75 years into what?

One of the most striking things I find from D Day commemorations is the implicit understanding among most who attend that victory was not inevitable. I think it’s what makes the drama of D Day still so compelling after all these years. The letter of failure prewritten by Eisenhower, how Hitler slept late while panzers sat idle, the blinding courage that seized Omaha Beach before the day ended with elite Nazi infantry separating the Allied beachheads. It all could have gone very differently.

This (and the Eurocentric mindset that permeates a war that essentially began in 1914) makes D Day something more than say, the invasion of Okinawa. Depending on how you count troop or ship numbers, the Allied invasion of Okinawa can be considered the larger and certainly far bloodier affair. But victory in Okinawa was essentially inevitable. It was simply a matter of how many Allied and Japanese would die in battle (alongside a near tragic 50% fatality rate of Okinawan civilians).

D Day is different, a great gambit, one of the most consequential risks in the history of war. Without it, it’s conceivable to consider the ideas of a separate peace with Germany, something less than total victory. A Europe and a world that would look very different. A massive failure of democracy against the worst of totalitarianism.

But to me, the seeds of victory lie in the differing systems at war, the different visions of humanity. Put in the bluntest of military of terms, the Allies win because democracy allows the battlefield flexibility of thought, leadership, and initiative required. Conversely, Rommel has to wait for a dictator to give him the most basic and common sense of tactical orders. One system was doomed to fail, to fall apart under its own contradictions. Something similar happens in the political realm with the Soviets Circa 1989.

So it’s a victory rightly celebrated, honored, and remembered. But I’m always given pause when considering these sorts of events. That was then, a generation guided by a singular purpose to keep their societies free. My own family was among them. How does that stack up with today?

Today speech laws in Britain can get you jailed if you publicly quote the “wrong” words of Churchill. Since that day the vaunted Allied coalition has lost more wars than it’s won, it will soon be in Afghanistan five times longer than it took to win World War II. 75 years after a war to preserve freedom across the globe, very few bat an eye when the Sudanese military guns down over 100 unarmed protestors; because they can, because they know nobody cares.

So D Day into what? I think a much narrower purpose than one would wish for. Perhaps less about freedom or democracy for the globe, but rather the very narrow goal for the planet’s Western powers to defeat the Imperial Japanese and Nazi threat that sought to supplant them. And then immediately after, to confront a Soviet threat that sought to do the same. If you don’t have nuclear weapons, eventually the very opposite Soviet and Western visions would have had to resolve their conflict in battle. But, the threat of mutual destruction left the Soviets to fall politically in 1989, albeit with a miserly amount of proxy wars that broke dozens of the planet’s other nations.

One out of every nine Americans wore a military uniform during this war. The equivalent number is if 30 million Americans were in the military today. Instead, there are more Americans in jail or prison at this very moment than are on active duty service. More Americans are likely to know their smartphone in greater detail than the most basic considerations of D Day. Whole sections of the modern culture think history has nothing to offer us at all, that it needs revision, or even destruction to rebuild society into something new.

It gives one pause, and a wonder about what D Day bought the world 75 years ago. A journey, into what? Toward victory, yes. But then what? That still, even today, is for us to decide. They bought us the chance we all have today. Today, as then, it’s up to us what we do with it.

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how not to conduct a coup

One cannot deny Juan Guaidó’s guts, even bravery, at taking the stand he has. I still don’t know how this man is still alive. Any number of deliberate accidents could have occurred by this point, to him or his family. Maduro’s drug trafficking gang regime is not exactly known for its restraint, having already used live rounds against unarmed demonstrators and raping the family members of defector soldiers.

Nevertheless when Guaidó appeared on television yesterday calling for a coup, I had a bad feeling about it all. I felt he was overplaying his hand, reckless, and doomed to fail. Which is exactly what happened. Guaidó seemed to not understand the basic law of coups or war, you need guns and lots of guns. Guaidó had only a few dozen soldiers, who are now hiding in the Brazilian embassy. Leopoldo Lopez, another key opposition figure who broke house arrest to appear in yesterday’s video, went to the Spanish embassy. Guaidó’s whereabouts are unknown.

What did he expect to happen? Well, here’s the insanity of it folks. This was the “plan”:

1) The chief justice of Venezuela’s supreme court Maikel Moreno was supposed to declare “legally” that the Guaidó led legislature was the legitimate arm of the Venezuelan government. This is the point that Guaidó has made all along, that Maduro’s election is fraudulent and thus by the constitution Guaidó is the legitimate acting president.

2) Using this legal decision as his basis the Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez was then supposed to throw his weight behind the opposition and order the armed forces to shift their support to Guaidó. There are unconfirmed claims that other key regime figures such as the head of the domestic intelligence agency were also in on the plot.

3) It seems the key details of this plan were brokered between Guaidó, the coup plotters, and the US National Security Council. As in, John Bolton himself. We know this because Bolton laid out the plot itself in the last 24 hours, essentially explaining how the coup he engineered had failed. Bolton apparently still seems to think he’s a Fox News contributor and not a functioning government leader who should know when to keep his mouth shut.

4) What this means is the plan was never about soldiers fighting for Guaidó, or street demonstrators overthrowing the regime, but instead focused around what amounts to a palace coup where the main effort, the chances for any success, rested entirely on the personal decisions of hardcore Maduro regime loyalists.

That’s just about the dumbest plan I’ve heard all year. If that’s how this actually played out, then Bolton is an idiot. And Guaidó is either naïve, desperate, or stupid.

a) What would possess them to think that two of the most hardcore of Maduro loyalists in Moreno and Lopez were suddenly going to change hats, when their fortunes, their freedom, and perhaps their very lives depend on Maduro remaining on power?

b) Russia and Cuba have actual armed forces on the ground in Venezuela to support the regime. Their mission is to ensure the regime’s survival. For better or worse, the number of guns Bolton had on the ground is zero.

c) The Venezuelan armed forces and their paramilitary gangs have used live fire against unarmed civilians before. When this was always going to remain the case, and since Guaidó and Bolton essentially had zero guns of their own? So, … ???

Here is singular example of why one should not put their trust in the USA. Regardless of what political party happens to be in power, it’s not a wise bet. America’s enemies are serious. America is not. Bet on evil folks, it’s going to keep winning for a while.

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Keeps winning

human scum still alive

I prefer my evildoers to be comical or true believers. These are the bad guys one can get behind.

On the comical end of the spectrum are Bond villains, Indiana Jones Nazis, or say Maduro (a bumbling idiot of a former bus driver who hangs onto power because his vice president and generals are addicted to drug trafficking money). There was actually a Venezuelan propaganda video where Maduro was driving the slums talking up his record and in the background is a building with graffiti calling for his downfall. Not only does Maduro fail to notice this, but they were actually stupid enough to leave this in after editing. Now that’s a level of comical dumb I can get behind in my bad guys.

On the true believer end of the spectrum I like my villains to mean what they say. This provides the clearest indication for the rest of us as to how one can conduct their lives. For example, Hitler shot his own wife and himself rather than be taken. Dude was pure evil, probably mostly insane, but at least meant what he said. Or take the currently popular Thanos (I don’t watch these movies but it’s hard not to know what happens) who follows through on his evil plans all the way to the end, and on multiple occasions, dies to the bitter end for them.

Contrast this to bad guys who are total losers, they neither provide comic relief nor the pleasure of a true bad guy. For example, take Stalin, for all his crimes (more bodies than Hitler) what he essentially boils down to is a coward. Granted, we must take the story with a grain of salt as the tale is from his daughter (who had a mixed relationship with him at best) but at the very end Stalin apparently dies in bed but as a broken man full of fear in his eyes at the prospect of death. Hey man, I get it, nobody wants to die, I’d be scared too. But when you clock a body count in the tens-of-millions, you’d better have more of a gut when your time comes.

Or take another example with our current human scum of the day in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is apparently still alive after five years of war. For those who aren’t aware, ISIS is finished as a landholding organization. What remains is a true stateless terror cell. al-Baghdadi made his name calling for an apocalyptic vision of his false view of Islam where the end was near and the apocalypse would rebuild humanity in a new era, his world. I’m paraphrasing but that’s what this guy sold to the planet. It was this vision that brought tens-of-thousands of foreign fighters from across the globe to fight for ISIS.

But oh dear, oh so sorry folks, because I guess al-Baghdadi didn’t really mean it after all. Shocker. If al-Baghdadi really believed any of that, he’d be a corpse in Baghuz either dead by his own hand or any number of lethal means from the Syrian Defense Forces or their Western allies. Instead he’s slumming it up in some false tent / film set like a total loser. I mean, just look at this guy, he looks like a roadside panhandler. All he needs is a cardboard sign with third grade handwritten scrawling: “unemployed false prophet/jihadist – need money – homeless veteran – please help – God bless!”.

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It’s like bin Laden. For all that dude was and claimed to be, he died in a purpose built cult compound mansion surrounded by his PlayStation and his (ultra large) porn stash. What a total loser.

al-Baghdadi’s time is coming, it’s just a matter of when. But like bin Laden he’ll go out as a complete fraud. An evil man for sure, but one who was never comical, serious, or even competent. It’s a testament to the flaws of humanity that such pathetic creatures manage to mayhem as much as they do.

What’s the real lesson from al-Baghdadi’s brief, violent reign? That he was good at it? Or rather, as I believe, that his foes (the criminally incompetent Syrian and Iraqi governments) were just even more incompetent / fraudulent.

“to see more clearly to the end of the business”

242 years ago 56 men signed a document that made them traitors.  This incredibly brave and reckless act changed humanity.  We take their ultimate success as a fact of history.  For them it was far less certain.  Not all of them lived.  All of them suffered.  All of them fought.  And victory was ultimately theirs.

If I can manage to remember, every year we’ll take a look at one of these men and reflect upon their lives.

Thomas McKean – Delaware

Son of a tavern keeper whose parents immigrated from Northern Ireland.  He was a lawyer at age 21 and already on the move.  Like many of his contemporaries he bridged the gap between the law and politics.  In many cases he held jobs in both camps at the same time.

County attorney general, general assembly representative, judge, and ultimately assembly speaker were just some of the titles he held.  He married at 32 and spent ten years with Mary and had six children with her until her early death.

Often forgotten is that the Revolution was as much as civil war as anything else.  McKean was a member of the pro-independence faction of Delaware and spent many years prior to 1776 in the political fencing act with his neighbors who were pro-British.  He remarried in 1774 to Sarah and had four more children.  I would gather he ultimately had a hard time remembering his grandchildren’s names.

As early as 1765 he is already an openly active member of political organizations dedicated to resisting the power of the British crown.  During the crucial years came in 1774-1776 he’s one of the most fervent speakers pushing for Independence.

Immediately after his 1776 Independence vote at Congress he assumed command as colonel of a regiment of militia.  And so bizarrely it’s believed he didn’t actually sign the Declaration in 1776.  It’s thought he signed it many years later as one of the original voting members was permitted to do so.

He spends most of the war in Congress and is it’s leader at the time of the surrender at Yorktown.  He also began service as chief justice of Pennsylvania in 1777 and would hold that title for twenty years.  Apparently back then you could be the ranking judge of one state, represent another in Congress, and lead Congress, all at the same time.  I don’t think any of our jobs are hard by comparison.

He played a key role in the subsequent creation and signing of the Constitution.  By 1799 he settles down for the rest of his life not in Delaware but Pennsylvania and serves three terms as governor there.  He had a rocky time as state boss.

He seems to have had such a fervent view of things that he frequently quarreled even with friends and was known for his temper.  Yet maybe that was what was needed during those chaotic times of change?

John Adams said of him: “one of the three men in the Continental Congress who appeared to me to see more clearly to the end of the business than any others in the body.”

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Hostiles & Fort Apache – and how to properly capture misery on screen

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Misery seems to be the trend lately with just about anything you can watch on screen.  We’ve written about this a lot lately, including just a few days ago.  It’s everywhere.

Take two movies I watched on my last plane flight.  First off, The Last Jedi.  I remember Star Wars growing up, I loved it.  What fun.  So did we really need a Star Wars movie where Luke was sad, tired, and depressed?  Where Solo is a corpse?  Where all the other main characters are confused, angry, etc, etc?  Forget all the plot controversy, it was just an unhappy movie to watch.

The other airplane flick I caught was Hostiles.  This Western had a reputation as violent and covered with despair.  It was certainly that, the opening scene involves the murder of three children including an infant.

Overall, I didn’t hate Hostiles, I kind of enjoyed it.  But it’s not a great movie.  Why?  Because other than the awfulness, I’m not really sure what the movie was trying to do.  At the end of the movie I was asking myself: “What was the point of all that?”

Instead of running my mouth and complaining about all this malaise and darkness in our entertainment again, I’m instead going to contrast Hostiles with another dark movie in Fort Apache.

Granted, this is unfair.  Hostiles has some top name actors but they’re not legendary.  It’s directed by some random guy.  Fort Apache has two screen legends and probably the guy in the top three of directors all time.  It’s like comparing a rabid panther against a duck in a cage match.  But bear with me, because there are a lot of similarities between these movies.

They’re both traditional Westerns that focus upon the Army, specifically the cavalry.  Both have humanized and sympathetic portrayals of the American Indians.  Each has a substantial number of the main cast die on screen.  And they end with an intent that you reflect upon the misery you’ve just watched.

I’m going to focus on the endings of these movies because otherwise this post would be sixteen pages long.

Hostiles ends with Christian Bale’s character burying Wes Studi in his native land.  Then a stereotypical gang of racists comes up and demands Bale dig up Studi’s corpse.  A gunfight ensues in which everybody dies except Rosamund Pike, Studi’s grandson, and Bale.  Pike and her now adopted son go to Chicago, Bale is going to walk away, but ultimately gets on the train with them as it pulls out.  Roll credits.

Fort Apache ends with Henry Fonda getting most of his regiment wiped out in a foolhardy battle worthy of Custer.  John Wayne actually wants to duel his regimental commander at one point to stop it.  Then Wayne and Miguel Inclan (playing the Apache warlord Cochise) have a poignant conversation about the situation.  Cochise lets Wayne and his remaining soldiers live.  We end with Wayne now the regimental commander and when confronted with the myth of Fonda’s last stand by reporters, Wayne lets the myth live.  As in, Wayne lies.  Roll credits.

So what was the point of Hostiles?  Well, I think what they were going for is at the beginning of the movie Bale hates Studi and only his orders are keeping him from murdering Studi straight up.  Yet by the end of the movie Bale is willing to shoot his own kind to defend Studi’s grave.

Okay, got it.  But the problem is that’s all there is going on.  In the meantime there is the aforementioned on screen murder of three children, three women are raped (off screen), numerous very bloody battles, and the final scene in which pretty much everybody dies horribly.

So if all Hostiles has is Bale simply learns not to hate at least one Indian and his family, then what exactly was the point of all the murder, rape, violence, gore, etc?  Was it to set the scene and mood?  Was it to provide the action and shock that the writers and director seem to think a modern movie demands?  You could have told the story of Hostiles with maybe only one or two people gunned down.

That they didn’t do this means that any character progression in Bale, that he ends up a better person, is simply just lost amidst the gore, the awfulness, the constant death.  It’s why as the viewer I had to actually think about what the point of the movie was afterwards.  Because in the moment all you can feel is the violence shoved right in your face for two hours.

Contrast all of this with Fort Apache.  At it’s heart this movie is a study of Fonda’s character.  It’s about how an otherwise decent, hardworking man can be consumed by arrogance, racism, and narcissism that leads to the unforgivable sin where a military commander loses most of his men in a battle that need not ever have been fought.

It gets even worse with Wayne.  Wayne ends the movie by perpetuating the myth that Fonda’s actions were right, just, and glorious.  Then Wayne takes his regiment and leads them on the attack against the Apache.  All the moments Wayne had where he conversed with Cochise, where he knew Fonda was wrong are blown away by the simple act: Wayne is going to do his duty.

And thus you see the point of Fort Apache is the great wheel that was the Indian wars of the American West.  Everybody gets ground down in what in the end was a series of savage endless wars that lasted decades.  Decent guys in Wayne, Fonda, and Cochise trying to do the right thing, their duty, leads to death where alternatives were still available.  It’s brutal to consider.

Fort Apache accomplishes all of this without a single gory murder, rape, or scene where Wayne and/or Fonda are shown in some kind of vicious traumatic rage, or hatred, or crying or screaming like crazy people, all things in Hostiles repeatedly.  Yeah, this is a movie made in 1948 so of course it’s tamer, but the point remains valid.

I think television and movies are going down two trends.  The idea is that a tale must be an adventure theme park ride or it must shock you.  In both cases, the plot is a side concern.

The Jurassic movie recently came out.  I’m sure that film will make over $1B.  It has a plot that probably makes no sense, but that doesn’t matter.  People see this movie because it’s a theme park ride where dinosaurs eat people.

Where Hostiles could have really taken it’s time with a thick plot full of thought and motives, it instead spends most of its on screen time in the shock category.  And thus, its message gets lost in the darkness.

I don’t need all my entertainment to make me happy.  Dark movies have their important place.  But give me the Fort Apache kind any day.  That’s the way to do it.

it’s time to celebrate, unless you’re a broken egg

Great news everybody, celebration is in order.  For yesterday was the 200th birthday of one of history’s greatest thinkers.  But did Marx understand what his ideas would bring about?  That his philosophy would spawn history’s greatest monsters?

All throughout his writings Marx makes it pretty clear what he had in mind.  He certainly got the bloodbath, it just didn’t come with his expected results.  Because basically Marx (lauded as he is) didn’t understand the essentials of human nature.  One of which is: When you give one man, any one man unlimited power, regardless of motivation, the end stage is evil.

For all the people who are ready to shout ‘Nazi’ at Trump, it’s always astounded me that the same argument isn’t made on the Communist side.  As we’ve previously written, the death of Castro was a particular note.

I stand by every word of this:

Castro goes into my column as the consummate example of a guy who pours honey potion into your ear while he rams a stiletto dagger into your kidney.  The dude’s appeal to the bulk of humanity was all talk.  Castro talked a good game of social justice and equality.  Then he turned around and enriched his own personal elite and destroyed his country.  Depending on how you count, thousands or tens-of-thousands of Cubans were executed during his reign.  Tens-of-thousands more died at sea fleeing his utopia.  Also depending on how you count, perhaps 10-20% of Cubans left during the last five decades.  The equivalent number is if around 30 million Americans felt the country was so bad they moved to Canada, with the understanding that say two million would die during the journey.

The end result of Marx to me is not the idea of social justice or class struggle.  It’s the idea that humans can do just about anything to their fellow humans provided they use social justice as the justification of their cause.  That’s the great evil of Marx.  You can liquidate a few million fellow humans, but as long as your end goals were supposedly noble, folks will let you get away with it and apologize for your actions.  That’s an interesting construct, unless you’re one of the broken eggs.

Marx was a pretty smart guy with a lot of interesting ideas.  But, ultimately he didn’t understand the end game of his ideas.  You can have whatever motivation you want, but when all you do is place all power into the hands of the few, and then provide them with the false moral cover of utopian progress, there is no limit on how cruel and ultimately evil a person can get.  It’s why history’s two greatest serial killers are Stalin and Mao, and Hitler doesn’t even come close to their number of murders.

Marx wasn’t alive when all this happened.  So you can possibly give him a pass for what subsequently occurred.  He wasn’t around to potentially call bullshit to evil men who perverted his ideas and basically used them to do the same evil deeds as one would have seen from an 11th Century Khan.  But still, ideas are ideas and they have power.  Marx, and history, have to own up to what his ideas meant to the course of human history.  Not to blindly celebrate them without deep thought as to the terror they wrought.

This guy.

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we don’t delve into the mind of a madman while we help you plan your child’s upcoming birthday party

If you pulled six screaming children and two single supermodels from a burning car tonight while your own clothes were on fire, you’d still be less famous than the twisted scum that murdered more than 60 people yesterday.  This is what he wanted.  He wanted fame.  And yet folks are all about it.  He’s got that fame.  He wins.

Folks are all into getting inside the brain of this piece of filth.  What was his motive?  His reasons?  But if you remember back in 2015 when the psychotic German pilot also committed an act of mass murder via his airplane?  I wrote this.  I stand by every word I said.

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What was his motive?  Who cares.  He was evil.  That’s all that matters.  Fuck him.

But hey, just relax folks.  It’s all good.  You should just relax, because you have no choice.  No matter how you feel about guns or gun control or politics?  Your opinions, desires, etc, are all irrelevant.  You can either hide under a pile of coats or just live your life and hope you don’t get struck by lightening.

No politician or leader anywhere from either dysfunctional political party has any idea how to stop any of this from happening again.

If you are anti-gun:  Well, there are hundreds-of-millions of firearms on America’s streets today.  Even if you ban every gun purchase from tomorrow morning it won’t change anything.  Even the most fervent anti-gun types aren’t preaching confiscation as that’s too extreme.

If you are pro-gun: Well, I guess we are at the point where you need your own personal main battle tank.  For even if you were in Vegas carrying your own slung assault rifle at the concert, you were still out-gunned and out-positioned before the first shot was fired.

It might take half-a-century for America to come to grips with all this gun stuff, one way or the other.  In the meantime, you’re just a potential victim on your stroll through the park on a sunny day.

But hey, we at TAP are here to help.  So we created this handy diagram to help you intellectually plan how your kid’s birthday party should play out.  Please bear with us as we explain in detail how this is going to work:

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1) Family Picnic Area: Where you, your kids, friends, their kids, and other happy people eat a tasty home cooked potluck meal.

2) Emergency Dugout: When the shooting starts, this pre-dug four foot trench will serve as the bailout point for all individuals.  You’ll need to run drills at the start of the party with all participants.  It’s best to get in the face of the kids during these drills to ensure they know you mean business and you can properly simulate the stress and terror they’ll endure once the first person is struck by gunfire.

3) Bathrooms: You’ll need more than one bathroom, because all those kiddies will need lots of relief time after drinking that tasty sugary party punch.

4) Sandbag Bunker Sentries: You need to make friends with some folks who are heavily armed in their own right.  Become friends with cops, current or former military members, or former unemployed African mercenaries.  If you can’t become friends, you can hire a moonlight off duty police officer.  They set up shop in overwatch behind the sandbags and are thus in a position to immediately return sustained and disciplined fire against any threat.

5) Face Painting Booth: The little ones sure do love the colors and designs that expert painters apply to their faces.  I’m told boys want to be Groot and the girls a happy butterfly.

6) Counter Sniper Position: As we’ve seen demonstrated in Vegas and the south of France, the nutcases and terrorists are becoming ever more sophisticated in their attack methods.  Not even solid Bunker Sentry positions are enough to protect you.  You’ll also need to hire a trained sniper wielding a large frame rifle capable of disabling shooters at extreme distances, or disabling vehicles up to the size of a small delivery van or truck that’s being used to run over people en masse.

7) Baby Animal Petting Zoo: Nothing says fun like petting a baby lemur that’s half asleep.  Oh man, look at how closed the baby lemur’s eyes are.  He’s barely half awake even when you pet him.  Cute little dude.

8) Prepositioned Mass Casualty Aid Station: Let’s face it, even the best of well laid wartime plans go wrong.  You could have your fighting positions manned by Rambo and John McClain, but casualties are still going to occur.  So you’ll need an aid station on site that can treat the wounded while the police take 27 minutes to clear the shooter(s) and the medevac helicopter(s) can arrive.  It’s best to man this point with an experienced mass trauma surgeon.  Again, make friends with one if you can to keep your costs down.  Otherwise hire one off duty on a moonlight gig.

9) Clown Show: [insert joke here]

Enjoy the party!