Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Which nude would you prefer?

I'm hugely enjoying a brewing clash of interests (not to mention bodies) between Argentina and Paraguay.

It all started when Diego Maradona, manager of Argentina's soccer team at the World Cup championships in South Africa, made an announcement.

DIEGO Maradona has promised to run naked through the centre of Buenos Aires if Argentina win the World Cup for a third time.

. . .

"If we win the World Cup, I'll get naked and run around the Obelisk," he said, referring to the tall monument that marks the centre of the city and serves as its most famous landmark.

So far, so good. Maradona is, of course, a national idol in Argentina, and world-famous for his soccer skills. However, a young woman from Paraguay has decided to improve on his offer.

Paraguayan lingerie model Larissa Riquelme is busting in on World Cup hype, announcing she’ll do a Maradona and run through the streets naked if her team wins the global soccer championship.

. . .

Riquelme has been front and centre at the regularly occurring mass celebrations for Paraguay’s team in the capital of Asuncion. Now she vows to run naked through the streets "with my body painted with the colours of Paraguay" if her teams win the Cup.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is the choice you're facing. Which of these two would you rather see running naked through city streets?

I can almost hear the collective sigh from millions of red-blooded male soccer fans throughout the world as they murmur, "Sorry, Diego, ol' buddy" - and switch their support to Paraguay!


The contempt of the Left

I'm saddened, rather than surprised, to come across a special Web site set up by the editors of The Stranger, a Seattle Web-based 'news' (?) outlet. The fact that they set up a unique Web site for this particular opinion piece puzzles me, but perhaps they wanted it to be referenced separately from their main site. It appears (from internal references) to have been written shortly after President Bush was re-elected to a second term in office, dating it to late 2004 or early 2005. It's a diatribe in support of the Left-leaning voters in urban areas, and is outrageously rude and dismissive towards voters everywhere else. It may be relatively old, but it's eerily predictive of the present Administration's apparent attitudes.

Here are a few extracts.


It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.

. . .

If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country, we need a new identity politics, an urban identity politics, one that argues for the cities, uses a rhetoric of urban values, and creates a tribal identity for liberals that's as powerful and attractive as the tribal identity Republicans have created for their constituents. ... The future success of liberalism is tied to winning the cities. An urbanist agenda may not be a recipe for winning the next presidential election--but it may win the Democrats the presidential election in 2012 and create a new Democratic majority.

For Democrats, it's the cities, stupid--not the rural areas, not the prickly, hateful "heartland," but the sane, sensible cities--including the cities trapped in the heartland. Pandering to rural voters is a waste of time.

. . .

In cities all over America, distressed liberals are talking about fleeing to Canada or, better yet, seceding from the Union. We can't literally secede and, let's admit it, we don't really want to live in Canada. It's too cold up there and in our heart-of-hearts we hate hockey. We can secede emotionally, however, by turning our backs on the heartland. We can focus on our issues, our urban issues, and promote our shared urban values. We can create a new identity politics, one that transcends class, race, sexual orientation, and religion, one that unites people living in cities with each other and with other urbanites in other cities. ... we've got Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City (Bloomberg is a Republican in name only), and every college town in the country. We're everywhere any sane person wants to be. Let them have the shitholes, the Oklahomas, Wyomings, and Alabamas. We'll take Manhattan.


To all those who live in cities ... we say take heart. Clearly we can't control national politics right now--we can barely get a hearing. We can, however, stay engaged in our cities, and make our voices heard in the urban areas we dominate, and make each and every one, to quote Ronald Reagan (and John Winthrop, the 17th-century Puritan Reagan was parroting), "a city on a hill." This is not a retreat; it is a long-term strategy for the Democratic Party to cater to and build on its base.

To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: F*** off. Your issues are no longer our issues. We're going to battle our bleeding-heart instincts and ignore pangs of misplaced empathy. We will no longer concern ourselves with a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts rural areas. Instead we will work toward winning health care one blue state at a time.

. . .

In short, we're through with you [rural] people. We're going to demand that the Democrats focus on building their party in the cities while at the same time advancing a smart urban-growth agenda that builds the cities themselves. The more attractive we make the cities--politically, aesthetically, socially--the more residents and voters cities will attract, gradually increasing the electoral clout of liberals and progressives. For Democrats, party building and city building is the same thing. We will strive to turn red states blue one city at a time.

From here on out, we're glad red-state rubes live in areas where guns are more powerful and more plentiful, cars are larger and faster, and people are fatter and slower and dumber. This is not a recipe for repopulating the Great Plains. And when you look for ways to revive your failing towns and dying rural counties, don't even think about tourism. Who wants to go to small-town America now? You people scare us. We'll island-hop from now on, thank you, spending our time and our money in blue cities. If an urbanite is dying to have a country experience, rural Vermont is lovely. Maple syrup, rolling hills, fly-fishing--everything you could want. Country bumpkins in red rural areas who depend on tourists from urban areas but vote Republican can forget our money.

You've made your choice, red America, and we urban Americans are going to make a different choice. We are going to make Seattle--and New York, Chicago, and the rest--a great place to live, a progressive place. Again, we'll quote Ronald Reagan: We will make each of our cities--each and every one--a shining city on a hill. You can have your shitholes.


. . .

Above any other advantage, the new urban identity politics solves "the vision thing" for the Democratic Party. No longer are we a fractured aggregation of special interests or a spineless hydra of contingent alliances--we are a united front, with a clear, compelling image and an articulated system of values. Up until now, the Republicans have been winning the image war. When you think of "America," you imagine a single-family dwelling with a flag in the front yard and acres of corn waving in the background. It's an angry red fantasy. But propaganda is flexible, and audiences are pliant. Urban politics opens up a whole new visual vocabulary to be exploited by TV advertising, and it's a vocabulary rich in emotional content, particularly after September 11. This is the era of cityscapes, rapid transit, and crowds of people. Political advertising can no longer pander to nostalgia about the yeoman countryside--we must embrace our urban future.

With all the talk of the growth of exurbs and the hand-wringing over facile demographic categories like "security moms," you may be under the impression that an urban politics wouldn't speak to many people. But according to the 2000 Census, 226 million people reside inside metropolitan areas--a number that positively dwarfs the 55 million people who live outside metro areas. The 85 million people who live in strictly defined central city limits also outnumber those rural relics. When the number of city-dwellers in the United States is quadruple the number of rural people, we can put simple democratic majorities to work for our ideals.

. . .


. . .

Unlike the people who flee from cities in search of a life free from disagreement and dark skin, we are for contentiousness, discourse, and the heightened understanding of life that grows from having to accommodate opposing viewpoints. We're for opposition. And just to be clear: The non-urban argument, the red state position, isn't oppositional, it's negational--they are in active denial of the existence of other places, other people, other ideas. It's reactionary utopianism, and it is a clear and present danger; urbanists should be upfront and unapologetic about our contempt for their politics and their negational values. Republicans have succeeded in making the word "liberal"--which literally means "free from bigotry... favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded"--into an epithet. Urbanists should proclaim their liberalism from the highest rooftop (we have higher rooftops than they do); it's the only way we survive. And in our next breath, we should condemn their politics, exposing their conservatism as the anti-Americanism that it is, striving to make "conservative" into an epithet.

. . .

These, of course, are broad strokes. We all know that not everyone who lives in the suburbs is a raving neo-Christian idiot. The raving neo-Christian idiots are winning, however, so we need to take the fight to them. In this case, the fight is largely spiritual; it consists of embracing the reality that urban life and urban values are the only sustainable response to the modern age of holy war, environmental degradation, and global conflict. More important, it consists of rejecting the impulse to apologize for living in a society that prizes values like liberalism, pluralism, education, and facts. It's time for the Democratic Party to stop pandering to bovine, non-urban America. You don't apologize for being right--especially when you're at war.

There's much more at the link. It's worth reading, if only to show the depths of cynicism, distaste and elitism that the editors demonstrate - attributes which are, I fear, typical of many among the 'intelligentsia' of the Left.

The troubling thing is, the attitudes outlined in this article are precisely those I see being articulated and implemented by the current Administration and Democratic Party majority in the House and the Senate. If those of us who have an altogether different vision of our nation want to stop it, we now have a clear outline of their game plan to maintain dominance over our body politic.

Has anyone come up with a good counter-strategy to the battle plan outlined above? If not, why not? And if they have, why isn't it being posted publicly, and put out there for debate?

(Note that I'm not saying it should be a Republican Party strategy. There are many Republicans who would doubtless identify with many of the sentiments outlined in this article! No, I'm thinking of all those who are conservative and/or libertarian and/or classically liberal and/or genuinely moderate in our political outlook. None of us will fit into a society along the lines of that envisaged above; and we probably won't fit into either the Democratic or Republican party, as each is presently constituted. It's time we worked out a common strategy and began to take steps to implement it . . . before the urban 'elite' and political power-brokers manage to steamroller right over all of us in our divided state.)

The Tea Party movement is a good start - but we need to go further. This article shows us what we're facing if we don't.


Quote of the week

From Labrat, the feminine half of the Atomic Nerds:

"Fetuses are not 'female by default'. They’re tetrapods by default."

If you say so . . .

Go read her whole article. It's good stuff, despite my uncontrollable giggles at the mental image inspired by her conclusion!

(Ducks hastily for cover!)


Tracfone and Net10: not just bad service - liars, too!

I posted earlier this month about the lousy customer service I'd experienced from Tracfone and Net10 (they're the same company).

Last week I noticed someone trying to post a positive comment about them in response to my article. I couldn't determine who it was, so I didn't publish the comment, but waited. Sure enough, someone tried to post another comment today. Guess who it was?

Yes, you guessed it - Tracfone and Net10 are headquartered in Florida. Looks like one of their staff did a Google search on the term 'net10 customer service', and probably tried to post a rebuttal on every Web site or blog where he or she found a negative remark. Signing his (?) name as 'Henry', the staffer tried to post this comment:

I really do have to say that I do not agree with this blog post. I have called net10's customer service and encountered only nice people who were very helpful.

I do know that other companies like sprint have not been quite as helpful to my family in prior dealings. My daughter has a droid and we were once put on hold for 45 minutes with a sprint associate.

Nice try, but I don't believe you, 'Henry'. Judging by your location, I suspect you're a Net10 or Tracfone staffer who's not only trying to lie about your identity, but also cast aspersions on another company (Sprint) because another commenter on my original post said good things about their customer service. (Also, I don't see a 'droid' phone - a name which refers to a Motorola model - listed as available on the Sprint Web site. Perhaps you should have checked your facts.) Needless to say, I won't be publishing your comment on my original post.

Readers might wish to take note of this duplicity on the part of Tracfone and Net10, and take it into account when deciding what prepaid cellphone service to use (or to recommend to friends).


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sumo, Snickers and smackdowns!

A tip o' the hat to reader D. M. for sending me this photograph of a headline in the Irish Herald. If you can read it with a straight face - and without boggling - you've got more self-control than I!

I have to admit, I did a double-take just looking at it! Fortunately, D. M. sent a link to the article on the newspaper's Web site, which makes it all (sort of) clear.

A REVELLER at a fancy dress party in one of Dublin's best known gay bars attacked her ex-girlfriend in a row over a novelty wrestler's suit.

Sandra Talbot (32) assaulted her ex-partner with a bottle she had hidden under her costume in a fit of rage at the George pub, after more than a year of acrimony following their break-up.

A court heard she lashed out at victim Adrienne Martin in a row that started over a novelty sumo wrestler's suit that Talbot was wearing. The row developed as the victim tried to wave at a man dressed as a Snickers bar, the court heard.

Ms Martin told Dublin District Court how she was left with a large lump on her temple and still suffered from panic attacks because of the incident.

Talbot denied any physical contact happened and said Ms Martin had "ruined her life".

Convicting her and fining her €400, Judge Catherine Murphy said she hoped the accused and the "loosely linked group of friends" who had become involved in the court case could put it behind them.

There's more at the link.

The guilty party has since said that she wants to put the whole thing behind her, and move ahead with her dream to become a tattoo artist.

Question: If she succeeds, and tattoos you, and you don't like her ink job, and say so - will she beat you up while wearing a sumo costume? I can think of a couple of folks who'll gladly pay extra if she does . . .


A Cannes winner with a powerful message

This advertisement apparently won an award at the Cannes film festival. It certainly made an impact on me, and I hope on you too.

Kudos to the creative minds who developed and produced that one.


Feedback, anyone?

I've asked for feedback about this blog from time to time, but no-one seems to have much to say. However, I learned today that some readers feel that I'm posting too much stuff, too many articles each day, so that they're a bit overwhelmed. Some say they're only coming here once a week or thereabouts, because it's too much to take in each day. (Other readers have said they like the number of posts, and come here every day precisely because there are so many of them.)

So, what do you think? Do I put up too many posts, or too few? Too long, or too short? Interesting content, or not really?

I really need to hear from you, readers, because I can't improve this blog if I don't know what you like. Please leave a comment to let me know what you'd prefer to see.

Thanks in advance.


It is to laugh . . .

I enjoy cartoonists' takes on the events of ordinary everyday life. They seem to be able to find humor in the simplest things. Giles was perhaps the doyen of them all in that regard, and I have several dozen of his cartoon annuals to make me chuckle from time to time.

Anyway, a British artist (?), Fiona Banner, has created an 'artwork' at the Tate Gallery by suspending a Harrier jet fighter from the ceiling, in what the Daily Mail called a 'bizarre' exhibition.

The newspaper's cartoonist, Mac, was unable to resist the temptation. Click here to see what he made of it today. (Clicking will open a new tab in your browser, or a new window; close it when you're done.)


Monday, June 28, 2010

"You can go twice as fast!" Yeah, right . . .

The video speaks for itself.

Some people are so dumb that I can only assume death rejects them, for fear of lowering the average IQ in the afterlife . . .



Doofus Of The Day #367

Today's winner is from Coventry, England.

A hapless thief soon discovered he had chosen the wrong house to burgle when he came face-to-face with the owner - a 20-stone [280-pound] wrestler.

Lee Christie had grabbed a laptop and was about to make his escape when Adam Kalinowski returned home.

Father-of-one Adam, 37, wrestled Christie to the ground then got him in a headlock.

The factory worker held on to the 6ft 2in burglar - who began to cry and begged to be released - until police arrived at the address in Coventry.

Mr Kalinowski said: 'I came home and saw the door was broken. I saw the man, and I mean this guy was big, but I didn't know what he was doing there or what was in his bag. He could have had a knife.

'Maybe it was the adrenalin, but I wasn't scared because this is my house, my castle, as they say in England.'

'He looked at me and said; 'Oh, s**t!' and pushed me against the wall so I gave him a kick in the stomach and that slowed him down.'

'I know how to wrestle and I like fighting sports, so I got him in a Nelson headlock.

'He was trying to get up, so I had to punch him in the head. My neighbour called the police and I held him until they came.

'He was crying and saying "Leave me alone" but he was lucky I didn't kill him because of the way I felt at the time.'

. . .

Christie, of Tile Hill, Coventry, was sentenced to two years in prison after admitting burglary at Coventry Crown Court.

There's more at the link.

Rules for wannabe burglars:

  1. Make sure your proposed victim isn't at home, and won't be coming home, during your 'visit';
  2. Make sure he's not bigger and brawnier than you are - as well as experienced in the manly arts of beating you to a pulp!

Still, it's kinda nice when bad things happen to bad people . . .


Around the blogs

Over the past week a number of articles on other blogs caught my eye. I thought I'd share them with you for your reading pleasure (and an occasional belly-laugh!).

Crucis points out the hypocrisy in imposing a moratorium on deep-water drilling for oil off the US coast, whilst simultaneously funding Brazil's efforts to drill for oil in much deeper water off its coast. He notes that, if Brazil succeeds, we'll not only have financed its success, but will then pay through the nose a second time to buy the oil it finds.

Alan notes "a study where they watched women walk around and tried to guess which ones had vaginal orgasms. AND GOT PAID FOR IT!!!!! What a brilliant scam." He says he's clearly in the wrong line of work. I agree!

Tanker over at Mostly Cajun reminds us of the laws of cat physics, including:

Law of Cat Thermodynamics: Heat flows from a warmer to a cooler body, except in the case of a cat, in which case all heat flows to the cat.

Law of Cat Obstruction: A cat must lay on the floor in such a position to obstruct the maximum amount of human foot traffic.

Law of Cat Acceleration: A cat will accelerate at a constant rate, until he gets good and ready to stop.

Law of Cat Disinterest: A cat’s interest level will vary in inverse proportion to the amount of effort a human expends in trying to interest him.

Law of Pill Rejection: Any pill given to a cat has the potential energy to reach escape velocity.

Law of Cat Composition: A cat is composed of Matter + Anti-Matter + It Doesn’t Matter

There are plenty more of them. Go read, and have a good laugh.

Coyote Blog reminds us photographically that "The enterprise-killing nature of taxes isn’t just the money." Word.

Finally, Whitecoat's Call Room shows us the ridiculous extent to which medical practices and facilities are micromanaged and buried in bureaucratic rules and regulations. If the medical staff find it so irritating and burdensome, what should we, as 'consumers' of their services, do about it? I'm still wondering how we can help improve things. Any ideas?

I'll try to collect a few interesting posts from interesting blogs on a regular basis, and list them here. It's always nice to find new places to enjoy and from which to learn.


Custer's Last Flag

I'm surprised to learn that one of the guidons carried by Custer's five companies of the US 7th Cavalry, who were wiped out to a man at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25th, 1876, was recovered from the battlefield the following day, and for more than a century has been held by a museum in Michigan. It's now to be sold at auction. A Michigan TV station, WZZM13, reports:

On June 25, 1876 ... Gen. George Armstrong Custer, the pride of Monroe, led the 7th Cavalry into battle against the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne near the Little Bighorn River in Montana. It was not, shall we say, Custer's finest hour. All 210 men under his immediate command died in the massacre. So did Custer.

As a burial detail surveyed the carnage a few days later, Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson discovered a tattered swallow-tail American flag, known as a guidon, hidden beneath a dead soldier. He picked it up, folded it and squeezed it into his pocket. Four years later, according to an 1895 Free Press report headlined "Memento of a Massacre", the first written document of the flag's history, Culbertson gave it to Rose Fowler, whose husband was a military man. After Mr. Fowler died, his wife married another soldier and retired to southwest Detroit.

Rose Fowler Riedel sold the flag to what then was called the Detroit Museum of Art in June 1895 for $54 - $50 came from a board member and $4 was raised in a public campaign.

Now, 115 years later, the Detroit Institute of Arts has decided to sell Custer's Last Flag at auction this fall at Sotheby's in New York. The estimated price it is expected to fetch?

$2 million to $5 million.

. . .

In 1895, the museum was still something of a cabinet of curiosities, including mounted animal heads and model racing sloops. Despite the historical significance of the 27 1/2-by-33-inch flag, it's no longer considered a work of art, and money from its sale could be put to better use buying something of true aesthetic value.

"It's a standard-issue military flag," said David Penney, the DIA's vice president of exhibitions and collections strategies. "The only thing distinctive or unique about it is its story, and the fact is, we don't have the context or expertise to properly display and interpret it. It needs an appropriate home."

For decades, DIA leaders have intended to sell the flag - "de-accession" it, in art world parlance - but other priorities kept it on the back burner. But with the museum in the midst of a sweeping five-year review of all 60,000 pieces in the collection, the flag's number has come up.

. . .

Sotheby's multimillion-dollar estimate for the flag reflects a confluence of factors, including Custer's iconic status in American mythology, the flag's direct witness to one of the best-known battles in American history and the way the story connects to broader historical currents, notably the nation's troubled relationship with American Indians.

"It is one of the most famous stories in American history and here you have one of the most important symbols of that story that you could possibly have," said David Redden, a vice chairman of Sotheby's and head of the special projects department. "The guidon represented the soul and heart of what the soldiers were fighting for."

Redden said the flag's provenance was impeccable. In addition to Free Press articles from 1895 that document its journey from the battlefield to the museum, the flag is referenced in books and the DIA has a letter acknowledging payment and acquisition. It remains in relatively good condition; even the fact that sections had been cut away as souvenirs in the 19th Century remains a testament to the awe in which it was held in its day.

There's more at the link.

That's a pretty amazing piece of history. I understand from other sources that the 7th Cavalry had five guidons and a regimental flag at (or near) the battle. Three guidons vanished, probably taken as trophies by triumphant Native American warriors. (I wonder if they're still cherished tribal possessions in some medicine lodge?) One was the so-called Keogh guidon, named for Captain Myles Keogh, also killed at the battle, which was recovered; and the regimental flag did not go into battle with Custer, being still en route to the Little Bighorn. Both it and the Keogh guidon (the latter in very poor condition) are held by the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

I hope the Detroit guidon is purchased by someone (or some institution) who will display it in a manner befitting its historical status. I'd be very disappointed if it were to disappear into private hands as an investment, rather than be available to all as an historical artifact.


Two more skateboard FAILS!

Last month I wrote about a double skateboard fail. Here are two more videos that have come to my attention, both having similar results.

LANGUAGE ALERT: The second video has many profanities, loudly and painfully voiced. Not safe for work at normal volume!

Not very good, are they?


Doofus Of The Day #366

Today's Doofus is from Talladega, Alabama. A tip o' the hat to FarmDad for providing the link to the story.

A Talladega man sustained burns over about 90 percent of his body after climbing a fence into an Alabama Power substation on Stephen J. White Memorial Blvd. early Friday morning.

Police Chief Alan Watson said Willie Eugene Lewis scaled the fence around the substation sometime before 2 a.m. Friday. He then began climbing on some of the equipment, grabbing on with both hands.

Some 44,000 volts of electricity proceeded to pass through his body, burning the clothes off his back and burning off his genitals. In spite of this, Lewis was able to walk to the emergency room of Citizens Baptist Medical Center on his own.

. . .

Lewis was admitted in critical condition, and was eventually airlifted to the burn center at UAB Hospital. Watson said he was listed in stable condition Friday afternoon.

. . .

Watson could not say exactly what Lewis might have been doing inside the fenced substation, but alcohol should not be ruled out as a factor.

There's more at the link.

'Burning off his genitals'??? That's a Darwin award, right there . . . and as for 'alcohol should not be ruled out as a factor' - no s***, Sherlock!!!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Catholic Church STILL doesn't get it!

Many of you have read my articles concerning the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church (links are in the sidebar). I've watched the unfolding of events concerning the Catholic Church in Belgium over this past week with dismay, frustration and a ghastly sense of déjà vu.

For those of you who may have missed the news, back in April this year the Bishop of Bruges admitted that he'd been guilty of child sexual abuse, and resigned. This was the last straw for many Belgian Catholics, and particularly for law enforcement authorities, as there had been a number of scandals unearthed there in recent years, but very few prosecutions. Last week the authorities took action, as the Guardian reports.

The Roman Catholic church was once again at the centre of a child abuse scandal today when police raided the headquarters of the church hierarchy in Belgium. They carried away computers and hundreds of files, amid rumours that church leaders were continuing to cover up abuse cases despite a public plea for forgiveness last month.

Belgian officers today sealed off and searched the headquarters of the church at Mechelen, north of Brussels, where the Belgian bishops' conference was in session, with the papal nuncio taking part. They also searched the home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, until last year Belgium's most senior prelate, who enjoys a reputation for being a liberal.

In nearby Leuven, east of Brussels, police also searched the premises of the independent church commission investigating hundreds of cases of alleged molestation by clergymen. They took all 475 files belonging to the commission, prompting bewilderment and panic among investigators and victims of sexual abuse.

. . .

Police sources told the Flemish newspaper De Standaard that the raids were carried out because of suspicions that church leaders were failing to hand over all the necessary materials to the commission of inquiry.

There's more at the link.

Over the weekend the Vatican responded angrily to the police measures.

The pope on Sunday called the raids carried out by Belgian police investigating priestly sex abuse "deplorable" and asserted the right of the Catholic Church to investigate abuse alongside civil law enforcement authorities.

Pope Benedict XVI issued a message Sunday to the head of the Belgian bishops' conference, Monsignor Andre-Joseph Leonard, expressing his solidarity with all Belgian bishops "in this sad moment."

The June 24 raids targeted the home and office of a retired archbishop and also the graves of two prelates. The Vatican has slowly ratcheted up its criticism of the searches, with the Vatican No. 2 on Saturday complaining they were unprecedented even under communism.

On Sunday, Benedict took the criticism to a new level, issuing a personal message of support to the Belgian bishops for the "surprising and deplorable way" in which the raids were carried out.

. . .

In his message to the bishops, Benedict stressed that justice must take its course.

But he also repeated that such crimes are handled by both civil and canon law "respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy."

He said he hoped that the "fundamental rights" of individuals and institutions are guaranteed in respect of the victims and recognizing all efforts at collaboration.

Again, there's more at the link.

I'm profoundly saddened to see that the Church, and her Bishops, and even the Pope, still don't get it. The reason the Belgian authorities raided the hierarchy and institutions of the Church last week is because they don't trust them to reveal all they know, and they're afraid they may suppress or even destroy evidence. They don't trust them because throughout the world, this crisis continues to rumble on, and on, and on. When the first major allegations surfaced at the end of the 1980's and the early 1990's, there were many words spoken by Church leaders about how dreadful this was, and what they were going to do to stop it; but it hasn't stopped. It's continued to this day.

I'm very sorry to have to say it, but as a former Catholic priest (and still a Catholic by faith), I don't trust the Bishops either. Whenever I hear a Bishop complaining about the actions of secular authorities in connection with clergy sex abuse, or protesting negative publicity in the media, or claiming that the Church is working overtime to deal with the problem and protect her members, my instant reaction is to wonder what he's hiding. I automatically associate pronouncements by the hierarchy concerning this scandal with a pathological, organization-centered mentality that will do anything, moral or immoral, to defend the institution of the Church. I simply don't believe that most of the hierarchy have learned anything. Far too many of them put doctrine, dogma and structures ahead of people, justice and truth. They still cling to power and privilege, rather than pursue meaningful change in the way the scandal is and will be handled. They still keep 'outsiders' as far away from their seats of power as they possibly can, and regard those of us speaking up 'from the inside' about the scandal as the next best thing to heretics - certainly, dangerously close to committing treason against our Faith.

They don't get it. It seems that they simply can't get it.

And that's why the Church continues to suffer, and will continue to suffer . . . because too many of her modern Apostles, the Bishops, have allowed themselves to become like the Pharisees whom Jesus addressed so scathingly in Matthew 23. They are blind guides . . . so blind that they don't know their own blindness. And that is perhaps the most tragic thing of all about this whole scandal . . . because blind guides can't and won't find the way through and out of this mess.

That means the Church will not recover, and the distrust, suspicion and anger of the world will inevitably continue to grow. How can they do otherwise, when so many of those charged with the governance of the People of God have, by most objective standards, proved so incompetent as to render them incapable of governing?


For warbirds fans

Via an IRC chat session today I was led to this thread on the Warbird Information Exchange. It's 54 pages long at the time of writing, and it's chock-full of wonderful photographs of historical US Navy (plus a few other) combat aircraft. I've included a couple of examples here. (Click the images for a larger view.)

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcats over Glenview Naval Air Station, Illinois, date unknown

I've never seen a collection like it. Many of the photographs are unique in my experience. It's a magnificent resource for aviation fans in general and warbirds fans in particular.

Grumman F9F-8 Cougars over Mount Fuji, Japan, 1956

Very highly recommended viewing. I've bookmarked it for (frequent) future reference.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another amusing advertisement

This one tickled my funny-bone.


Lest the nation forget: Ernie Pyle (1900-1945)

I'm saddened to read that the Ernie Pyle Home in Dana, IN, is threatened with closure due to financial difficulties. They're not huge - the home, run as a museum, only needs $14,000 per year to cover its costs - but for a small town, and for the budget-strapped State of Indiana, that's just too much. Unless sufficient funds can be raised by August 1st this year, the doors will shut and the building will be sold.

Ernie Pyle is a monumentally important figure in US history, in the context of both warfare and journalism. Along with Bill Mauldin (of whom I've written before), he's an indispensable voice documenting what our forefathers went through to purchase for us the freedom we enjoy today. His tragic death in combat set the seal on his record of achievement, and cemented his iconic reputation.

Ernie Pyle's wartime home in Albuquerque, NM is preserved by the public library there.

Many artifacts relating to his life are held by the Indiana State Museum and the School of Journalism at Indiana University. However, the only museum dedicated to his life, work and memory is housed in his boyhood home in Dana, IN.

I think it would be an absolute tragedy if his home and its associated museum were to be closed, and lost to future generations.

Mr. Pyle's genius was to describe the experiences of the combat soldier in a way to which those who had never seen combat could relate. I'm a combat veteran myself. I promise you, I can recognize myself and my comrades in his writing, even though our war was a couple of generations later and a continent away. Any combat veteran, reading an Ernie Pyle column, will be able to instantly identify with it, and with the soldiers he portrays. It's an almost unique gift, one shared by very few other correspondents.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this, and to demonstrate why Ernie Pyle is so vital to America's history, is to let you read some extracts from his wartime columns for yourself. All of these have been published online, so I'm presuming that I can quote from them for the purposes of this blog post, and to honor his memory. You can find more of his columns at the Web site of the School of Journalism at Indiana University.


Maybe I wasn't raised to be a soldier - but I'm being one for a little while. Well, kind of a soldier.

Since I'm approximately 80 years old and 145 pounds underweight, they had to create a special branch to fit my special talents. It is called America's First Line of Defense. I am its bulwark. As long as l'm here, the country is safe.

They gave me a private's uniform. and contrary to Army tradition the thing fits.

This uniform business came about because I've drifted in here for a few days to write about the new soldiers. They decided to put me through the regular routine just as though I were a genuine incoming selectee. However, it didn't work out in all details. The doctors shuddered and turned away at the first sight of me. And the interviewers found me unqualified for any of the 275 types of Army employment.

So it was finally decided to let me do it my own way, which is to stand around sleepy-like for three or four days and just look and listen.

. . .

I was given a cot in a tent with three privates and a Regular Army corporal. One of the boys had just discovered the futility of explaining in the Army. He learned it on his first day when a sergeant asked him something, and every time he'd try to answer, the sergeant would yell: "Shut your mouth!"



When our Sahara salvage expedition finally found the wrecked airplanes far out on the endless desert, the mechanics went to work taking off usable parts, and four others of us appointed ourselves the official ditchdiggers of the day.

We were all afraid of being strafed if the Germans came over and saw men working around the planes, and we wanted a nice ditch handy for diving into. The way to have a nice ditch is to dig one. We wasted no time.

. . .

One sweating soldier said: "Five years ago you couldn’t a got me to dig a ditch for five dollars an hour. Now look at me.

"You can’t stop me digging ditches. I don’t even want pay for it; I just dig for love. And I sure do hope this digging today is all wasted effort; I never wanted to do useless work so bad in my life.

"Any time I get fifty feet from my home ditch you’ll find me digging a new ditch, and brother I ain’t joking. I love to dig ditches."

Digging out here in the soft desert sand was paradise compared with the claylike digging back at our base. The ditch went forward like a prairie fire. We measured it with our eyes to see if it would hold everybody.

"Throw up some more right here," one of the boys said, indicating a low spot in the bank on either side. "Do you think we’ve got it deep enough?"

"It don’t have to be so deep," another one said. "A bullet won’t go through more than three inches of sand. Sand is the best thing there is for stopping bullets."

A growth of sagebrush hung over the ditch on one side. "Let’s leave it right there," one of the boys said. "It’s good for the imagination. Makes you think you’re covered up even when you ain’t."

That’s the new outlook, the new type of conversation, among thousands of American boys today. It’s hard for you to realize, but there are certain moments when a plain old ditch can be dearer to you than any possession on earth. For all bombs, no matter where they may land eventually, do all their falling right straight at your head. Only those of you who know about that can ever know all about ditches.



Now to the infantry – the God-damned infantry, as they like to call themselves.

I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that wars can’t be won without.

I wish you could see just one of the ineradicable pictures I have in my mind today. In this particular picture I am sitting among clumps of sword-grass on a steep and rocky hillside that we have just taken. We are looking out over a vast rolling country to the rear.

A narrow path comes like a ribbon over a hill miles away, down a long slope, across a creek, up a slope and over another hill.

All along the length of this ribbon there is now a thin line of men. For four days and nights they have fought hard, eaten little, washed none, and slept hardly at all. Their nights have been violent with attack, fright, butchery, and their days sleepless and miserable with the crash of artillery.

The men are walking. They are fifty feet apart, for dispersal. Their walk is slow, for they are dead weary, as you can tell even when looking at them from behind. Every line and sag of their bodies speaks their inhuman exhaustion.

On their shoulders and backs they carry heavy steel tripods, machine-gun barrels, leaden boxes of ammunition. Their feet seem to sink into the ground from the overload they are bearing.

They don’t slouch. It is the terrible deliberation of each step that spells out their appalling tiredness. Their faces are black and unshaven. They are young men, but the grime and whiskers and exhaustion make them look middle-aged.

In their eyes as they pass is not hatred, not excitement, not despair, not the tonic of their victory – there is just the simple expression of being here as though they had been here doing this forever, and nothing else.

The line moves on, but it never ends. All afternoon men keep coming round the hill and vanishing eventually over the horizon. It is one long tired line of antlike men.

There is an agony in your heart and you almost feel ashamed to look at them. They are just guys from Broadway and Main Street, but you wouldn’t remember them. They are too far away now. They are too tired. Their world can never be known to you, but if you could see them just once, just for an instant, you would know that no matter how hard people work back home they are not keeping pace with these infantrymen in Tunisia.



I met a bulldozer driver who operates his huge, clumsy machine with such utter skill that it is like watching a magician do card tricks. The driver is Joseph Campagnone of Newton, Massachusetts. He is an Italian who came to America several years ago, when he was sixteen. He is all American now. He has a brother in the Italian army who was captured by the British in Egypt.

His mother and sisters live near Naples, and he hopes to see them before this is over. I asked Joe if he had a funny feeling about fighting his own people and he said, "No, I guess we’ve got to fight somebody and it might as well be them as anybody else."

Campagnone has been a cat driver ever since he started working. I sat and watched him for two hours one afternoon while he ate away a rocky bank overhanging a blown road, and worked it into a huge hole until it was ready for traffic. He is so astonishingly adept at manipulating the big machine that groups of soldiers and officers gathered at the crater’s edge to admire and comment.

Joe has had one close shave. He was bulldozing a by-pass around a blown bridge when the blade of his machine hit a mine. The explosion blew him off and stunned him, but he was not wounded. The driverless dozer continued to run and drove itself over a fifty-foot cliff and turned a somersault as it fell. It landed right side up with the engine still going.



Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

"After my own father, he came next," a sergeant told me.

"He always looked after us," a soldier said. "He’d go to bat for us every time."

"I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair," another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden pack-saddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking out awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road.

I don’t know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don’t ask silly questions.

We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay on the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead man lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. "This one is Captain Waskow," one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don’t cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.

One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, "God damn it." That’s all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, "God damn it to hell anyway." He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain’s face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: "I’m sorry, old man."

Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said:

"I sure am sorry, sir."

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.



The strong, swirling tides of the Normandy coastline shift the contours of the sandy beach as they move in and out. They carry soldiers’ bodies out to sea, and later they return them. They cover the corpses of heroes with sand, and then in their whims they uncover them.

As I plowed out over the wet sand of the beach on that first day ashore, I walked around what seemed to be a couple of pieces of driftwood sticking out of the sand. But they weren’t driftwood.

They were a soldier’s two feet. He was completely covered by the shifting sands except for his feet. The toes of his GI shoes pointed toward the land he had come so far to see, and which he saw so briefly.



When we finally started away from the crowd a little old fellow in faded blue overalls ran up and asked us, in sign language, to come to his cafe for a drink. Since we didn't dare violate the spirit of hands-across-the-sea that was then wafting about the town, we had to sacrifice ourselves and accept.

So we sat on wooden benches at a long bare table while the little Frenchman puttered and sputtered around. He left two policemen and his own family in, and then took the handle out of the front door so nobody else could get in.

The Germans had drunk up all his stock except for some wine and some Eau de Vie. In case you don't know, Eau de Vie is a savage liquid made by boiling barbed wire, soapsuds, watch springs and old tent pegs together. The better brands have a touch of nitroglycerine for flavor.

So the little Frenchman filled our tiny glasses. We raised them, touched glasses all around, and Vivied La France all over the place, and good-will-toward-men rang out through the air and tears ran down our cheeks.

In this case, however, the tears were largely induced by our violent efforts to refrain from clutching at our throats and crying out in anguish. This good-will business is a tough life, and I think every American who connects with a glass of Eau de Vie should get a Purple Heart.



I heard a funny story of one of our young fighter pilots who had to bail out one day recently, high over the English Channel.

It seems the pilots carry a small bottle of brandy in their first-aid kits, for use if they are in the water a long time or have been hurt in landing.

Well, this young pilot, once he was safely out of his plane and floating down, figured he might as well drink his before he hit the water. So he fished it out of his pocket and drained her down while still many thousands of feet in the air.

At high altitudes liquor hits you harder than at sea level. Furthermore, this kid wasn't accustomed to drinking. The combination of the two had him tighter than a goat by the time he floated down into the Channel.

A destroyer had spotted him coming down, and it fished him out almost as soon as he hit the water. Even the cold plunge didn't sober him up. He was giddy and staggering around and they couldn't keep him in one spot long enough to dry him off.

The captain of the destroyer sensed what had happened, and being afraid the kid would take cold wandering around the deck, he came up and said with affected harshness: "What the hell are you doing here ? Get below where you belong."

Whereupon the wet young lieutenant drew- himself up in indignation and, with all the thick-tongued haughtiness of a plastered guest who's been insulted by his host, replied: "I assure you I don't propose to remain where I'm not wanted."

And forthwith he jumped overboard. The destroyer had to rescue him again.


PARIS, AUGUST 28, 1944

I had thought that for me there could never again be any elation in war. But I had reckoned without the liberation of Paris – I had reckoned without remembering that I might be a part of this richly historic day.

We are in Paris – on the first day – one of the great days of all time. This is being written, as other correspondents are writing their pieces, under an emotional tension, a pent-up semi-delirium.

. . .

The streets were lined as by Fourth of July parade crowds at home, only this crowd was almost hysterical. The streets of Paris are very wide, and they were packed on each side. The women were all brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colorful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings. Everybody was throwing flowers, and even serpentine.

As our jeep eased through the crowds, thousands of people crowded up, leaving only a narrow corridor, and frantic men, women and children grabbed us and kissed us and shook our hands and beat on our shoulders and slapped our backs and shouted their joy as we passed.

I was in a jeep with Henry Gorrell of the United Press, Capt. Carl Pergler of Washington, D.C., and Corp. Alexander Belon of Amherst, Massachusetts. We all got kissed until we were literally red in face, and I must say we enjoyed it.

Once when the jeep was simply swamped in human traffic and had to stop, we were swarmed over and hugged and kissed and torn at. Everybody, even beautiful girls, insisted on kissing you on both cheeks. Somehow I got started kissing babies that were held up by their parents, and for a while I looked like a baby-kissing politician going down the street. The fact that I hadn’t shaved for days, and was gray-bearded as well as bald-headed, made no difference.

. . .

The farthest we got in our first hour in Paris was near the Senate building, where some Germans were holed up and firing desperately. So we took a hotel room nearby and decided to write while the others fought. By the time you read this I’m sure Paris will once again be free for Frenchmen, and I’ll be out all over town getting my bald head kissed. Of all the days of national joy I’ve ever witnessed this is the biggest.



By the time you read this, the old man will be on his way back to America. After that will come a long, long rest. And after the rest, well, you never can tell.

Undoubtebly this seems to be a funny time for a fellow to be quitting the war. It is a funny time. But I'm not leaving because of a whim, or even especially because I'm homesick. I'm leaving for one reason only - because I have just got to stop. "I've had it," as they say in the Army. I have had all I can take for a while.

I've been 29 months overseas since this war started; have written about 700,000 words about it; have totalled nearly a year in the front lines.

I do hate terribly to leave right now, but I have given out. I've been immersed in it too long. My spirit is wobbly and my mind is confused. The hurt has finally become too great.

All of a sudden it seemed to me that if I heard one more shot or saw one more dead man, I would go off my nut. And if I had to write one more column, I'd collapse. So I'm on my way.

It may be that a few months of peace will restore some vim in my spirit, and I can go war-horsing off to the Pacific. We'll see what a little New Mexico sunshine does along that line.



My carrier is a proud one. She’s small, and you have never heard of her unless you have a son or husband on her, but still she’s proud, and deservedly so.

She has been at sea, without returning home, longer than any other carrier in the Pacific, with one exception. She left home in November 1943.

She is a little thing, yet her planes have shot two hundred thirty-eight of the enemy out of the sky in air battles, and her guns have knocked down five Jap planes in defending herself.

She is too proud to keep track of little ships she destroys, but she has sent to the bottom twenty-nine big Japanese ships. Her bombs and aerial torpedoes have smashed into everything from the greatest Jap battleships to the tiniest coastal schooners.

She has weathered five typhoons. Her men have not set foot on any soil bigger than a farm-sized uninhabited atoll for a solid year. They have not seen a woman, white or otherwise, for nearly ten months. In a year and a quarter out of America, she has steamed a total of one hundred forty-nine thousand miles!

Four different air squadrons have used her as their flying field, flown their allotted missions, and returned to America. But the ship’s crew stays on – and on, and on.

She is known in the fleet as "The Iron Woman," because she has fought in every battle in the Pacific in the years 1944 and 1945.

Her battle record sounds like a train-caller on the Lackawanna Railroad. Listen – Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Truk, Palau, Hollandia, Saipan, Chichi Jima, Mindanao, Luzon, Formosa, Nansei Shoto, Hong Kong, Iwo Jima, Tokyo . . . and many others.

She has known disaster. Her fliers who have perished could not be counted on both hands, yet the ratio is about as it always is – about one American lost for every ten of the Exalted Race sent to the Exalted Heaven.

She has been hit twice by Jap bombs. She has had mass burials at sea . . . with her dry-eyed crew sewing 40-mm shells to the corpses of their friends, as weights to take them to the bottom of the sea.

Yet she has never even returned to Pearl Harbor to patch her wounds. She slaps on some patches on the run, and is ready for the next battle.


This column was never completed. Ernie was preparing it in anticipation of the final victory in Europe, which would be proclaimed just 20 days after his death. The rough draft was found in his pocket after he was shot and killed.


And so it is over. The catastrophe on one side of the world has run its course. The day that it had so long seemed would never come has come at last.

I suppose emotions here in the Pacific are the same as they were among the Allies all over the world. First a shouting of the good news with such joyous surprise that you would think the shouter himself had brought it about.

And then an unspoken sense of gigantic relief – and then a hope that the collapse in Europe would hasten the end in the Pacific.

It has been seven months since I heard my last shot in the European war. Now I am as far away from it as it is possible to get on this globe.

This is written on a little ship lying off the coast of the Island of Okinawa, just south of Japan, on the other side of the world from Ardennes.

But my heart is still in Europe, and that’s why I am writing this column.

It is to the boys who were my friends for so long. My one regret of the war is that I was not with them when it ended.

For the companionship of two and a half years of death and misery is a spouse that tolerates no divorce. Such companionship finally becomes a part of one’s soul, and it cannot be obliterated.

True, I am with American boys in the other war not yet ended, but I am old-fashioned and my sentiment runs to old things.

To me the European war is old, and the Pacific war is new.

Last summer I wrote that I hoped the end of the war could be a gigantic relief, but not an elation. In the joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead. Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks.

But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world.

Dead men by mass production – in one country after another – month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.

Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.

Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.

These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn’t come back. You didn’t see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.

We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That’s the difference. . . .

Ernie Pyle was shot in the left side of the head and killed instantly on Ie Shima, an island off the coast of Okinawa, on April 18, 1945. The photograph below shows his body immediately afterward, laid out by the soldiers who were with him when he died.

The New York Times wrote in its obituary:

Ernie Pyle was haunted all his life by an obsession. He said over and over again, "I suffer agony in anticipation of meeting people for fear they won't like me."

No man could have been less justified in such a fear. Word of Pyle's death started tears in the eyes of millions, from the White House to the poorest dwellings in the country.

President Truman and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt followed his writings as avidly as any farmer's wife or city tenement mother with sons in service.

Mrs. Roosevelt once wrote in her column "I have read everything he has sent from overseas," and recommended his writings to all Americans.

For three years these writings had entered some 14,000,000 homes almost as personal letters from the front. Soldiers' kin prayed for Ernie Pyle as they prayed for their own sons.

In the Eighth Avenue subway yesterday a gray-haired woman looked up, wet-eyed, from the headline "Ernie Pyle Killed in Action" and murmured "May God rest his soul" and other women, and men, around her took up the words. This was typical.

It was rather curious that a nation should have worked up such affection for a timid little man whose greatest fear was "Maybe they won't like me."

Rest in peace, Mr. Pyle.

I'd like to appeal to all my readers to support the Ernie Pyle Home and museum. Donations may be sent to:

The Friends of Ernie Pyle
P.O. Box 338
Dana, IN 47847

I'll challenge all of you. My $10 donation is on its way. How about matching or beating it? If all of us do so, we should be able to send enough to cover at least a year's operating costs.

I'd also like to appeal to all fellow bloggers who read this. Please consider posting your own article about Ernie Pyle, or linking to this one, and helping to raise funds to keep the museum open. I think it's a cause worthy of our support.

Thanks in advance, friends.


Incompetence, stupidity . . . or both?

Via Geek With A .45, I found this article in the Financial Post.


Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour," Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.

The Dutch know how to handle maritime emergencies. In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company's expense. "If there's a country that's experienced with building dikes and managing water, it's the Netherlands," says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer -- the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment -- unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly. Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns.

There's more at the link.

If that doesn't make your blood boil, what will? There are hundreds of thousands of citizens who are utterly dependent on the Gulf of Mexico for their livelihood. The oil spill is affecting fishing, tourism, property values . . . anything and everything connected with the Gulf; yet the Administration wouldn't allow the most suitable and effective technology in the world to be used in the cleanup? And when it finally caved in, it mishandled the deployment in the name of protecting trades unions and their interests?

If I were still living in one of the Gulf states, I'd be buying rope . . .


Now that's a smoke!

The world's fattest cigar has just been unveiled in Honduras. The Austrian Times reports:

This 1,000lbs monster cigar is about to send a world record up in smoke.

Twenty tobacco experts took nearly three weeks to construct the cigar in Danli, Honduras, after being commissioned by a client in America.

At more than a yard thick, and nearly 20ft long it is understood to be made up of more than 11,000 tobacco leaves.

Proud cigar factory owner Libardo Rivera explained: "We think we have set a new world record for the thickest cigar.

"It will go on show in the USA and then we are looking for a museum where it can be kept and preserved in perfect conditions."

That's half a ton of cigar! What was it Rudyard Kipling said? "A woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke." I wonder what he'd have said about this behemoth? It might have made him look upon women more favorably . . .


Friday, June 25, 2010

A psychic octopus???

Now I've heard everything! The BBC reports:

An octopus in a German aquarium who is said to be psychic has predicted the country's football team will knock England out of the World Cup.

When consulted, Paul the octopus chose a mussel from a jar with the German flag on it ahead of one in a similar jar bearing the cross of St George.

The two-year-old cephalopod has a record of predicting past German results in this manner, his owners say.

Paul has so far correctly predicted all of Germany's results in South Africa.

His keepers say he correctly predicted 80% of Germany's results during the 2008 European Championship.

. . .

The octopus, who was born in the UK and was moved to the German aquarium, has become a national celebrity after correctly predicting Germany would beat Australia in their opening match, then lose to Serbia, and then beat Ghana.

His latest prediction was flashed all over the German media.

The container that Paul opens first is said to be his pick for who will win the impending match, keepers say.

There's more at the link.

Here's a video report from Sky News, showing the octopus at work. It may be a bit slow to load, but your patience will be rewarded.

A psychic octopus? Perhaps it's time to update the historical tradition of psychic and occult symbols, and replace the pentacle with a tentacle!