Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Couldn't someone have done something?

An anonymous poster commented on blog post Terror plot in Portland? expressing dismay at Portland's brush with "terrorism" last Friday. The comment closed with these words:
For some reason when things like this happen I don't ever feel afraid only very very sad.
Brother or sister, whoever you are, you are not alone.  That's exactly the way I feel.  Thank you for articulating it.

What a tragic waste of a life!

I don't understand how this kid, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, might have believed that detonating a car bomb in Portland, Oregon was the right thing to do. 

It's true that most young men are ardent.  I certainly was, at his age.  And sometimes they act rashly in order to make themselves heard in an indifferent world.  But this thing he did, or tried to do, anyway... I don't get it.

Now, his family and his Somali Muslim community will suffer because of his actions.  Now, his life is marred forever.

The trial to come will reveal much, I'm sure. Prime among the many questions for which I hope to learn answers is one that I would ask of the Justice Department:  Was there truly no other way?

Monday, November 29, 2010

ASL Red Barricades: Today the Volga, tomorrow the Vistula (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.

Dave Hauth and I are engaged in a playing of RBCGI:  Into the Factory.  I'm the Reds.  He's the Jerries.

We're each maintaining a blog correspondence as the game progresses.  We've a Gentleman's Agreement that neither of us will read his opponent's blog until given express permission to do so. 

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. 

You can read Part I of my account here.

You can read Dave's blog here

Aftermath of CG Day 1

Ouch! These Germans mean business...

Here's how the perimeter looked at the end of CG Day 1. 

 Perimeter at end of CG Day 1
My Day 1 gamble (refer to Part I) didn't pay off.  Although Dave did attack building F5 with a rifle company, his main attack fell on the Russian left, where I was strongest.  He opened with a rocket barrage that blew a hole in my line.  But the barrage landed north of my dug-in KVII and 45LL ATG, plus my infantry was deployed in sufficient depth that I still had enough forces to give him a fight.
My ATG claimed a Panzer, and my platoon of infantry in the B12 building slowed him down, but when my KV was destroyed by a Stuka, my forces were overwhelmed.  By the end of Turn 3, it was off to the races for the Germans.  The game lasted seven (eternal) turns, at the end of which Dave took control of the Power Station, completely unopposed.

In the north, my barrage of Katy didn't do much of anything, but my rifle company in the north held their ground.  My troops by the riverbank made a break for the west and, in spite of the Stukas managed to get in front of the Germans on the last 2 turns of the game, preventing him from penetrating deeply into the factories.

The Germans suffered 35 CVP; the Russians suffered 42 CVP.  I killed four of his tanks, which kept the CVP totals close, but my infantry was decimated and I now find myself with half the number of squads as the Germans! 

Well, after all, I knew that my Day 1 gamble (buying a Katy module rather than an infantry company) might blow up in my face.  It certainly has.  I've dug myself quite a hole.  Let's see if I can get out of it.

Day 2:  Bend, don't break

My forces are reeling.  The best thing to do, I believe, is to give ground.  Set my stand-and-fight line well back from the perimeter and fall back to it.  I want to start the day with a buffer between my troops and the Germans.  Make him come to me; nick him once or twice on the way in. 

I don't need to kill Germans as much as preserve my own forces.  That is because the pressure never lets up for the German player.  He is compelled to take ground and destroy Russians at a frantic pace.  Numerically, his forces can't keep up.  I plan to purchase all 3 of my allowed infantry companies for the day.  So, as successful as he was on Day 1, Dave can't afford to let up.

Dave sees this...
My retained forces are these:
  • 628 x 2
  • 447 x 11
  • 527
  • 426
  • 228
  • 9-1 x 2, 9-0, 8-0, 7-0 x 2
  • HMG x 2, MMG, LMG x 3, Lt. Mtr.
  • 45LL ATG
  • KVII M42 dug-in U9
Day 2 setup
I'm allotted 17 CPP for the day.  These are my purchases:
  • A1 T60 Pltn Dug In 2 CPP
    T60 x 3
  • I3 Rifle Coy (reserve) 4 CPP
    447 x 12
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Lt. Mtr, Atr
    9-1, 7-0
  • I4 SMG Coy (reserve) (depleted) 3 CPP
    527 x 7
  • I5 Militia Coy 4 CPP
    426 x 12
    MMG, LMG, Lt. Mtr, Atr
  • M1 120 Fortification points 3 CPP
    Wire x 4
    12 factors AP mines
    HIP 2 squads
    ? x 18
  • O2 80mm Btln Mortar (scarce ammo) 1 CPP
From such clay must I build my castle...

Day 2 setup in the north
Northern sector

It is possible that Dave may choose this day to drive to the river.  If he does, well c'est un fait accompli.  There is little I can do beyond what I've done, which is to deploy my depleted reserve SMG company to serve as speed bumps to any determined German push.  Frankly, it won't hurt my feelings one bit if Dave does attack here.  He will establish himself on the river (an unhappy fact), but at least he won't kill too many of my troops.  I simply don't have that many over there for him to kill.

Basically, I'm abandoning factories J13 and J17 to the Germans, with only a couple platoons of unfortunate conscripts to stand in the way.  I'll give ground here faster than you can say "Heinrich, geben Sie mir jene Handgranate!"  I regret giving up building K10 without a fight, but there's nothing to be done for it.  I'll give up the buildings in the north against any serious German pressure, too.  That ground is German for the taking and I suspect Dave knows it.

My plan is to make my stand in the big O10 factory.  That's why I have an HMG, squad and leader in N5; to interdict Germans jumping off from the J13 factory.  I've deployed my active rifle company here.  The northernmost of my T60s is placed in N19, between the two factories, protected by wire and mines.  If it is in any way possible, I want to hold building O18.  If Dave wants a big fight, this is where he'll get it. 

Day 2 setup in the south
Southern sector

Here, too, I'm prepared to abandon everything west of hex row N.  I'm drawing my line east of that.  My 2 southern T60s are set up to help me make a stand for the P21 factory, which is where I've deployed my reserve rifle company.  I've set up two platoons of conscripts in the K27 factory, hoping to draw the Germans that way rather than see them charge eastward.

Over on the west edge of the map, in the area around Building F32, I've got more than meets the eye.  I've got 2 of my battle-hardened SMG squads hidden there, along with a mortar wielding 527 and my surviving 45LL ATG.  Lastly, I've got a hidden leader there, manning a field phone that will direct my 80mm mortar.  I'm hoping to use the mortar to smoke in any nasty German machine gun stacks.  Or, if the Germans enter the debris field, to drop HE on them.  I think this is a good position for my AT gun.  It could catch reinforcing German tanks as they drive toward the fight that is sure to develop along the N hex row or in the K27 factory.  My hidden machine-gunners have a good chance of ambushing German units that are looking to extend the perimeter southward.

After the whipping I took on Day 1, I'm feeling a little desperate.  But, if the Russian doesn't feel desperate on Day 2, the German has already lost.

We're scheduled to play again in about 2 weeks.  We'll see how it goes...

To be continued...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Terror plot in Portland?

On Friday, police and federal agents arrested a man in Portland whom they accused of plotting a terrorist attack.  From a US Department of Justice press release:
PORTLAND, OR—Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia and resident of Corvallis, Ore., has been arrested on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony earlier this evening in Portland, Ore., the Justice Department announced.

According to a criminal complaint signed in the District of Oregon, Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau at approximately 5:40 p.m. (PST) Nov. 26, 2010 after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud had been monitored closely for months as his alleged bomb plot developed. The device was in fact inert; and the public was never in danger from the device.
Initially, when reports about the arrest hit the news, I didn't know what to think.  A terror attack right here in my home city

Hmm...  Apparently, an heroic save by the FBI...  Let's read a little further, shall we?
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in August 2009, Mohamud was in e-mail contact with an unindicted associate (UA1) overseas who is believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December 2009, while UA1 was located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, Mohamud and UA1 discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to engage in violent jihad. UAI allegedly referred Mohamud to a second unindicted associate (UA2) overseas and provided Mohamud with a name and email address to facilitate the process.
So, the kid actually went so far as to send email to an address in Pakistan which the FBI "believe[s] to be involved in terrorist activities." What do you suppose that means? What are the "terrorist activities" and how is UA1 "involved?" 

Read on:
In the months that followed, Mohamud allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to contact UA2. Ultimately, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via e-mail in June 2010 under the guise of being an associate of UA1. Mohamud and the FBI undercover operative then agreed to meet in Portland in July 2010. At this meeting, Mohamud allegedly told the FBI undercover operative that he had written articles that were published in Jihad Recollections, an online magazine that advocated violent jihad. Mohamud also indicated that he wanted to become “operational.” Asked what he meant by “operational,” Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an “explosion” together, but needed help.
So, let's see... an angry American teenager (who happens to be Muslim) entertains fantasies about killing people and attracts the attention of the FBI.  Then, the FBI pretends to help the kid carry out his macabre fantasy so that they can throw the book at him.

The more I learn about the case, the more I'm inclined to view the entire FBI investigation with suspicion.

We'll see how this plays out as the facts come to light.  But it seems to me, at this moment, that the FBI spent a lot of time and money luring a misguided youth into a series of fateful mistakes.  I grant that a person expressing an interest in mass murder warrants careful observation.  But if the FBI had not been there to encourage the kid, who clearly had no real connections to any terrorist organization, is it possible he might have wised up, like so many other angry American boys?  (Ask yourself how many times you've heard rednecks expressing a desire to murder President Obama or Nancy Pelosi or "liberals.")

Expect the usual and inevitable anti-Muslim demagoguery and fear-mongering to kick into high gear in the wake of the arrest.   But, regardless of his intentions, Mohamed Osman Mohamud never hurt a soul.  In that sense, at least, he is less culpable than natural born Americans Kip Kinkel, Eric Rudolf, James Adkisson, or Scott Roeder.  In the long chronicle of American terrorists, he barely merits a footnote.  But he is Muslim and he is a naturalized citizen from Somalia.  That's two strikes against him in the eyes of the American public.

Update:   Just to clarify, I am suggesting that, although Mohamud certainly had motive, he had neither means nor opportunity to commit the crime of which he is accused until the FBI got involved.  That seems to be revealed in the US Justice Department press release, in which it states:

In the months that followed, Mohamud allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to contact UA2. Ultimately, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via e-mail in June 2010 under the guise of being an associate of UA1.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving day ramble

And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. --Matthew 24:6
So urge the Gospels.

Christianity's allure is solace.  But the price... the price... 

War looms.  Darkness descends. 

To the west, Pacifica may indeed love us, but her hand is not gentle.  Neither wind nor water.  She scolds us with her icy breath.  She worries our coasts with her monstrous sharks.  She rages in cold fury.  She feeds us.  She feeds on us. 

To the east, Old Man Hood skirts himself in liard and whey, indifferent as a star to our flint-spark lives.  His stormy moods strike us dead.  When glimpsed through the nimbus, he is frowning.  His own war, he knows, is lost. 

Very well.  Whatever may come, I stand by these, which are forever apart from the Abyss:
Edenic city, nestled among tree-studded hills at the confluence of two mighty rivers.  Presently she is in Arctic jet stream stasis.  Winter's vanguard defrocked oak and maple, lulled Douglas-firs to early slumber.  Sleep then, my love.  Let us sleep.

Beloved wife who redeems and absolves me.  She fires the kiln of the clay of Creation.  She would not have me sing her praises so openly.  Enough, then.  Just a word and enough.
 My best to all on this Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eve of war?

Partyin' on the Pennisula
Day before Thanksgiving, and for the umpteenth time in the last 50 years, the North Korean bandit kingdom reminds us all that the peninsular conflict is still unresolved and smoldering like a red hot ember buried in cold ash.

On Monday, North Korea launched a shocking artillery shelling on a South Korean military installation.  Two South Korean military personnel were killed in the bombardment.  The action is only the latest in a series of dangerous escalations.  In March, a South Korean warship was torpedoed, killing 46 crewmen.  Although Pyongyang denies it, the South Koreans contend that North Korea was responsible.

North Korea has 5 decades of experience in brinkmanship.  And, really, short of full scale war, the international community has no leverage.  North Korea is already impoverished and isolated diplomatically.  There are no further economic measures that the world community can impose.

Last night, President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed to conduct joint military exercises --exercises that are to include the USS George Washington and her supporting armada --in response to the latest provocation.  Rattling sabers.  Another rung up the ladder toward Ragnarok.

In 2003, Junior Bush initiated the Six-party Talks in an attempt to bring together the six regional powers (North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China, and the United States) to resolve outstanding issues.  Those talks haven't borne much fruit.  But they have made clear one prominent fact:  the Chinese, to whom North Korea is a client state, hold the trump card.  Beijing is the one power center that has any influence at all over the North Koreans.  And, to the extent that the Chinese allow North Korea to behave in this incredibly dangerous fashion, one must assume that China deems her client's actions to serve Chinese interests.

Analysts of every stripe struggle to attribute motives to the inscrutable North Korean leadership.  Some say that the North Koreans are demonstrating unity and political will in an attempt to warn off the outside world, to put to rest any rumors about instability as Krazy Kim prepares to depart this mortal plane.  Some say this is a primitive attempt at extorting international aid from the world community.  But no one knows for sure.  Perhaps not even the North Koreans.

Dangerous world.  Pray for peace.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cold snap for the comic book convention

Phone rings, midday Sunday.  It's ol' Jim Kidwell.  They're having a comic book convention in the basement of the Memorial Coliseum.  Would I wanna go check it out?

Maty's all wrapped up in her housework and her cooking and her Lifetime Channel heroine housewife movies and I'm faced with the prospect of yard work, so, yeah, I think the comic book convention sounds like fun.

I layer up against the cold and pull my hood.  Cold is early this year.  There's the feel of snow in the air and here it is, not yet Thanksgiving Day.  The rain is falling in big, heavy drops pregnant with possibility.  And sure enough, I catch glimpses of wet flakes cutting through the corners of my vision, as I look out the fog-edged window of the MAX train.  Snow in November. That's unusual.

Greg Oden's image greets me as I walk into the Rose Quarter.  There is a sense of tragedy about that young man.  Unrealized potential. 

The air is bracing and fresh.  The West Hills are over there across the river.  Mist shrouds their pates in obscurity, like the befuddling thoughts of a mind at the meridian of waking and sleep.  Steel Bridge adds a splash of russet to the base of a portrait:  ghosts fading into the loving evergreen darkness.  Beyond, gray oblivion.

There are quite a few folks at the comic book convention, but Jim is easy to spot. He's a head taller than most.  We gander about for a while.  I'm on the lookout for something to read.  I've yet to find any comic book or graphic novel that can match Watchmen for craftsmanship and aesthetic value.  But I'm always looking.

Some folks have set up a Star Wars panorama for gag photos.  I snap a shot on the sly and shirk my moral responsibility by avoiding the tip jar.  Chewbacca looks grumpy and middle-aged, and I was never a fan of those flicks anyway.

Over in one corner, we find comic artist Pia Guerra.  Very nice woman, with immense talent.  She did some of the art for Y:  the Last Man, which Jim recommends if we can find a copy.

We look around, talk to the vendors, search the displays, but there is none to be had.  On Jim's recommendation, I pick up a copy of the Transmetropolitan:  Back on the Street instead.

Darkness is already coming down as I quick-step it to the MAX stop. Snow in November. We had a short summer this year, and winter's already crowding us. Well, so be it. It might be a little longer this year; it might be a little colder. But it's just another winter. Let it come.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Temporal transfigurations

Lacking ideas, I settle for a photographic chronicle...

The 60s
I was born in Corvallis, Oregon in 1962.  In 1963, Mom, Dad and I moved to Klamath Falls, where brother Eric and sister Paige were born.  
The 70s
In 1971, my parents divorced.  Mom, Eric, Paige and I moved to Salem.  We lived there for four years (1972-76) while Mom earned her teaching degree from Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon State College).  We then moved to Redmond, Oregon for one year (1976-77).  At the end of that year, Eric, Paige and I went to live with Dad in Klamath Falls, where he and his new wife, Jeanne, had just been blessed with a daughter, my sister Mia.  At the end of the decade, they had a second child, my brother, Calee.
The 80s
I finished high school and went to college at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.  Then I moved to Portland in 1988.  My Grandma Metzger died in this decade.

The 90s
I lived on the west side of Portland through the 90s.  I was married in 1992, then divorced in 1995.  My siblings Chae and Seth, Dad's kids through his third marriage (with his wife Tami) were born during this time.  My three remaining grandparents (Ross, Jennie, and Bob) passed in this decade.
The 00s
I moved to the east side of Portland in late 1999.  I've been here ever since.  Dad died in 2001 and my Aunt Jenifer two years later.  Maty and I met in 2005 and were married in 2006.  My nephews Torin and Gino were born during this decade.

One hell of a trip... I tell ya... Any man who'd demand more is a damned fool.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Los sacerdotes en la selva

En la selva hay un templo donde ellos mataron
Los guerreros vencidos, y a sus mujeres, y a sus niños.
Ellos comieron los corazónes y bebieron la sangre.

La sangre quemó como fuego de garganta a ano
Y los cuerpos de los sacerdotes absorbían la pasión de los corazónes
Y la agregaban con sus mismas.

Los sacerdotes santificaron los cuerpos de los muertos,
Cortando las cabezas
Y las lanzando con los torsos sangrientos
En un hoyo en el suelo.

Algún día regresaré a México, la tierra de mis padres,
Donde la gente conoce al fuego de la sangre.
No se puede negarlo
Ni desear otro.

Los esqueletos sin cabeza duermen debajo del agua.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Cormac McCarthy landscape

The serrate horizon of the Cascade Range stenciled a purple jag-toothed saw blade before the incarnadine residue of a sun recently gone to its reward.  Eastward, the dusk by degrees gained mastery of the magma-formed landscape, obscured shadows, nullified identity.  In places, where the ground rose above the stubby fingers of lodge-pole pine and aspen, pink reflection revealed the lava rock outcroppings of the bedrock that lay in all that country.  In the middle distance to the west, a perfectly round lake, dimly reflecting a pale sky, blackened with the onset of darkness, yet rippled here and there as the stocked lake trout rose to snatch mosquito or gnat hovering above the surface, concentric circles chronicling each small act of violence.  The pine stands defining the meadow congealed into patches of shadow, vanguard of the night.

He sat in his canvass camping chair like a bony old horse, knees spread, elbows cocked, thumbs hitched in the pockets of his blue jeans.  His silhouette, made ambiguous by the dusk, was all angles and planes.

Gits cold fast up here, don't it?

She did not answer.  

Guess I oughta git a lantern lit, then.  Cain't build a fire in the dark.

No sooner spoken than the darkness became complete.  The mountains yet had a pale edge, but faded even as she watched until she could not say if the ghost glow was actual or but an imprint left on her retinal memory. Just let it be dark, she said.  There will be stars.

A barred owl gave voice from the invisible pine stand.  Hoot-hoot-hoo-hoo! Hoot-hoot-hoo-hoo!

She bent her head to listen.  The Kwagiulths believed owls were spirits of the dead.

He hove himself to his feet, still spry, but a crick revealed in the motions.  Thinkin' about that little girl, are ya?

Stars began to show their faces.  Diamond shards pin-pricking a sorrowful sky, their coldness compassion enough.

She'd a been sittin' right here with me on this blanket, she said.

His shape bent down at her.  His hand went to her cheek. Grief's a burnin' balm, honey.  We cain't have it no other.

He went to fetch the lantern.

Monday, November 15, 2010

ASL Red Barricades: Today the Volga, tomorrow the Vistula (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.

As autumn begins her descent into winter, darkness encroaches on the edges of the day.  I fall into a Hibernian gloom, take to reading Cormac McCarthy novels, and if all is quiet, imagine that I can hear the groaning of the ice on the Volga.  

Yes, that's right, Dave Hauth and I will meet once again in the debris cluttered factories of the Barrikady.  The game is RBCGI:  Into the Factory.  This time around, I am to be the valiant Red Army commander, while Herr Hauth, true to his heritage, will take the part of the Germans.

As before, both players will maintain a blog correspondence as the game progresses with the agreement that neither will read his opponent's blog until given express permission to do so. A Gentleman's Game is both assumed and assured.

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. 

You can read Dave's blog here

Polkovnik Cariaga addresses his men on the eve of battle

"Comrades!  The Fascist wolf is at our door.  And he is strong.  And, comrades, he will kill many of us.

But, comrades, in his bloodthirsty lunge, the beast has exposed his flank.  And now, sons and daughters of the Motherland, we must strike.  For, here, on the banks of the mighty Volga, either we will slay the wolf, or the wolf will slay us.

Take heart, comrades!  For even now, the Fascist is learning to his woe something we have we known all along.  Russians are not like other peoples.  Though our tears are unnumbered and our miseries multiply each day, we know nothing of despair.  We know only this:  our sacred duty.  Let us vow here and now, comrades.  Today, we stand on the Volga.  Tomorrow we drive for the Vistula!"

A litany of Red Barricades truths

A well-traveled road becomes rutted and predictable.  And the road to the Volga is certainly familiar to Oberst Hauth. We've played a lot of Red Barricades.  And, over the many playings we've come to agree on certain aphorisms which we suppose to be keys to success in the game.  To wit:
  • The Russian player must do everything he can to prevent the German from gaining the river bank. 

    This is especially true in CGIII:  The Barrikady.  But, although Dave and I are playing CGI:  Into the Factory, which only requires the Germans to capture the westernmost two-thirds of the map, as I demonstrated in our game last year, Back to the Barricades, if the Germans establish themselves on the riverbank, the Soviet front is precariously stretched.  The German axis of attack changes from west-east to north-south, making it possible for them to avoid attacking into the factories themselves (which they should avoid as much as possible).

  • The German player must strive to maintain momentum, inflicting casualties at a rate approaching 2 to 1.

    Two thoughts must always be prominent in the German commander's mind: 

    1)  Delay is fatal;
    2) You don't have enough men. 

    As the game progresses, the Russians get stronger, while the German, driven by the onus of attack, must jealously shepherd and guard his own strength. 

  • There are three most critical tactical objectives:

    • The Chemist's Shop (X9)
    • The Power Station (J21)
    • The Commissar's House (BB18)

    The map reveals the importance of these objectives.  They all have upper levels with excellent vantages.  They are all easily fortified.  They dominate whole sectors of the battlefield.    If the German player can seize any of them in tact, he has attained a powerful observation base that he may man with stacks of machine-guns, artillery observers, and dead-eye German leaders.
The Big Three
All of this, of course, is well-known to Dave. We've discussed it many times and at length.  So, now, as we face off, each of us knowing the other's critical objectives, the game becomes a matter of how to thwart his opponent in spite of it.  

A devil's gamble

For this game, I've decided to take what I believe to be an enormous Day 1 gamble.  It is this:  In lieu of the standard Russian Day 1 purchase of a company of infantry, I opt to recruit a single shrieking woman into the ranks.  Her name is "Katy." Before I expound on my thinking, let me first lay out my initial forces (including purchases) for the game.

Dave sees this...
  • Rifle Coy
    447 x 12
    9-0, 7-0
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Atr, Lt. Mtr.

  • Rifle Coy
    447 x 12
    9-1, 7-0
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Atr, Lt. Mtr.

  • SMG Coy (depleted)
    527 x 7
    9-1, 7-0

  • 45LL ATG x 2
    228 x 2

  • Fortified building locations x 5

  • 50 Fortification points
A poor roll results in my SMG company being depleted.  A small loss when one considers my plan for the day.  I have 8 CPP to spend. My purchases are these:
  • O5 Katyusha Rocket module with pre-registered hex 4 CPP
    Katyusha rocket module
    Pre-registered hex: G5

  • A5 KV Pltn (dug-in) 2 CPP
    KVII x 2

  • M1 Fortifications 2 CPP
    80 FPP
My total allotment of 130 FPP is used to buy wire, mines, and dummy counters, and to provide HIP status for the two dug-in KV tanks.

Day 1 setup
The placement of the pre-registered hex for my Katy module reveals my hopes for the day.  Specifically, I want to lure the Germans into attacking the area around building F5 in force.  I hope that Dave will see my setup, be tempted by the seemingly large number of units I have positioned in that corner, and attack aggressively from the north and west to isolate and destroy them.  I've set up my depleted SMG company in the area along with some dummy counters to present a juicy target.  Then, about Turn 2, my HIP artillery observer on the rooftop of hex J13 calls in Katy and let the chips fall where they may!

Come this way, Jerry!
My sub-machine-gunners, of course, must pay the ultimate price, but if they can lure the Germans into the trap and my Katy drops on elite or 1st line Germans advancing in soft cover... well, I don't have to tell you...  And, at the very least, the Katy FFE will hinder German movement in the area.  On the other hand, if Dave ignores my bait and attacks somewhere else, or if my stray roll is exceedingly bad, I'll end up with a big bag of sh*t.

The KVs are HIP to avoid being smoked in by German mortar fire.  Further, I'm breaking convention by setting them up on opposite sides of the map rather than in close proximity.  Each KV is paired with a 45LL gun for mutual support.  We'll see if that proves to be a mistake.  But I think it is likely to catch Dave by surprise.  Whichever tank he discovers first will cause him to assume that the other tank is placed somewhere nearby and perhaps become incautious somewhere else.

My biggest fear is that Dave will ignore the bait and drive headlong for the river.  I don't have much over there to stop him.  But, if I can slow him down and keep him north of the Z8-DD7 road I'm confident I can establish a line of defense on Day 2 that will prevent him from advancing southward along the riverbank.

We're set to play on Friday after Thanksgiving.  It should be fun.

To be continued...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book review: The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman

Fellow book club member Jim Kidwell aptly described Hsaio Li-Hung's novel a thousand moons on a thousand rivers, as "Chinese Norman Rockwell."  So, following Monsieur Kidwell's lead, I would describe Bruce Robinson's The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman as "British Beavis and Butthead."

Mr. Robinson is best remembered, perhaps, for his movie screenplay, The Killing Fields, which earned him an Oscar nomination (whatever that may be worth).  But, regardless of his considerable talents as a screenplay writer, Mr. Robinson's book fails miserably.

First published in 1998, Robinson's novel is the story of a working-class English boy embarked on a painful and confusing graduation to manhood.  Thomas Penman is isolated and tortured by the tides of puberty, conflicted by feelings about his parents, his friends, and himself.  He struggles to make a place for himself in a war-torn, dysfunctional, joyless household... a household which is, itself, but a microcosm of mean and dirty England.

I hadn't made it very far into the book before I began to notice inconsistencies in narration and punctuation.  The narrator flits between third-party omniscient to third-party observer, and even occasionally strays into first person.  Interrogation marks appear in odd places in the colorless dialog.

I found the book repulsive.  It is laced thoroughly with gratuitous profanity and Mr. Robinson seems to delight in describing distasteful, unimaginative, revolting behavior.  The main character enjoys defecating in his pants and leaving his soiled undergarments in unexpected places to await discovery.  The dying grandfather's one treasure is his collection of particularly-vile pornography.  The boy and his friend enjoy torturing animals and playing games with the phlegm they cough up after smoking cigarettes.  All of this stomach-churning activity is related with a flippancy that raises questions as to Mr. Robinson's emotional maturity and serves no purpose.  There is no plot to advance; there is no moral to convey.

I could continue in this vein:  paper-thin characters, factual errors, lack of discernible plot, unresolved story elements, inconsistent time line, etcetera.  But why bother?  Halfway into the book I realized I was wasting my time.

When I finished, I was angry and disgusted.  What a barker!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day, 92 years later

Armistice Day, Waterloo, Belgium, 1999
Today is Armistice Day.

Eleven years ago, I stood under a cadet gray sky in Waterloo, Belgium, and watched a slow-moving band of old men march in solemn parade and gather on the steps of a government building.  They were commemorating the end of a terrible chapter in humanity's chronicle.  Eighty-one years earlier, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 1918, hostilities officially ceased between the warring powers in the conflict known today as World War I.

No historian can clearly articulate the causes of that war, nor even can we understand its results.  All we can say, definitively, is that in the year 1914, massive groups of humans, allied loosely by the geographical location of their homes, perpetrated obscene violence upon one another.  Each of these groups brought to bear all of its productive capacity, ingenuity, and high-minded ideals in order to destroy the others.  They called it "The War to End War."

Some thirty-seven million persons were killed or wounded in four and a half years before the warring factions, out of sheer exhaustion, desisted.

And then took it up again, two decades later.

In 1999, I stood on the sidewalk in Waterloo, watching the marchers make their way toward the domed building in the center of the plaza.  Smothering silence hovered above the mournful refrain of the four-piece brass band, pressing down on it, like darkness on a flickering candle.

A thought came to me:  "One could stand like this forever."
He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come. -- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Neighbor's oak

Neighbor's oak has seen the snow
Much more than enough to know
One winter will come but will not go

A kind old lover-lady
Will lay upon him heavy
Crowd his sleep, as she lay down,

Grope with fingers, flesh'd in ice,
Needle-nosed with eyeless sight
Seek warm pockets he's interr'd

And if he maybe start or stir
His name she'll sing in whisper
And he will know again 'tis her

And dive deep for waters warm
That his youthful roots did sense
But never could discover

Lullabies, to him, she'll coo
Her swollen fingers shattering
His proud and happy posture

And as she melts away again
She would carry him to his dream
Sleeping, he'll try to follow

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Junior writes a book!

Junior wrote a book!  Everybody hurry down to Walmart and snag one of those big Crayola Crayon Classic Color-Packs before they sell out! 

Right on the heels of the Big Red Wave (which we utterly rejected in Oregon) Junior Bush has decided to emerge from his Texas sh*thole to peddle a brand new book.  I'm afraid I won't be reading it myself; I've been awfully busy channel surfing and contemplating cob webs.  But his pugnacious, irascible remarks announcing the book in the various media serve to confirm my opinion that Junior is a deluded, out-of-touch plutocrat.

Here're a couple nuggets I've gleaned from the "interwebs:"
  • Junior's feelings were hurt when Kanye West, in the midst of the post-Katrina disaster in New Orleans, suggested that "George Bush doesn't care about black people."  Junior says it was an "all-time low" in his "presidency." Not 911, mind you; nor when David Kay released his report confirming that the WMD ruse in Iraq was a lie; nor when the national financial system teetered on collapse.  The all-time low of Junior's presidency (according to himself) was when Kanye West hurt his feelings by saying something mean about him.  (Well, at the very least, the man is capable of regret.)

  • When Junior was a teenager, he said his mother showed him a fetus she had just miscarried. The Calgary Herald reports:  "'I never expected to see the remains of the fetus, which she had saved in a jar to bring to the hospital,' Bush writes. The former U.S. president told [Matt] Lauer 'there's no question that affected me, a philosophy that we should respect life.'"  Respect life, President War-monger?  How utterly insulting to the thousands who have died in his wars!

  • Junior claims that Big Dick offered to withdraw from the presidential ticket in 2004.  According to the New York Times:  “The president resented the caricature that Mr. Cheney really controlled the White House. 'Accepting Dick’s offer [to resign] would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge,' he writes."  I suppose it is plausible that arch-villain Cheney might have made that offer.  But I have to imagine he made it while hunching foward, cocking an eyebrow and affixing Junior with his daunting Dark Lord gaze:  "George, if you want, I'll leave...  If you're sure that's what you want..."   Who can blame Junior if he chickened out

  • Four years later, as he prepared to leave the White House, Junior says he was worried that the rift between himself and Cheney over a pardon for convicted felon Scooter Libby might poison their sacred friendship.  But now, according to the Raw Story, Junior is "'... pleased to report we are [still friends]. I was a little concerned at one time.'"  Let's see what Big Dick says about it in his upcoming memoirs.
God knows who are the benighted souls that might imagine Junior's whining and sniveling would make for good reading. But the book is hitting the shelves today.

A sniveling punk.  A petty, thoughtless man.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Happy days at the GOP watering hole

SceneSunday afternoon, November 7, 2010.  Presumed Speaker of the House John Boehner is seated at the bar of his favorite Washington watering hole.  On his left is soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  On his right is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.  The senator sits, elbows on the bar, shoulders hunched like a man telling a dirty joke.  At intervals, he reaches over to a nearby candy dish, plucks a cashew, and pops it in his mouth.

DeMint:  One helluva party that was, let me tell you...

Boehner: I've always said you guys in the Senate put everyone to shame.

DeMint:  You don't know the half of it, John.  Let me tell you...

Cantor [musing to himself]:  House Majority Leader Cantor!  See what you missed out on, Aiyana?  Maybe Efran was taller and more handsome and had better family.  But look at me now!  Look at your cute little Eric!

DeMint:  What's that boy mutterin' about?

Boehner:  Never mind him.  Listen, Jim, I just want you to know I'm not bearing a grudge against you.

DeMint:  What on God's Green Earth are you talkin' about?

Boehner:  Well, Jim, there're a lotta people --good people --that say it's your fault they came up short in the Senate.  Mitch McConnell blames you for Harry Reid still sitting in the Majority Leader's office.

DeMint:  Mitch said that, did he?  Well I got news for Mitch McConnell.  Anytime he wants to puff out his little chest I got five words for him:  Senator.  Rand.  Paul.  Of.  Kentucky.  And you know, John, there might be a lesson in there for you, too.  [He pops a cashew in his mouth and crunches.]

Boehner:  Ya gotta admit, Jim, you dealt him a shit hand.  I mean, Sharron Angle?  Christine O'Donnell?

DeMint [chuckling]:  Hee, haw.  Did you read the story that ol' boy from Maryland wrote about O'Donnell?  "Hot to trot" don't cover the half of it!

Boehner:  You didn't really wanna be in the majority anyway, did ya?  Too much work.  Easier to throw bombs from the minority, isn't it? 

DeMint:  You'd know.  Too bad about that boy in Ohio, what was his name?  Iott?  Tell you what, we've lost something in this country when a man can't dress up like a Nazi.  I mean, for historical purposes.

Boehner [exasperated]:  So I spoke at a fund raiser for the man.  He lost.  Why is everyone still cryin' about it?

DeMint:  It's alright, John.  Nobody's suggestin' anything.  Wouldn't dream of it.  Got nothin' but respect for the new Speaker.  Besides, say what you want about the Nazis, one thing's sure:  they knew how to enforce the law.  Ain't that right, Cantor?

Cantor [startled out of a daydream]:  What?  Nazis?  Er... Senator... you do know I'm Jewish, don't you?

DeMint:  Lemme tell ya, son.  Where I come from, there's Jews and there's jew-boys.  And I want you to know I never thought of you as some damn jew-boy.

Cantor:  Uh, thanks... I guess...

DeMint:  Joshin', boy.  Just joshin'.  Don't get all sassy with me.  Anyway, I gotta git to goin'.  You boys up here in the House can bend an elbow alright, but if you ever git down there to N'olins, have Dave Vitter show ya around.  Just make Cantor wait in the car.  [He stands to leave, then leans in, conspiratorially.]  Last time I was there, Vitter took us to a place... Swear to God... there was two gals, cute as all get-out, oiled up and kissin'!  Right there on the stage!

Boehner:  Charming. 

DeMint: What's more, one of 'em was colored!

[DeMint nabs a last cashew from the candy dish and tosses it toward his mouth.  It bounces off his upper lip and into Boehner's martini glass.]

DeMint: Be seein' ya, boys.  Prob'ly in the Fox News Green room.  [Exit]

[Cantor and Boehner watch DeMint leave in silence.]

Cantor:  You think he meant it?

Boehner:  About Rand Paul?  Hell, yes, he meant it!  It's not how many he loses; it's how much he can make McConnell sweat.

Cantor:  Huh?  Oh, uh, no.  No, I meant about the two girls...

Boehner [whistling]:  Here we come, America!  Yes, indeed.  Here we come!

[Boehner throws his head back and empties his glass.  He coughs, explosively, spits his drink all over the bar.  A sodden cashew is stranded on the dark wooden surface.]

Friday, November 05, 2010

Election 2010: How it came out...

Mid-term elections done and gone.  Let's see how I did:


US SenatorRon Wyden

No surprise. Ron does a pretty good job.

Representative in Congress, 3rd District:  Earl Blumenauer

Earl gave a fire-breathing victory speech in defiance of the new Republican majority in the House.  And I quote:  "With your help, Oregon will be the firewall in the West," said Blumenauer at the Grand Ballroom. "We will look forward to working with our colleagues on reducing military spending and reducing the deficit. I will work as hard as I can to find common ground on things that are good for the American people."

Governor:  John Kitzhaber

Big, big win for Oregon.

Treasurer:  Ted Wheeler

This race wasn't even close.  Good news.

State Representative, 42nd District:  Jules Kopel Bailey

Jules won in a walk.

Metro Council President:  Bob Stacey

As of this writing, the race is too close to call, with Bob's opponent, Tom Hughes, holding a slight lead.  I'd like to see Bob pull it out, but if Tom Hughes wins, I won't be too unhappy. 

East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Director at Large:  Jill Kuehler

Jill won by a huge margin.

State measures

  • Measure 70 Expands home ownership loans for Oregon veterans, including National Guard

    Yes.  Passed easily.
  • Measure 71 Annual, time-limited Legislative sessions

    Yes.  Passed easily.

  • Measure 72 Allows state to use less expensive mechanisms for routine borrowing

    Yes.  Passed easily.

  • Measure 73 Increases minimum sentences for repeated sex crimes, jail time for repeat drunk driving offenses

    I voted "no," but this measure passed.  I'm afraid it will be very expensive and won't do anything to solve either of the problems it purports to address.

  • Measure 74 Establishes medical marijuana supply system and assistance and research programs, limited selling of marijuana

    Failed.  Bummer, dude.
  • Measure 75  Authorizes Multnomah County casino

    Failed.  I'm glad of that.  Not only was I against it, in principle, but my bet against it paid out 3 to 1!  (That's a joke, heh.) 

  • Measure 76 Continues lottery funding for parks, beaches, wildlife habitat, watershed protection beyond 2014

    Passed.  Oregonians value our state's natural beauty and we'll pay to preserve it.
County measures
  • 26-109 Repeals county term limits 

    Passed.  Thumbs up.

  • 26-110 Multnomah County Official running for office midterm 

    Failed.  I voted "yes."

  • 26-111 Salary commission for Sheriff and District Attorney 

    Passed.  I voted "yes," but didn't know much about the issue.

  • 26-112 Vacancy in office if office-holder leaves district 

    Passed.  Good.

  • 26-113 Election dates for vacancies limited to the May and November elections 

    Passed.  Good.

  • 26-114 Allows Board of County Commissioners to form county library district

    Passed.  We love our libraries.

  • 26-118 Five-year levy:  Oregon Historical Society Library, Museum, educational programs

    Passed.  We love our culture and history, too.
City of Portland measures
  • 26-108 Shall Portland provide public campaign financing to City candidates who meet qualifying requirements and are subject to additional regulatory oversight? 

    Failed.  I'm disappointed.  Publicly-funded elections are a great way to get special interest money out of the electoral process.
  • 26-117 General obligation bonds for fire vehicles and emergency response infrastructure

    Failed.  I don't understand.
Tri-Met measure
  • 26-119 Bonds to improve transit, particularly for elderly and disabled

    Failed.  What a bummer!.
All in all, I'm pleased.  Oregon rejected the GOP and held true to our values, for the most part.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Kitzhaber wins!

Kitzhaber wins!
John Kitzhaber is to be the next Governor of Oregon, elected for an historic third term.  Chris Dudley conceded defeat yesterday evening at 7:15pm. 

What a victory for Oregon!

Election day in Portland, 2010
On Election Day, after work, Stewart King and I drove down to Kitzhaber HQ to see if we could help out. We were given a turf to walk (the Brooklyn area, by Aladdin Theater), and set out.  There was a sense of urgency.  The folks at HQ knew, and we knew, too, that the race was very tight.  Every vote would count.

Stewart and I knocked on the doors of registered Democrats and Independents, with a very simple message:  Get your ballot in today by 8pm!

Last-minute canvassing at Kitzhaber HQ
Between us, we collected 5 ballots from voters who may or may not have otherwise made the 8pm deadline.  Our efforts were replicated by many others throughout Multnomah County, and lo and behold, that may have been the difference in the race.

Although Dudley led through election night and as late as 4:30pm of the next day, most of the uncounted ballots were from Multnomah County and running 70%-30% in Kitzhaber's favor.  By 6:15pm Kitzhaber overtook Dudley in the vote count.  Dudley conceded 45 minutes later.

We won!  And all Oregonians should be glad of it.

Because, judging from his campaign, Dudley would have been a disorganized and pliable governor.  The campaign lacked organization and message and was run by highly-paid, out-of-state, GOP political operatives.  Really, Dudley's candidacy seemed GOP boilerplate:  present a vaguely genial empty-suit candidate; have him spout placations over a big, big financial megaphone; hope people aren't paying too much attention, or distract them with a non-issue, or chant "Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts."  Karl Rove politics.

Well, I'm happy to say that in Oregon, we'll have none of it.  The cynical GOP formula doesn't work here.  This ain't rural Georgia, people.

Kitzhaber's victory was the result of a genuinely active and informed citizenry.  We were organized, determined, and unrelenting.  As I've said before:  the GOP still does not have an answer for the Democratic ground game.  Not here in Oregon. 

Honestly, I hope Chris Dudley continues to participate in state politics.  I still think he's a good guy.  But he needs to lose those repugnant GOP campaign people.  They are poison in Oregon.  If Dudley could help revive the old Oregon GOP, the party of Mark Hatfield and Tom McCall and Vic Atiyeh, Oregon could only benefit.  But the national GOP is not welcome here in Oregon.  Stay away, Rick Perry!

Oregonians, I'm proud of you.  I'm proud of us. We've remembered who we are, and who we are not.  In the days to come, we will have cause to keep that in mind.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Oregon breaks the Big Red Wave

Well, it looks like a big Red Wave swept over the country.  So be it.

But not here in Oregon.  Oregonians voted to send our entire delegation back to Washington, DC.  And, as an added bonus, Representative Greg Walden, from Oregon's 5th Congressional District, is lined up for a leadership post in the new Republican House.  That's good for Oregon.  So, for once, I can be thankful that Walden is part of the Oregon delegation.

As I write, the Oregon Governor's race is still too close to call.  But I believe Governor Kitzhaber has the inside track.  Most of the uncounted ballots in the Governor's race are from Multnomah County, which, of course, is a Democratic stronghold.  Dudley's lead is ~10,000 votes at the moment.  But with under 70% of the Multnomah County vote counted thus far, and trending 70-30 in favor of Governor Kitzhaber, things look pretty good.

I''ll wait until we have a final result for the Governor's race before I write a post on Oregon results.  But for now, I want to console my fellow progressives throughout the country who, today, might feel a little shell-shocked. 

Don't let it get you down.  The situation today is much better than it was in November, 2004.  Back then, as you recall, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress as well as the Executive branch.  Today, Democrats still control the Senate and the White House.

This is no mandate.  Polls have consistently shown Republicans to be even more reviled than Democrats, in spite of what happened yesterday.  The GOP is on very short notice.  And, take it from me, John Boehner, the presumed front-runner for Speaker of the House, is going to have his hands full with the tea-bag caucus.  The GOP is gonna tear itself apart over the next two years.  Watch and see!

Keep the faith, progressives.  Mr. LaMontagne has some words to console you.

As for Oregon --well, Trent Lutz, executive director of the state Democratic Party said it best: "The red tide broke against us. We didn't break against it." 

More later...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election day 2010

Well, here we are:  Election Day 2010.

Last night, I dreamt that I came face to face with Karl Rove.  He and I were standing in the middle of Kitzhaber campaign headquarters.  I was overcome with an acid hatred.  I tried to speak, but found that I was out of breath.  "When Rome falls," I wheezed, "I will seek you out.  Be sure of it."  He smirked.

Then Maty gave me a nudge and told me to stop snoring.

Get your ballots in, people!  It's too late to drop them in a mailbox.  You have to take them to official drop sites by 8pm tonight.  Your county clerk's office can help you find the nearest place.  Go to this site:  County Elections Offices.

Regardless of what happens today, the 111th Congress has an impressive record of achievement:  health care reform legislation, Wall Street overhaul, consumer credit card reform and regulation, a big Federal stimulus.

Have they done it all in a way that fits with my left-wing, progressive sensibilities?  Certainly not!  But this is a vast, diverse country.  Nobody gets everything they want.

Election Day 2010... here we go...