American Elephants


Dave Allen On Supermarkets by The Elephant's Child
July 20, 2014, 6:53 am
Filed under: Entertainment, Humor, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,

Dave Allen is a British comedian, and brilliant. British supermarkets may be a bit different, but if you shop in a grocery, you will recognize some of your own angst in his performance. He has his audience in the palm of his hnd.



Jihad in Britain, and In The Other Nations of the West by The Elephant's Child

I don’t know if you know Janet Daley. She was born in America, graduated from U.C. Berkeley, and has been living and reporting in Britain for many years. Her column in today’s Telegraph is notable for her outlook on the Islamization of Britain. Elsewhere there is a column noting that France is not a safe place for Jews. We have been warned that without some serious and real change, Europe will be entirely Muslim within fifty years.

In the midst of the deeply unfunny news coverage of the two young British jihadi volunteers who were arrested on terror charges when they arrived back from Syria, there was one moment of comic absurdity. It seems that before setting off on their mission, Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar found it necessary to place orders with Amazon for those invaluable scholarly treatises, Islam for Dummies, The Koran for Dummies and Arabic for Dummies. Hilarity aside, there is something important to be noted here.

First, these 22-year-olds were obviously not the products of some extreme mosque which had drilled them in Islamist fundamentalism. In fact, they were so untutored in the religion to which they were nominally affiliated that they had to equip themselves with a crash course in its basic principles. Nor had they come from families which were inclined to endorse their terrorist fantasies. Indeed, their own parents were so horrified when they learned of the men’s activities that they turned them in to the police. So we need to ask, as a matter of urgency, where it came from, this bizarre determination to be inducted into a campaign of seditious murder that (we can assume from their decision to plead guilty to the terror charges) they fully intended to bring home with them. What causes young men to risk their own lives, and those of who knows how many others, for a cause about which they know so little that they have to mug it up before they catch the plane?

Do read the whole thing. There’s a lot of food for thought there that includes our own present border crisis.  Assimilation matters. She adds:

Contrary to all the educational shibboleths of our time, young men are motivated by aggression and power: their dreams are of glorious triumph over rivals. If they are denied these things – even in the ritualised forms that used to be provided by an education system that understood how dangerous male adolescence was – then they will seek them wherever they can be found. Gang violence, with its criminal initiation rites, or Muslim fanaticism can fill a void, offering not just a licence for brutality but for banding together into hostile tribes. There was a time – before characteristically male behaviour was devalued in favour of the female virtues of empathy and conciliation – when these proclivities were dealt with quite effectively by combative team sports and military cadet corps. Institutionalised aggression was supervised by adult authority until the young men grew up and became responsible for their own impulses.



A Dangerous World — The Wages of Weakness. by The Elephant's Child

Obama Profile

No president in my memory has so often referred to himself as “the President of the United States of America”or as “the Commander in Chief,” as if he needs to keep reminding everyone of his importance. Perhaps I’m being unfair. George W. Bush often said of himself “I’m the decider.” That seemed to me to be a humble statement that the troubles of the world landed on his desk and he had to make a difficult decision—whether it turned out well or ill. As I said, perhaps I’m being unfair.

But Bush was right. Decisions have to be made. We may make a decision about Iraq, but as in all conflicts, the other side gets a vote. The Obama administration has admitted that they were blindsided by the ISIS invasion of Iraq and their rapid progress. Obama is accustomed to, well, dithering. He doesn’t like foreign affairs. He likes traveling with an enormous entourage to other countries and making a speech or two, but he came to office convinced that America was a world bully, interfering in other countries, and was no more exceptional than any other country. He has followed a deliberate policy of disengaging from the world and its quarrels.

We called it “the Apology Tour” when Obama made his way around the world bowing to foreign rulers and apologizing for our influence in world affairs. Democrats were offended at the name, but is that really what Democrats believe, that we should fail to assert a positive influence over world events? Or have they remained too enamored with Obama himself to have given it much thought? The world clearly expects more American leadership. Many countries have not done much about raising a military or acquiring major weapons because we were there.

Obama drew a red line that did not faze Assad, turned the Syrian bloodbath over to Vladimir Putin, which undoubtedly led the Russian president to launch his claim on the Crimea and his aggression against Ukraine. Obama frequently cites polls showing American “war weariness,” but just what is meant by that is not clear. America had won the War in Iraq, and Obama just wanted out. As Elliott Abrams said:

 So we got out, fully, completely, cleanly—unless you ask about the real world of Iraq instead of the imaginary world of campaign speeches. We could no longer play the role we had played in greasing relations between Kurds, Shia and Sunnis, and in constraining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian excesses. The result was an Iraq spinning downward into the kind of Sunni-Shia confrontation we had paid so dearly to stop in 2007 and 2008, and ISIS—the newest moniker for al Qaeda in Iraq—saw its chance, and took it.

So we’re back in Iraq—Obama has sent 300 military advisers. That’s a very small number.

I’m inclined to believe that just as members of a family have trouble getting along, so the natural state of world affairs is not peace and harmony. That doesn’t mean that we must be eternally engaged in war. Weakness invites ambitious nations to act on their ambitions.

Putin has long regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as a disaster and wants to restore its position as a world power. The Mullahs in Iran are quite clear about their ambitions regarding the Great Satan and the Little Satan. The newly enriched and increasingly dangerous fanatics of ISIS have already warned that they will see us in New York. Germany has said the United States must consider a renewed military intervention. “It’s the Americans’ task to deal with security in Iraq.” The  French place the direct cause of the Iraqi implosion on Obama’s decision to back off from air strikes against the Assad regime last August as the fatal step.

Here are some excellent pieces on our current dilemma:



The Official Foreign Policy of the Obama Admistration by The Elephant's Child

This is actually a clip from the British comedy series “Yes, Minister,” but it seems so precisely applicable, and funny, that I couldn’t resist. The comedy that captures accurately the foibles of humanity is always the best, though we like the comedy of the other guy’s foibles better than when our own are exposed.



Some Week! Is This What We Have Come To? by The Elephant's Child

invasion-650x368

I recommend this article and the video that accompanies it for your edification.  Those who managed and directed the disgraceful spectacular organized for a number of world leaders and small numbers of elderly veterans returning for a last look at Sword Beach, the beach where the British landed in 1944, have a lot to answer for.

The article enumerates the lip service the Western world pays to the sacrifices of military veterans and what they suffered so the rest of us might live free of such suffering.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson confirmed that another 18 veterans can be added to the death toll, now 35, of those who died because of a culture of callous indifference to the needs of veterans put on wait lists that never resulted in appointments. Cover-up and hidden or discarded lists to ensure that administrators got their bonuses and promotions. Bad publicity, not ended by jettisoning the VA secretary.

To get that off the front pages, the President announced the swap of five Taliban terrorist commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, which the administration assumed would be an heroic story of the return of a Taliban POW to the arms of his family. The White House once again tried to distract from a major scandal by instituting another major scandal. When the “honor and distinction” suggestion surfaced, Bergdahl’s platoon comrades confirmed that he had deserted his post, a court-martial offense at best. When that one didn’t work, administration nit-wits tried attacking the members of Bergdahl’s platoon as “psychopaths,” Think Progress asked “Did Sergeant Bergdahl desert the Army or did the Army desert him?” Some spin!

Notice has gone out to the military overseas about the heightened danger of kidnapping as a result of Obama’s trading 5 Taliban leaders for the American deserter. Even Taliban leaders said they would be looking for more Americans to kidnap.

Some week! Capped off with a weird  ceremony where hundreds of performers descended on Sword Beach, where they gesticulated and gyrated in something that was intended to be evocative of the struggles endured by the soldiers who slogged their way across the battlefields of Europe. The level of crass obliviousness that dreamed up this display is hard to fathom.

The high point of the video is the expression on the face of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth as she watched the performance. That was a royal “what the hell?” expression if I’ve ever seen one. People should not forget that Princess Elizabeth enlisted and served with honor and distinction herself when her country stood alone against Nazi Germany.



The Armed Forces Sweetheart of World War II by The Elephant's Child

Dame Vera Lynn, the armed forces sweetheart of World War II, celebrated her 93rd birthday last year. Her songs: We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, When I Grow to Old to Dream, When the Lights Go On Again, You’ll Never Know, As Time Goes By, and There’ll Always Be an England and many more, were not just the great standards of the war years, but remain standards today.

Music was important, as it is in all wars, and the troops loved her.  Memories of long ago.   Reposted from 2011



Remember the Men of D-Day, June 6, 1944 by The Elephant's Child

d23_0p012623
Reposted from 2013 ……..………………………………………….(click to enlarge)

Major Werner Pluskat in his bunker overlooking Omaha Beach had heard nothing from his superiors. He was cold, tired and exasperated. He felt isolated. He couldn’t understand why there had been no reports from either regimental or division headquarters. …Once more he swung the artillery glasses over to the left, picked up the dark mass of the Cherbourg peninsula and began another slow sweep of the horizon. The same low banks of mist came into view, the same patches of shimmering moonlight, the same restless white flecked sea.

Behind him in the bunker his dog Harras, was stretched out asleep. Nearby , Captain Ludz Wilkening and Lieutenant Fritz Theen were talking quietly. Pluskat joined them. “Still nothing out there,” he told them.” I’m about to give it up. But he walked back to the aperture and stood looking out as the first streaks of light began to lighten the sky. He decided to make another routine sweep.

Wearily, he swung the glasses over to the left again. Slowly he tracked across the horizon. He reached the dead center of the bay. The glasses stopped moving. Pluskat tensed, stared hard.

Through the scattering thinning mist the horizon was filling with ships — ships of every size and description, ships that casually maneuvered back and forth as though they had been there for hours. There appeared to be thousands of them. Pluskat stared in frozen disbelief, speechless, moved as he had never been before in his life. At that moment the world of the good soldier Pluskat began falling apart. He says that in those first few moments he knew, calmly and surely, that “this was the end for Germany.”      Cornelius Ryan: The Longest Day

ADDENDUM:  The Greatest Generation is passing into history. The youngest who turned 18 in 1943 will be 95 years old in 2014. Honor them, for they saved the world at enormous cost.  Think too, of those on the home front who built the ships and planes and made the materials that won the war. They built the arsenal of Democracy.

They were slogging, unglamorous men that no one envied. No battle ensigns flew for them no horns or bugles sounded. But they had history on their side



Piper Bill Millin Pipes the Invasion Forces Ashore by The Elephant's Child

Reposted from 2010

Bill Millin, Lord Lovat’s personal piper, is pictured here ready to jump from the ramp of the landing craft into the icy water of Sword beach on June 6, D–Day, 1944.  Lord Lovat is thigh-deep in the water just to the left of Bill Millin’s arm.  As the Telegraph obituary says: “As the Cameron tartan of his kilt floated to the surface he struck up with Hieland Laddie.  He continued to pipe even as the man behind him was hit, dropped into the sea and sank.

Millin said “I was so relieved of getting off that boat after all night being violently sick.  When I finished, Lovat asked for another tune.  Well, when I looked round — the noise and people lying about shouting and the smoke, the crump of mortars, I said to myself  “Well, you must be joking surely.” He said “What was that?” and he said “Would you mind giving us a tune?” “Well, what tune would you like, Sir?” “How about The Road to the Isles?” “Now, would you want me to walk up and down, Sir?” “Yes, That would be nice.  Yes, walk up and down.”

And that’s what Bill Millin did, walked up and down the invasion beach at water’s edge, blasting out a series of tunes.  Bodies of the fallen were drifting to and fro in the surf.  Soldiers were trying to dig in and, when they heard the pipes, many of them waved and cheered — though one came up to Millin and called him “a mad bastard.”

For many soldiers, the piper provided a unique boost to morale.  “I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin’s pipes” said One, Tom Duncan, many years later.  “It is hard to describe the impact it had.  It gave us a great lift and increased our determination.  As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home and why we were there fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones.”

After the Great War the War Office had banned pipers from leading soldiers into battle after losses had become too great. “Ah, but that’s the English War Office,” Lovat told Millin.  You and I are both Scottish and that doesn’t apply.”  Millin was the only piper on D-Day.

Millin died on August 17, 2010 aged 88.  He piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France, unarmed apart from the ceremonial dagger in his stocking.  The mayor of Colleville-Montgomery, a town on Sword Beach , has offered a site for a life-size statue of Millin opposite the place where he landed on D-Day. His pipes are in the Scottish War Museum.

Bill Millin’s personal account of D-Day is found here, and the Telegraph’s obituary is here. Millin has been justly famous in all accounts of the D-Day invasion, especially his courageous march across Pegasus Bridge at the crossing of the Orne.  This may have been the last time that a Scottish piper led Scottish troops into battle.



D-Day, June 6, 1944. “The Boys of Point Du Hoc.” by The Elephant's Child
June 6, 2014, 6:22 am
Filed under: Canada, Europe, Freedom, History, Military, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,
From the Archives: D-Day, June 6, 1944. The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.

June 6, 2010

Here is Ronald Reagan on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, speaking on that windswept coast at the very spot where Allied soldiers waded ashore to liberate Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny.  He spoke to the veterans of Pointe du Hoc where he unveiled memorials to the 2nd and 5th U.S. Army Ranger battalions who stormed the cliffs.

The President and Mrs. Reagan greeted each of the veterans after the speech.  Other Allied countries represented at the ceremony by their heads of state and government were Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Olav V of Norway, King Baudouin I of Belgium, Grand Duke Jean Of Luxembourg and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada.

You can read the speech or listen.  Might be a good one to share with the kids, as this is one of the great speeches. Such things are no longer a usual part of the curriculum in school, and kids need to know what their country is about, and a little about the men who fought to preserve their liberty.  The youngest of the Rangers are 95 now, and all too soon there will be none left.



Southern England Holds Billions of Barrels of Shale Oil by The Elephant's Child

Shale rock underneath some of the wealthiest counties in the south of England may contain billions of barrels of oil, a government report said. The Weald basin covers counties south of London, including Surrey and Sussex, may have oil in quantities as large as 8.6 billion barrels, according to a British Geological Survey report published on the 23rd. It was also noted that the potential for shale gas may be limited.

Britain is required by law to shut down their elderly gas-fired power plants. Dependence on alternative sources like wind has not turned out to be as dependable as advocates assumed. They have been reduced to importing wood pellets from U.S. North Carolina forests.

The Bowland basin, which extends across east and northwest England may hold as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas. That would be enough to meet demand for almost half a century if they had extraction rates similar to US. fields. The U.K. government has offered tax breaks to drillers to stimulate the infant industry.

Feature-Heren_1

The European Union is determined to shift away from dependence on Russian gas imports, according to a draft European Commission document on energy security. Producing oil and gas from shale could partially compensate for declining conventional production. There will be the usual protests about high volumes of water, sand and chemicals to drill shale, and whether it can damage the environment. Probably more protests than we have experienced. Big steps forward always being out the Luddites.

The European Union has enough gas trapped in shale to free the bloc from reliance on Russian energy supplies for about 28 years if the member countries are prepared to extract it. Russia has been fairly clear that they are prepared to use their vast supplies of gas as blackmail.

According to Reuters, Russia is the world’s top oil producer, but is pumping near capacity. It needs advanced technologies to sustain their output. They want a boom in unconventional oi; output by the start of the next decade. They are targeting a new shale oil boom by the next decade.

It would be very good news indeed if Britain and the EU are self-sufficient in energy, and cannot be blackmailed by Russia, who is inclined to do just that.



The Story of Trade: What’s Each Country’s Highest Value Export? by The Elephant's Child

exports
(Click to enlarge)

Not the only, but the highest value export, although for some countries it could be the only one. A little more geographical knowledge can’t hurt.



We’ve Come A Long Way Baby! London – 1854 by The Elephant's Child

bpimg0046

The Night-Soil Men

         It is August 1854, and London is a city of scavengers. Just the names alone read now like some kind of exotic zoological catalogue; bone-pickers, rag-gatherers, pure-finders, dredgermen, mud-larks, sewer-hunters, dustmen, night-soil men, bunters, toshes, shoremen. These were the London underclasses, at least a hundred thousand strong. So immense were their numbers that had the scavengers broken off and formed their own city, it would have been  the fifth-largest in all of England. But the diversity and precision of their routines were more remarkable than their sheer number. Early risers strolling along the Thames would see the toshers wading through the muck of low tide, dressed almost comically in flowing velveteen coats, their oversized pockets filled with stray bits of copper recovered from the water’s edge. The toshers walked with a lantern strapped to their chest to help them see in the predawn gloom, and carried an eight-foot-long pole to test the ground in front of them, and to pull themselves out when they stumbled into a quagmire. The pole and the eerie glow of the lantern through the robes gave them the look of ragged wizards, scouring the foul river’s edge for magic coins. Beside them fluttered the mud-larks, often children, dressed in tatters and content to scavenge all the waste that the toshers rejected as below their standard: lumps of coal, old wood, scraps of rope.
………Above the river, in the streets of the city, the pure-finders eked out a living by collecting dog shit (colloquially called “pure”) while the bone-pickers foraged for carcasses of any stripe. Below ground, in the cramped but growing network of tunnels beneath London’s streets, the sewer-hunters slogged through the flowing waste of the metropolis. Every few months, an unusually dense pocket of methane gas would be ignited by one of their kerosene lamps and the hapless soul would be incinerated twenty feet below ground, in a river of raw sewage. …
………It usually takes the bone-picker from seven to nine hours to go over his rounds, during which time he travels from 20 to 30 miles with a quarter to a half hundredweight on his back. In the summer he usually reaches home about eleven of the day, and in the winter about one or two. On his return home he proceeds to sort the contents of his bag. He separates the rags from the bones, and these again from the old metal (if he is lucky enough to have found any). He divides the rags into various lots, according as they are white or coloured; and if he have picked up any pieces of canvas or sacking, he makes these also into a separate parcel. When has finished the sorting he takes his several lots to the ragshop or the marine-store dealer, and realizes upon them whatever they may be worth. For the white rags he gets from 2d. to 3d per pound, according as they are clean or soiled. The white rags are very difficult to be found; they are mostly very dirty therefore sold with the coloured ones at the rate of about 5 lbs. for 2d.

                                                               *************

London in 1854 was a Victorian metropolis trying to make do with an Elizabethan public infrastructure. The city was vast even by today’s standards, with two and a half million people crammed inside a thirty-mile circumference. Most of the  techniques for managing that kind of population density that we now take for granted—recycling centers, public-health departments, garbage collection, safe sewage removal — hadn’t yet been invented. These people were actually performing an essential service for their community. Removing the refuse of a large city is one of the most important social functions. The scavengers of Victorian London weren’t just getting rid of all that refuse, they were recycling it.

The above excerpt comes from a fascinating  and thought-provoking book called The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. In that summer of 1854, London was seized with a violent outbreak of cholera that no one knew how to stop. As the epidemic spread a maverick physician and a local curate try to solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.

There is so much there, the intertwined histories of the spread of disease, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. If we don’t have an understanding of history and from whence we have come, we can’t really understand today.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,501 other followers

%d bloggers like this: