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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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They celebrated Smokey Smith's 90th today. Our only living Victoria's Cross winner. A one man army in the Canadians' war in Italy. Here is a bit of his VC citation,
At a range of thirty feet and having to expose himself to the full view of the enemy, Private Smith fired the P.I.A.T. and hit the tank, putting it out of action. Ten German infantry immediately jumped off the back of the tank and charged him with Schmeissers and grenades. Without hesitation Private Smith moved out on the road and with his Tommy gun at point-blank range, killed four Germans and drove the remainder back. Almost immediately another tank opened fire and more enemy infantry closed in on Smith's position. Obtaining some abandoned Tommy gun magazines from a ditch, he steadfastly held his position, protecting his comrade and fighting the enemy with his Tommy gun until they finally gave up and withdrew in disorder.

One tank and both self-propelled guns had been destroyed by this time, but yet another tank swept the area with fire from a longer range. Private Smith, still showing utter contempt for enemy fire, helped his wounded friend to cover and obtained medical aid for him behind a nearby building. He then returned to his position beside the road to await the possibility of a further enemy attack.
veterans affairs
My own grandfather was not a one man army. He shipped out from a privileged life in Quebec City at the beginning of World War One. Served in the trenches for eight months more or less and then was lucky enough to obtain a Commission in the infant Royal Airforce. Pilot training included a crash which injured him severely enough that his own father took ship across the sub infested Atlantic to help him recuperate.

Then he flew, and how he flew. No he wasn't the Brown who shot down von Richthofen. That was another Canadian. But Captain Frederic Elliott Brown flew well enough to be recognized WWI flying ace with ten kills to his credit. He flew well enough to win the Military Cross, twice, and the Croix de Guerre.

Here is the citiation for the first MC,
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Whilst leading a patrol of five machines, on observing four hostile scouts -diving on one of our formations, he at once engaged them, driving one of them down completely out of control, while his formation dispersed the others. Later, on sighting another hostile scout, he engaged it and forced it down spinning and out of control. While returning to his aerodrome, he observed an enemy two-seater, and, though his engine was running badly and might have failed him any moment, he attacked it and drove it down in a vertical nose dive. Previously to this he had driven down one other machine, which was seen to crash, and a third completely out of control. He is a most daring and skilful pilot." MC citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 April 1918
the areodrome
My Pom was a funny little man in many ways. I remember him as old, he died when I was in my teens, and bearing the round sweet scent of pipe tobacco kept in a worn leather pouch in his tweed jacket pocket. He was quite small, perhaps five eight, with deliberate, almost feminine, gestures.

He'd come back from the war. Many of his friends didn't. So many that Quebec City seemed empty. He moved to Toronto, led a slightly rackety life in the twenties, lost his money in the crash and, with four kids to support, became the secretary of a golf club.

He was too old to fly in the Second War. So he served as a trainer and a recruiter. The medals he'd won served as his introduction to high schools and universities. Every boy, and most girls would recognize the MC with bar.

Like most of the veterans I've had the honour to know, my grandfather was reluctant to talk about his war. Of course, as a kid I had no idea what questions might have broken through his shell. His son-in-law, my father, played a lot of bridge with the man he called "Mr. Brown" to his dying day. He was well under that shell.

At some point, I said something or other remarkably ignorant about WWI. I can't remember what. My dad had a scowl, which my youngest, Max, has as well, which silently expressed his frustration with having to deal with idiots. He scowled, "Jay, every man of them was a hero. Every Canadian, at Vimy, Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele, knew he could be killed that second. They stayed and they fought."

"And, Jay, your Pom flew a canvass and wood airplane into machine guns and ack-ack." Dad’s voice dropped, "Everyday, for over two years."

In a couple of weeks, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we officially remember. We remember the losses; but we should also remember the sheer courage, the grace and the heroism of the men who, day after day, looked at their death square on and did their duty.


Where have we heard this before

Bin Laden also said that Bush's reaction toward the Sept. 11 attacks was slow which gave the hijackers the time they needed to carry out the attacks.

"It never occurred to us that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his citizens in the two towers to face these horrors alone," he said, referring to the number of people who worked at the World Trade Center.

"It appeared to him (Bush) that a little girl's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers. That gave us three times the required time to carry out the operations, thank God," he said. obl, kerlanext
Yup, Micheal Moore could not have said it better...and remember the Fat Bastard was just making it up, OBL is, of course, telling the truth. International mass murderers have a much higher ethical standard than overweight mockumentary makers.


Apparently hiding in a cave for three years does nothing for your appearance: but Osama is back...Not dead..still threatening and sounding as though he got his briefing notes from the Fat Bastard.

Sullivan suggests,
Bummer. I'd hoped he was buried under rubble. What to make of the rant? The parroting of idiotic Michael Moore points was a little pathetic for an alleged spiritual mastermind. And the re-calibration of the rationale for 9/11 - again retroactively talking of Palestinians - was the usual vile opportunism. But why release a tape just before the elections? The obvious impact will be to help Bush. Any reminder of the 9/11 attacks will provoke a national rallying to the commander-in-chief. The deep emotional bond so many of us formed with the president back then is Bush's strongest weapon in this election, and OBL has just revived it. The real October Surprise turned out not to be OBL's capture (sorry, Teresa!) but OBL's resilience. I have a feeling that this will tip the election decisively toward the incumbent.
andrew sullivan
I'm inclined to agree but largely because OBL's video escapade will remind Americans that there is a serious threat to the West, not a nuisance. Johnny Cambodia still has not got a clue and while his pledged to "do whatever it takes", knowing what it takes - and, hint, it is not the French - is key.

With three spinning days left the question is whether OBL's remarks can be spun as actively supporting Kerry in which case I'll revise my prediction of a Bush victory to 5-7% lead in popular vote and 20+ Electoral College votes. But, if it stays neutral my sense is that the American electorate will think again about Kerry and, by a small margin elect Bush.

Bush needs one zinger, one line, which can nail Johnny Cambodia's dithering in the face of terrorism to the cross of OBL's video and he'll be able to go to bed early November 2.


Pumpkin Carving

Take fifty kids of all ages, a bunch of pumpkins and large numbers of sharp objects and you might have a disaster. Or a wonderful community event. I spent the afternoon with Sam carving the world's smallest pumpkin with an exacto knife and good company. A leaf fight followed which ensured that my fatherly duty of bringing Sam home rosy cheeked and covered in mud was discharged. I am actually sick as a dog but I was not going to miss this.

The best of it was that while the parents were there, the hovering parental supervision wasn't. Part of the charm of Galiano is that you don't worry about traffic/child molesters in the way that you do in the city. You keep an eye out; but mostly you let your nearly four year old have as much fun as he possibly can. Which is a lot and a blessing.


Captain Flynn sets Sail

There is nothing better than to see a really bright commentor take the plunge and put up a blog. Simon, who comments here and at the Poltics E-Group and at a variety of other blogs, has taken the plunge. Hoisted the Jolly Blogger at Against All Flags. Pay him a visit. Link him.

The Flu

A day ago the Troll of Ramallahtm had the flu...Yeah, right. It looks like the One Bullet Solution may not be needed after all. Of course, the Troll has been sick before.

Now, one question, who would you want dealing with a post Troll Palestine...Bush or Johnny Cambodia.

Slate for Kerry; but look at the reasons

The boffins at Slate, with a couple of exceptions (who, interestingly enough, are most directly involved in covering the WOT) are all voting for Kerry. But the reasons and the reservations are fascinating.

Virtually all of the Slatesters are voting aginst Bush and, on two run throughs, I could not find a single one who was voting for Kerry. Mostly they are appologetic and apprehensive about voting Kerry.

Now, the folks at Slate are in the thick of day to day policy debates. They breathe the rarified political air of biggish media. It would be astonishing if they were not backing Kerry. But the reluctance, the absence of any real commitment to Kerry suggests to me that Bush is in better shape than I had thought.

If the people pumping out Slate can't find it in themselves to vote for Kerry rather than against Bush, the Democratic campaign will remained stalled among the millions of people who are not nearly so wired.

Notes from a Blog Reader

When Neil Postman insisted that we were entertaining ourselves to death by watching instead of participating, I did not want to believe that democracy was as fragile as an advertisement. The misinformation campaigns are funded by billionaires with more to gain and the means of confronting them are limited to words from individuals who believe that nothing is more powerful than the dual forces of bias declared and bullshit exposed. Only blogs retain the livid democracy of text in a world consumed by the tyranny of image.
Kate baggott, globe and mail

If there is a reason to write a blog it is to fight against a world dominated by the post literate, post typographic, mind. There are real issues which cannot be reduced to a sound bite or a picture. Stepping away from cartoon politics and, with luck, exposing their practitioners, is a key function of blogging.


Billy News

Over at Billy Magazine we are (or to be accurate Sean and Ray from Polspy who actually have a clue are, I am watching) kicking the tires of the content management system. First up, the prototype news aggregator which is displaying the RSS feeds from Polspy, Flea and Let it Bleed.

I'm not there because I am powered(?) by atom. (Update: Gosh it's great working with people who know this stuf...I now have a Feedburner RSS feed. Who knew?)

The interface looks, to quote Sean, butt ugly...that is changing. Wander over, set up an account, kick the tires.


Bush by 3

Over at The Tyee Michael Fellman devoutly wishes for, and predicts, Kerry "by a fair margin". I disagree and commented as follows:
Bush by 3-5% of the popular vote and a minimum of seven electoral votes.

Bush's base can hardly wait to vote for Bush, Kerry's base can hardly wait to vote against Bush. But, and here I think is the key, no one seems to actively want to vote for Kerry.

Political psychology being what it is, negative motivations will certainly get the Dem's base to the polls; but that base is no larger than 40% of the electorate. And directly, but asymmetrically balanced by Bush's. (The asymmetry lies in the fact Kerry's base will rack up huge popular vote victories in a half dozen big states thereby ensuring that the Kerry popular vote is electrically inefficient. Bush will win some big states in close races and rack up big votes in a number of small states which, while wasted, will not have the same effect on the Bush campaign.)

You don't have to be Karl Rove to figure the split on the undecideds. Precious few these people are going to be motivated by a strong anti-Bush sentiment - if they were they would not be undecided, they'd be part of the Dem's base. They are going to be people who want to vote for something and there is where, bumbling as the man is, Bush offers something and Kerry's campaign - with a thousand nuanced plans - does not.

Bush has reduced the election to a referendum on a simple question - which man will do everything in his power to ensure the security of the United States. And the polling suggests that when the message is that simple, Bush out performs Kerry. Significantly.

It is difficult to recall a more inept candidate than Johnny Cambodia. The topper came when the poor man referred to terrorism as a nuisance. (And yes, I know that is not precisely what he said; but that was the tag line that stuck.) He was sunk the moment he threw his chest out and - trying to project an aura of competence in national security - saluted and announced he was reporting for duty.

The left in the States already know this. They are hoping the election will be close enough that the pre-emptive whine about election fraud will gain some traction. They are hoping that having 2000 lawyers ready to challenge chads and voter registration and whatever else comes up will overcome the single most imposing deficit in the Dems campaign: John Kerry.

I rather doubt letting lose the dogs of law will work because I don't think it will be that close.
The one thing I do hope is that whichever candidate wins, wins by a large margin which in this race is 5% and half a dozen electoral college votes.

It's Only Castles Burning

Technological change has always had profound social consequences, but few inventions in history have caused more political and cultural change than movable type printing. Before Gutenberg, "truth" and "history" were largely properties of the Christian Church (and there was only one Christian Church, then).

Movable type printing took away control over "the truth" from the Church and placed it in the hands of a secular elite.

Now the Internet is taking away that secular elite's control over "the truth" and giving it to the broad populus.

That's the connection. Everything you listed is a side effect of that fundamental change.
steve den beste at pressthink
Politically, in Canada, we are about five years behind our American friends in using the internet to demolish the MSM monopoly. But on the internet that can be caught up pretty quick.