the end of the day.

On this side I'll be attacking with my depleted Sturm company from Day 1.  They'll be supported by the StuGIIIB smoke-belchers, which will enter on DD0 for the quick advance.  Dave has his anti-tank gun in Y14, but I know that it is manned by unqualified infantry, since I eliminated both of his gun crews on Day 1.  Therefore, I'm not too worried about it.  My StuGs will advance south to take positions along the cliff around hexes DD10 or EE11 or thereabouts and lay smoke to cover the advancing Sturm troops.

It could get nasty in this area.  I can account for only about 8 to 10 CPP of Dave's purchases.  I think he has purchased 2 militia companies for 8 points, and a couple fortification points, for 10.  But that means there are at least another 5 CPP that are still out there.  And that means artillery.  I suspect that there is an artillery observer somewhere in the Commissar's House who is going to call down an artillery strike as I advance.  Well, hopefully the smoke from my StuGs will make it hard for him to get an accurate strike.

I've got a kill stack in Z4 and some supporting 1st line squads in the U through W hex rows that are mostly there to prevent the Russian from advancing on the O6 factory from the east.

I'm surprised by the big stack of Russian units in FF10.  It would appear to be a couple Russian squads with machine guns and a directing leader.  Dave, apparently, is trying to discourage an advance along the riverbank.  But whatever is in hex FF10 is in trouble.  That's an exposed position, and I aim to trap whatever is in there with a StuG and some advancing infantry.  An opportunity for some relatively easy CVP.  We'll see...

Our game is scheduled for Saturday, after Thanksgiving.  We'll see how it goes...

To be continued...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Man of the house

Christmas at the Metzger farm:  Cousin Doris, myself, Paige, and Mom

My parents divorced in 1971. I was 9 years old. My brother, Eric, was seven; my sister, Paige, was five. In that era, we were living in Klamath Falls. It was an emotionally turbulent time, as one might expect. Perhaps my parents did not have the worst divorce in history, but there were more than enough traumatic, high-drama incidents to give all involved some lasting psychological scars. Trust me.

As was the norm back then, we three kids continued to live with Mom while Dad moved into an apartment.  But Mom, consulting with her parents, Bob and Gertrude, soon decided to move us back to her hometown, Salem.  As a single mother, Mom recognized the need to develop marketable skills (as the saying goes), and so she enrolled at Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon State College) in nearby Monmouth to earn her teaching degree.

And so, that's where we lived from 1972 thru 1976:  in the Metzger rental home on Doughton Street in southeast Salem.

Looking back on my boyhood years, that short 4 year period has a special place in my memories.  Those days when Mom, Eric, Paige, and I, and our beloved beagle, Trixie, lived in that little house was a mostly happy time.  It was perhaps as close as I would ever come to having a "traditional" family life.  And the bonds that Mom, Eric, Paige, and I forged remain as strong today as they ever were back then.  But it was not an easy time.  There was little money to be had, and even though as kids we didn't carry the brunt of that worry, we were certainly aware of it.

Dad, even though he stayed in Klamath Falls, remained involved in our lives and diligently paid Mom the court-awarded $217 per month in child-support.  And he never neglected to help out in other ways, too.  But still, there wasn't much.  In fact, we even partook of the Oregon Food Stamps program to help us make it from month to month.  Mom was, after all, attending college full time and working a part time job at South Salem High School and raising three kids.

And she did a great job.  Not only did she make sure we were fed and clothed, but she kept track of us and did all she could so that we could participate in extra-curricular activities.  I was a Cub Scout; I had private guitar lessons; and I participated in my school's football program.  (Go Leslie Lions!)  Grandma and Grandpa helped, too.  It would have been impossible to live as well as we did without their love and support.

A blurry picture of Eric and Paige, with Trixie
As the oldest child (and a boy at that), I took upon myself the role of "man of the house."  At least, in my own mind.  I'm sure other people who come from single-parent households will understand.  I fiercely defended my younger brother and sister from other kids.  And I can honestly say that I tried not to make things difficult for Mom, even though I now have many regrets about the hurt that I caused her with some of my behavior.

One spring afternoon, Eric and I were hanging out listening to Beatles records in the den, when we heard Mom calling to us from the backyard.  "Dade!  Eric!  Come here!"  We chose to remain deaf, supposing that Mom was calling us to come help with some chore or another.

But then the call came again:  "Dade!  Eric!  Come here!"  Mom's voice was distraught, tearful.  It had a pleading quality that brought back memories of some of the very worst dramas that played out in her divorce with Dad.  In an instant we were on our feet and running down the stairs.  I remember the fear rising in my throat when I heard the distress in my mother's voice.

"What is it?" I called.  I was afraid.

Eric and I ran down the stairs and out onto the back patio.  Mom and Paige, tears streaming down their faces, were restraining our dog Trixie.  "It's suffering!" Mom sobbed. 

Then I noticed that there was a squirrel writhing on the cement near their feet.  It had been mauled severely by our dog.  It dragged its back legs along as it tried to move away from us.  One of its eyes had popped out of its socket and hung like a single blue grape from a thin, fleshy cord.

"Dade," Mom cried.  "Put it out of its misery."  She held out a shovel, handle toward me.  When I hesitated, she shook it at me.  "Here!"

I stood for a moment and stared, first at the dying squirrel, then at the shovel that Mom held out toward me.  And, in that instant, all my illusions of being the man of the house melted away.  Just a silly game of make-believe.  I shook my head, tears sprang to my eyes.  "I can't," I whispered.

And we stood there, Mom and I, not knowing what to do, until my brother Eric stepped forward.  Ten-year-old Eric.  He was crying now, too.  His face was red and tears streamed down his cheeks.  He seized the shovel out of Mom's hand, raised it above his head with both hands, and with an anguished cry brought it down on the mutilated squirrel.  When he lifted the blade, the squirrel lay dead on the concrete.  Blood ran from its snout.

As much of a man as I could have hoped, I suppose
In the raw emotional silence that followed, we four stood there, staring at the dead animal, experiencing a ragged exhaustion with which we were well-acquainted.  (As I said, my parents had divorced only a few years earlier.)

Then Mom asked me to bury the squirrel.  "I think Eric has been through enough," she said.

I dug a hole in the far corner of the back yard.  I tried to make it deep enough that Trixie would not dig it up later.  Then, gently as I could, I scooped the dead squirrel into the shovel, carried it across the grass and laid it in the dirt.  I covered it up with the moist, black soil.

It was what the man of the house would do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sister Sarah's farewell tour: Weep, ye tea-baggers!

"It was all a dream, wasn't it? A beautiful, beautiful dream...
It's a pitiful state of affairs, really.

Here comes Sweet Sister Sarah, down from Alaska, brandishing that man-slaying wink of hers, and dropping in on Oprah and Barbra to chat about her new book:  Going Rogue:  An American Life.  Although I won't be reading it myself, I'm sure the book is destined to find its way onto every future bookshelf alongside leather-bound volumes of For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

What I find pitiful is the manner in which each tea-bag conservative, man and woman alike, laps up Sarah's every word like milk from the cow.  So enamored are they of this perfect vision of feminine, apple-pie wholesomeness that it matters not at all that everything she says... every... single... thing... is plain-as-day evidence that the woman has got nothing worth mentioning going on in the "smarts" department.  Don't believe me?  Take a look here or here, and see what you think.  Be objective!

How very sad!  Sometimes, all I can manage is a disbelieving laugh.  Can these people, these "conservatives" really and truly believe in this woman?  Do they actually imagine that she has a plan to lead them all back to the political Promised Land?  The woman who could not manage even to complete her one term as Governor of Alaska?

(And, yes, apparently they do!  See here or here!)

My friend Dave told me that he read somewhere that they love Sarah Palin because they believe that she will attack all those whom they despise: all the liberals and the illegal immigrants and the socialists and the Muslims and the smart women who make them feel inferior.  And because of that, she can do no wrong in their eyes.  

Well, let me take this opportunity to point out the obvious for any tea-bag patriot who might read these words:

Sarah Palin is not going to run for president.

She will soon disappear from public life to her home in Alaska, diving right back into the soap opera world she knew before Mad Johnny and the Boys came calling.  

For a while she'll pop up for a speaking appearance or some ceremony or another.  That will continue for as long as you continue to pay for it with your hard-earned money.  (But she won't be doing many political events.  Republicans don't take her seriously.  Ask David Brooks or Charles Krauthammer.)

Eventually, you'll wise up, and the money won't be as forth-coming.  She'll go away then.  You'll forget her as soon as you can find a replacement.

But right now, she is getting the reward that was promised to her by right-wing kingmakers.  She is getting rich.  And she's getting rich off you.  And you get nothing in return.

I wish I could say you read it here first.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holder strikes a blow for the Constitution

US Constitution back in style?
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will relocate five Guantanamo Bay detainees to New York City to face trial in US civilian court rather than in a military tribunal. 

With this decision, Holder once again upholds the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.  At issue are the fates of individuals, including the alleged mastermind of the 911 attacks, who have been held in a facility in Guantanamo Bay for seven years.

Former Bush administration officials seem panic-stricken at the idea that there will be trials in civilian courts.

Pathetic Bush lapdog Michael Mukasey had this to say about the matter:  "The question is whether, not only that particular facility but the city at large, will then become the focus for mischief in the form of murder by adherents of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.  Whether this raises the odds that it will, I would suggest to you that it raises them very high."

And Dick Cheney's hideous demon-spawn daughter was on Fox News yesterday with these shrill words:  "[Obama]'s going to give them a public platform where they can spew venom, where they can preach jihad, where they can reach out and recruit other terrorists. And it is totally unnecessary."

And there you have it.  Bereft of any legal or moral grounds for their objection, the Bush gang reverts to hysterical fear to try to save its bacon.

First, Mukasey whines that New York City will become a terrorist target.  But, hadn't the Bush administration been shrilly proclaiming for its last 6 years in office that we were all in grave danger?  How much more grave can the danger become?

Then, repulsive Liz Cheney shrieks that the suspects will use their trials to win recruits to their cause.  But, does she imagine that the reports of water-boarding and illegal secret detentions have not already acheived that goal?

Junior and his gang, of course, kept the suspects in the off-shore prison facility precisely in order to avoid legal issues around the way they were handling these men.  Bush officials are already on record stating that at least one of the suspects, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded (which is torture and therefore unconstitutional) up to 183 times.  And, therefore, the filthy Bush gang know that such trials will bring to light all the unsavory truth about their torture tactics, their secret off-shore prisons, their constitutional abuses.

Dick Cheney, Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzales, Don Rumsfeld, and Junior himself will all come out of it exposed as the medieval beasts that they truly are.  The trials will reveal exactly what Alberto Gonzales meant when he wrote that the "new paradigm" of the war on terrorism "renders obsolete [the Geneva Convention]'s strict limitation on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

The Bush administration used the 911 attacks as a pretext to create a special extra-constitutional system that allowed them to use detainees for their own ends.  I would not be surprised to learn, as a result of these trials, that Bush and Cheney kept the detainees in secret prisons in order to torture them into admitting a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  They needed to justify their filthy war.

And it could well be that evidence presented in the trials will influence Holder's pending decision about whether or not to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration for constitutional abuses.  (Feeling the heat, Dick?)

For all their patriotic fakery, those who object to Holder's decision are showing very little faith in the Constitution and the vision of the so-called Founding Fathers.  The Constitution and the United States' system of justice is time-tested and meant to endure.  Most especially in troubled times.  And, even if it were true that the trials make New York City more of a target, what of it?  Are we to modify our behavior and our justice system because we're afraid of terrorists?

If that's the case, count me out.  I won't be intimidated by anybody.  Not by a bunch of bearded dicks with fanatical religious fervor; even less by Junior's political lackeys and apologists.

Bravo, General Holder.

(Happy birthday, Mom!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ASL: Back to the Barricades! (Pt. II)

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. 

Interested ASL players take note!  Dave Hauth, and I are are engaged in another big battle over the Barricades.  We have come to mutual agreement to each maintain a "blog correspondence" wherein we individually publish our thoughts on our game with the agreement that neither will read his competitor's posts until our campaign game is complete. So, I present to those interested ASL players out there my half of said correspondence.

You can read Dave's half of the correspondence here.  You can read my previous entry here.

Aftermath of Day 1:  October 17, German victory
The Black Chit of Disaster

Two words:  heavy artillery.  I got four fire missions from my 150mm artillery module and it blew a wide hole in the Russian line.

The battle shaped up much as I had anticipated.  Dave had anchored the Russian right with fortifications and a rifle company.  But I was surprised not to see dug-in tanks.  Nonetheless, my heavy artillery pre-registered hex of  X2 was optimally place.  After my set up, my observers dropped smoke on U6 and the god-awful hammer of death, the 150mm artillery came smashing down on the Russian right flank.

End of German Turn 1 Prep Fire Phase
 As the artillery fell, the Sturm company advanced under concealment on to hex rows Q through U.

Meanwhile, my rifle company entered, with the Panzers, on hex rows  L through O.  The tanks advanced several hexes, employing smoke dispensers as they went, then turned east to support the Sturm company on the German left.  The first line Germans advanced under concealment through the debris field.

There was an intimidating stack of Russian counters (they turned out to be dummy counters; that wily Dave!) in the upper level of hex K10 that kept me from advancing quite as broadly as I would have liked, but it turned out alright.  I didn't take any fire to speak of on Turn 1, although Dave did bring down a spotting round right in the middle of my advancing Sturm company.  That had me worried.

But the heavy artillery quickly dispelled any real concerns I had by smashing open the Russian right.  My Sturm company was able to advance away from his artillery, which succeeded only in immobilizing one Panzer.

Podpolkovnik Dave Hauth
Dave responded to my artillery barrage by advancing his rifle squads into the cellar of building Z1, but the artillery rubbled hex Z1 and buried a squad.  Dave tried to extricate his 9-1 leader from the area by pulling him back with a squad to the foxhole in Y6.  The problem, it turns out, was that my observer could see the foxhole, too.  And so, the heavy artillery followed that poor brave comrade.  As the game progressed, the artillery destroyed an entire rifle company, and considerable fortifications.

Dave did have his anti-tank guns in the area.  One was in Z9 and the other in U9.  I learned this when he opened fire on my Panzers.  But he killed only one.  The other two were immobilized.  I was able to destroy one of the guns and both crews, but Dave retained the gun in U9.

Meanwhile, on the German left, my infantry walked into building W5 just as the smoke from the mortar cleared.  Dave had abandoned it and set up a secondary line of defense in the P6 factory.  My reinforcing rifle company came in on hex rows D through I and took up positions along the northern rail line to try to interdict Russians that were moving east.

Oberstleutnant Dade Cariaga
At this point, I had attained all my tactical goals for the game.  But the temptation was to push on and grab more while the Russian was reeling.  For the most part, I resisted.  I've learned well the bitter lesson of being too hasty in Red Barricades.  But I did take two risks.  One paid off.  The other did not.

The good risk was my decision to push my advance on the river.  By turn 3 it was apparent that Dave had nothing left over there.  Especially after the heavy artillery, in its final fire mission (I had a total of 4 fire missions from it), rubbled X9, where the last of Dave's forces in the area, a 9-0 commissar and 2 squads, were hunkered in the cellar awaiting my assault.  Poor Comrade Trigger-happy and his men were buried under the weight of a collapsed building.  I pushed into the Chemist's Shop and even grabbed buildings in the BB and CC hex rows.  I had never imagined I would get that far on Day 1.  This push cost me a Panzer, because of the gun in U9, but I counted it as acceptable when I considered that the Chemist's Shop was in my possession.

The bad risk was my decision to contend for the P6 factory.  I had nearly pushed Dave out of it, when he scored a nice close combat result that took out a 548 and a 247 while leaving his unit in tact.  I ended up with possession of all but the 3 southernmost hexes of the factory, but I judged the cost to be too high.  I lost 1 elite squad and a first line half squad in exchange for a few hexes and a couple captured Russian support weapons.  Territory is secondary to casualties.  As Rodney Kinney once told me:  "Red Barricades is all about body count."  And besides, if my long term plans work out, I think I can force Dave to abandon that factory; I need not fight for it at all.

On the German right, I took only what Dave ceded readily, although there was a sharp little exchange on the western board edge.  I had a platoon of Sturm troops that I had held off board until turn 4.  I entered them on A8 and A9 to slip behind a group of Russians that were stealing up the A hex row.  Dave got one of my Sturm squads and I got one of his 527 squads, but his Commissar and 2 more squads escaped by the skin of their fervently patriotic teeth.

All in all, I must say I am pleased.  Upon completion of Day 1 of the campaign game, the casualty tally read:

Russians lost 43 CVP
Germans lost 18 CVP

That's better than a 2 to 1 ratio.  A whipping.  But I'm going to need to score big victories early on if I'm going to win this game.  I reckon I kept pace.

The Russian retained 25.5 squads at the end of the day (but only four leaders).  The Germans retained 30.5 (and 8 leaders).  My pregame fears about going into Day 2 at a numerical disadvantage turned out to be phantoms.  Put it down to the Black Chit of Disaster.

We're scheduled to play again on the day after Thanksgiving.  So, sometime between now and then, I'll write a post about my plans for day 2.

Thanks for checking in, ASL fans!

To be continued...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Star light

Billion years having passed,
wolf-rayet succumbed
to tormenting solar winds,
emitted an agonized howl
of light into black void and darkness:

Bent and pulled, as it left,
by ten million dwarfs,
all white and red, black and brown,
 from galaxy radiate out,
through nebulae vast and uncounted;

Through cold space onward fled
toward that yonder speck,
which grew into Milky Way,
in time-bending hurtle from Bang;
was caught in one great twisted arm,

Swept on through, witnessed all:
worlds ancient and cold:
in ev'ry brief 'ternity,
departed with nary a peep,
gas giants and icy dead terras;

Even now washing over
our little blue marble,
where sit we with hand in hand,
admiring our clear night together,
and sensing some echo of sadness;

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

American terrorism

A child's drawing
It is a recurring phenomenon in these United States:  some deranged individual surpasses his threshold of psychological pain, arms himself to the teeth, takes himself to some place where he can find a large group of unarmed people, and starts shooting.

In the past week, there have been three such incidents.
  • The first was, of course, the incident that occurred on November 5 at Fort Hood, Texas.  Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at a soldier readiness center, killing 13 and wounding dozens.

  • The next occurred on the following day, November 6, in Orlando, Florida.  A disgruntled former employee, Jason Rodriguez, entered the offices of an engineering firm and shot 6 people, one of them fatally.

  • The most recent incident occurred just yesterday, November 10, right here in Tualatin, Oregon.  Robert Beiser entered a medical lab and opened fire with a high-powered rifle, killing his ex-wife and wounding two others, before turning the gun on himself.
The first of these incidents is the one that the media has really focused on, which is somewhat justified, since it resulted in the most casualties.  But how many similar incidents have there been in the last 10 years?  How long will it be until there is another such incident?  If we face the facts, we cannot deny it:  these horrific events occur several times per year here in these United States.

Of course, we are all shocked and saddened.  But, as the casualty count rises, our shock is not quite as severe as it was for the previous such incident.

No one knows why these horrors occur, much less what to do about them.  There is a certain element of our society that instinctively seeks out a scapegoat, and that element, of course, is focusing on the Fort Hood incident, and pointing to "Islamic extremists" as the root of the problem.  Their solution is predictable:  oppress Muslims, fear the "other."  But the truth is this:  the "others" that they fear are we!

Over the years, I've seen news reports of suicide bombings in other countries, in Israel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan.  And I was moved to pity when I thought of the everyday people in those lands and wondered how it must be for them to have to live under those kinds of conditions. 

Well, this week, I've had it brought home to me:  those places are no different than these United States.  We are those people living under those impossible conditions.  One world, one people, indeed!

I wonder if we'll ever have the courage, in this bitterly divided country (thank you, Junior Bush), to have a real discussion about this.  I wonder if we'll ever have the courage to try to seek a solution that doesn't blame anyone, a solution that heals.

Brace yourselves, folks.  There is going to be more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The apple

"Look!  There!"  He pointed to the movement in the grass.  The blades bent and rustled to mark the course.

She saw it:  first, the triangular head that rose up above the grass, the lightning-flicker tongue that darted in and out quick as the eye.  Then, the sleek-muscled scaly red-and-black body, passing quickly like a wisp of breeze.  Even as she watched, the head lowered and the creature darted forward, slipping beneath the wall.  A deft flick of tail, like the stiff dance of conductor's baton, and it was gone.  Under the wall and into the garden.

"Beautiful," she said.  "Don't you think?"

He looked uneasy.  "Beautiful.  Maybe deadly."

And then, once again, it was the two of them, standing outside the gate.

"Funny that we meet here, after all this time," she said.  She bent her head downward, but she kept her eyes on his face.

He pulled at his lower lip, peering through the gate into the garden.  The vegetation had outgrown any thing like order.  No neatly kept rows, no tended plots.  More a jungle than a garden.  "I come here sometimes," he said.  "I don't know why."

"It was a lovely garden..." she said, "...back then."

He nodded.  "It was a beautiful season... short, but glorious."

He paused on the edge of a question.

She answered it anyway.  "It's so far overgrown, now.  It can't ever be what it was."

They were silent for a while.  Then, he said, "Do you remember that apple tree that grew near the back wall?"

She closed her eyes and smiled.  "Those were the best apples I can ever remember."

They stood quietly for a long moment. 

"Well, I suppose I should be getting home," he said.

"Me, too," she replied.

They turned away from each other, away from the garden gate.

"But I... I'm hungry."  His heart was in his throat.

A quick eternity.  Then, they each turned half a turn, and peered into the darkness of the garden, imagining the apple.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Incident at Fort Hood

On Thursday, November 5, 2009, a US Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center in the Fort Hood, Texas military base and opened fire with small arms.  So far, the casualty count is 13 dead and 39 wounded.  Not all of the wounded are expected to survive.  Major Hasan, himself, survived the incident, although he was shot 4 times by responding police officers.  He is reportedly in a coma at a military medical facility.

A terrible crime; an horrendous tragedy.

But leave it to fringe right-wingers, ever on the lookout for anything they can exploit, to leap at the opportunity to use the incident for political gain.  Even before all the details of the incident were known, shrieks of "Terrorism!" and "Islamic extremists!" were ringing in the public ears.

Leading the charge is (who else?) the repulsive senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, who was on Fox News Sunday with this money quote:  "We don't know enough to say now, but there are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act."

In support of Lieberman's conjecture, it is being reported today that, in 2001, Hasan attended the same mosque in Virginia as two of the 9-11 hijackers.  There are also reports that Hasan attempted to contact "al-Qaeda" before his rampage.

Lieberman's verbal dysentery continued.  He said he would initiate a Senate investigation to uncover Hasan's motives and to determine "whether the Army missed warning signs." Now that's courage!

I have a couple questions:
  1. If Hasan, by virtue of being an "Islamist extremist" (according to Lieberman's definition), has committed an act of terrorism, does that mean that "Christian extremist" Scott Roeder who murdered Dr. George Tiller as the doctor attended a service at his church also committed a "terrorist act?"

  2.  And, if so, will brave Joe Lieberman initiate an investigation into Roeder's associations and contacts?
Color me doubtful.

Over the years, I have befriended many Muslims. Last weekend, I had occasion to speak with several of them about the issue. When I expressed concern that there will be a backlash against Muslims in this country, each of them agreed with me. They are expecting it.

And Joe Lieberman, the mealy-mouthed, self-serving pig that he is, has not disappointed.  Nor, of course, have the tea-bag crowd.  Trust me, they're just getting ramped up.  They will be pointing to this incident for years to come as proof positive of the "danger" of Islam. 

Listen, people:  Major Hasan was a deranged killer with a gun, nothing more, nothing less.  It is anything but helpful to have pigs like Lieberman using the tragedy to stoke fear against a particular demographic just to raise his political visibility.

Haven't we learned over the last 20 or so years that murderous shooting sprees by deranged killers is a recurring phenomenon in this country?

Shall we chronicle the carnage?
This is not even close to a complete list.

Let's face the facts:  In this country, once or twice a year, somebody snaps and takes a gun (or guns) into a public place and starts randomly killing people.  Sometimes the killer is a Muslim; sometimes the killer is a Christian.  Sometimes the killer is a racist; sometimes the killer is a disillusioned teenager.

Symptoms of a world gone mad.

Or maybe it has always been this way.

I don't know.


Update:  The family of one of the victims, Michael Cahill speaks out.

People, that is truly Christian.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

ASL: Back to the Barricades! (Pt. I)

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. 

Attention interested ASL players

I love the winter time! The cold and the rain are tiresome and constant companions here in Oregon, but so long as I've got my hobbies, they can be ignored.

So old friend and ex-roommate, Dave Hauth, and I are near to the eve of another big battle over the Barricades. ASL players, you know what I'm talking about. Dave and I have come to mutual agreement to each maintain a "blog correspondence" wherein we individually publish our thoughts on our game with the agreement that neither will read his competitor's posts until our campaign game is complete. So, I present to those interested ASL players out there my half of said correspondence.

You can read Dave's half of the correspondence here.

You're welcome (encouraged even!) to make comment on my thinking and my strategy. But please be sure not to reveal any information to me or to Dave about our respective plans. 

And so, I begin! Hope you enjoy!

"Once more into the breach, lads!"
I don't know how many Red Barricades campaign games Dave and I have played together.  Maybe a dozen?   I have played the Russians in all three of our most recent games, and so I called "player's privilege" this time in order to get the Germans.

Dave and I have come to the opinion that the "big" game, CG III:  The Barrikady, sets a pretty high hurdle for the Germans.  And, indeed, the Russians have won every campaign game we have played in the last several years.  Each game has played out similarly:  the Germans surge through the factories at a terrible price, absolutely mauling the Russians, but then finding themselves exhausted and at the uttermost end of their tether somewhere around hex row AA.

This has happened ever since Dave speculated and then proved (so far) that the key to Russian victory is to keep the German off the river!  This changes the axis of attack, for the Germans, from north-south to east-west, with no chance of isolating the factories.  In effect, the German must attack through the factories to achieve his objective.

So this time, we're playing CG I:  "Into the Factory" to see how the Germans fare in acheiving the relatively limited goal of capturing only the westernmost two-thirds of the map.

As my general strategy will reveal, I hope to make the name, "Into the Factory," --well, ironic.

My strategy

In a phrase:  Get to the river!

As I stated in the preamble, I think it is vital that the Germans deny the Russians a secure flank.  And, oh how bitterly have I learned that a German attack through the factories is folly?  The idea is to isolate the factories from the river.  If I can get to the Commissar's House and hold it, even if it is nothing but stone rubble, I'll be in a strong position.

But I'm not going to get there on Day 1; that is certain.  My goal for the day is simply this:  to get across the street that runs from V1 to V10.  Even if I don't get any further than hex row W or X.  I'll even accept a CG day loss if it means I can establish a foothold east of hex row V.

I'll ignore the west side of the map, for now.  That means that any forces the Russian has stationed over there (and I hope that includes the AT guns) will be out of position to meet my attack.  At least for the start of the scenario.

But I am fairly certain that Dave is going to guard hex row V strongly.  The past several of our campaign games have each started with a platoon of dug-in KV tanks, wire, mines and infantry in the vicinity, anchoring the Russian right flank.  I'm going to be punching into the face of some withering fire.  Dave could also have artillery trained on that area. 

 It's going to get pretty ugly over here.
Well, let him.  My initial forces are:
Rifle Coy
Sturm Coy
Pltn. PzIIIL
80mm Mtr OBA
Offboard observer:  M1
Pre-registered hexes:  M6, U4

My purchases for the day, no doubt, reveal my gamble:

Rifle Coy = 7CPP
O3 Heavy Artillery (Plentiful Ammo!) = 6CPP
Pre-registered hex:  X2  = 1CPP
Offboard Observer:  P0 = 1CPP

I've taken a risk, I think, by purchasing only 1 infantry company (and not even a Sturm company, at that). So I'm starting the campaign with only 3 infantry companies.  This could well leave me at a severe numeric disadvantage in the days to come. But I plan to crush whatever is in my way as I advance toward my objective for the day. So the Russian right flank is going to be pounded mercilessly by heavy artillery.  On turn 2, I hope to call down a smoke mission from the Battalion Mortar right around hex U4 to help cover the advancing infantry.  These will be my Sturm company.  A very slow advance behind smoke and artillery.  One hex at a time. 

Slowly, slowly turn the screw...
One rifle company , supported by tanks, will advance due south along hex rows K through Q.  My second rifle company, which enters on Turn 2 will move to reinforce one thrust or the other, according to the needs of the moment.

My infantry assault is going to be nearly glacial.  Advance no more than one or two hexes per turn; maintain concealment as much as possible, screen with smoke (both from the OBA mortars and from the PzIIIL tanks).  Blast any Russians that poke their heads out. 

In past game days, early on the German beat the hell out of the Russian, but then made the mistake of sprinting recklessly to gain ground in the last turn or two.  Many campaign days play out with the Germans punishing the Russians for the first 4 or 5 turns, maintaining a 2 to 1 casualty ratio, only to suffer some disastrous losses at the very end of the scenario and wrecking it all.  Not this time, if I can help it.

This is what I hope to see before I move a single unit.
 Our first game is scheduled for November 14th.  We'll see how it goes...

To be continued...

Friday, November 06, 2009


The day I fill my gallery I'll don a thorny crown,
And strike a pose mid-stage under the light;
And there I'll stand as still as stone, awaiting audience,
To take its seats, my captives for the night;

I'll linger long ere I begin my sharp soliloquy;
Each gaze I'll meet 'til I espy its guilt,
Then, satisfied that I'm their lamb, I'll softly clear my throat,
And murmur low as I begin my lilt;

And everyone who wronged me will be seated square before,
And mutely will endure my free acquittal;
Each sin they've done against me will be aired and thrown away;
A tear, a kiss, a saw upon the fiddle;

And then I'll open up the pipes and sing aloud my pain;
 I'll bear my burdened soul to every sight;
And when I'm sure they're all secure in how they've brought me low,
I'll cut my throat and bid them all "Good night!"

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Reading the post-election tea leaves

Yesterday's off-year election results are a mixed bag.  Democrats lose two governor's races; tea-baggers get stuffed.

The way I read it, there are two principle lessons to be had:
  1. President Obama had better start delivering on the agenda he outlined in his presidential campaign.

  2. The Republican party is in a shambles.
Governors races:  a lesson for Rahm Emanuel

 Future of the Republican party?

In New Jersey, incumbent governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, was unseated by Republican Chris Christie.  I didn't follow this race particularly closely, but it seems that Jon Corzine, was a very unpopular governor.  He apparently failed to deliver on campaign promises (attention:  Rahm Emanuel!) and he is a former senior partner at Goldman Sachs, which is bound to make anybody stink.  Chris Christie was not a particularly strong candidate; he had a number of gaffs.  But he ended up winning.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell coasted to a win over the Democrat Creigh Deeds.  An interesting aspect of this race is that, contrary to the loud-and-proud outrage advocated by the tea-bag crowd, McDonnell spent his campaign running away from his conservative bona fides.  Early on in the campaign, McDonnell's master thesis surfaced, wherein he expressed some pretty "out there" opinions regarding women, homosexuals, and other social issues.  (You can read about it here.)  But since that time, McDonnell has downplayed his "conservatism" presenting himself as more of a secular, centrist candidate.  Well, it worked and I hope it is sincere.  McDonnell, if he really is the man he claims to be, might not be a bad seed for the GOP to use in its reinvention.  Let's see how he governs.  I'd love to see the Republican party steer away from the neo-Confederate thrust it seems to have taken.  (And let me say this about Creigh Deeds:  he was definitely the candidate with the most interesting name!)

So, looking at those two races, it was a good night for Republicans.  The Democrats did not vote in numbers like they had in 2008.  There was not much enthusiasm from the left this time around.  And the Obama administration had better make note of that.  The administration has already disappointed the left by seeming to concede too much.  (Single payer health plan, anyone?  And why is Dick Cheney not behind bars?)

What's it gonna be, Mr. President?

GOP internecine warfare

Dick and Newt in happier times

But then, there was the race up in New York's 23rd district.  This one pitted Democrat Bill Owens against a Conservative party candidate, Doug Hoffman, who had the support of the virulent tea-bag crowd.  The tea-baggers were all full of piss and vinegar about this race because they had forced a "moderate" Republican candidate, Deedee Scozzafava, to drop out.

The race gained national attention when big name conservative freaks started weighing in:  Sweet Sister Sarah, Man-on-Dog Rick Santorum, jowly, half-asleep Fred Thompson, and Governor Tim Pawlenty.  They all thought they saw something happening, some movement that was afoot and they leaped to get in front of it.

And the race had the added deliciousness of being a proxy war between two of the most obnoxious and despicable right-wing demogogues:  Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey.  These two have hated each other for years.  Newt had endorsed Scozzafava early on.  But Dick trumped Newt by taking Hoffman under his wing, in that avuncular way that only he can do.  He held Hoffman's hand during an interview with the local Watertown Daily Times, and threw the weight of his FreedomWorks goon squad into the race.

Well, on Tuesday night, the voters of New York's 23rd district let it be known, I think, that they resented a bunch of outsiders coming in and trying to influence the way they voted.  And they ended up electing Bill Owens, the Democrat, in a district that most considered to be solidly Republican.

So how does the Republican scorecard look now that it's over?
  • Dick Armey looks stupid which matters not a whit to him --it's all part of the job;

  • Newt Gingrich looks stupid and adds a hash mark under the column marked "Dick" in his little book of vendettas;

  • Tim Pawlenty looks stupid and feels a little embarrassed (after all, he's the only one in this crowd that is still human);

  • Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Honey, and the whole tea-bag family look stupid, --but remain too stupid to know it.
All in all, I'm satisfied.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Virulent conservatism

Here it comes, folks.  The handful of elections that occur in various parts of the country today are, I predict, going to result in mostly right-wing victories.  The governors' mansions in Virginia and New Jersey and the congressional seat in New York's 23rd district are likely to be awarded by voters to the right-wing candidates.

We can be sure that Fox News blowhards and talk radio demagogues will be trumpeting these "victories" as proof positive that the American electorate rejects President Obama and his agenda.  And, believe it or not, that's fine with me.  Because I think that as a result of these elections, Republicans will conclude that their path back to power is to purge their own ranks of all those who are not displaying the proper "revolutionary fervor."  And that is bad for them.

Here's why:  The so-called "conservative movement" is an ideologically rigid entity that, I believe, is the reaction of a particular demographic within the United States to the realization that its lofty perch at the top of the American political ladder is irretrievably lost.

It's a panicky knee-jerk response to the irreversible changes that are occurring within the United States.  Changes in demographics, changes in religious make-up, changes in social mores. 

Go right down the line with the issues:
  1. Immigration - the conservative movement is for more or less militarizing the border with Mexico, has attempted on more than one occasion to formally recognize English as the official language of the United States, and refers to undocumented workers as "illegals."  Translation:  xenophobia.

  2. Religious freedom - the conservative movement is unabashedly Christian.  Jews are tolerated insofar as they are allies in foreign policy issues, advocating aggressive military posturing.  But Muslims are certainly not welcome within the movement, which is ironic considering how very conservative are most Muslims.  Translation:  eschatological fervor.

  3. Social issues - the conservative movement is dead set against gay marriage, fanatical (to the point of murder and terror bombings) about abortion, and mostly in favor of the "War on Drugs."  Any infringement on corporate behavior, any public spending for the common good, any recognition of the rights of different demographic groups, they call "socialism."  Translation:  recognition of a permanent decline in political status.
So, today's elections are likely to lend momentum to the purge that is occurring within the GOP.  The next Republican victim is likely to be Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican who is being challenged in the primary by conservative fire-breather Marc Rubio in the race for the soon-to-be-open senate seat. And Maine's two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, had each better have one eye over her shoulder.

I think this movement, this tea-bag thing, is bad for the country.  This is not like people protesting a war.  This is a people flirting with armed rebellion.  The news is full of stories of violence from the conservative movement. From Dr. Tiller to the unfortunate security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Frenzied jingoism permeates the public airwaves, and even echoes in the houses of Congress.

This so-called "conservative movement" is a virulent strain of the nativist, Know-Nothing movement that has always existed in this country.  As our own American history has shown, when this movement is faced with new realities that threaten to upset its ever-tenuous feelings of security, it lashes out with real violence, even open warfare.

(Just two days ago, people who call themselves conservatives tried to hold an online raffle on eBay to raise funds to defend Scott Roeder, the assassin of Dr.George Tiller. You know what they were selling? A David versus Goliath representation of Dr. Tiller’s murder, autographed by Scott Roeder himself!)

I'm not afraid of them.  "Wary," would be a better word for it.  This "Night of the Long Knives" within the Republican party provides an opportunity to expose the true nature of the conservative movement; an opportunity to strip away the phoniness and spin to reveal the fear and loathing that is behind it all.  And then, the American people can decide in the stark light of day, whether or not it offers anything at all for them. 

So there you have it.