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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why the American Military Wins Wars

Some of these quotes came out of an active service Army Ranger's notebook. He says he carries them around to remind him how Americans fight wars.  I added a couple of others I found. On this Memorial Day I pledge these brave guys the full measure of my support.

"The reason the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices it on a daily basis." - from a post-war debriefing of a German General

"One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine..." - From a Soviet Junior Lt's Notebook

"Never fight the Americans without nuclear weapons." - Indian Army General after the First Gulf War

"I explained to my soldiers that they should not fear the American soldiers. If the Americans wanted to kill us, I said, we would already be dead. The Americans just wanted to take away our ability to fight."  - Iraqi officer after first Gulf War

"I always told my soldiers not to fear the treatment by Americans. Americans are very logical people; if you are good to the Americans, they will be good to you. Americans are very different than Arabs. WE know that the Saudis or the Kuwaitis will beat us and hate us because we are Iraqis."  - Iraqi officer

One of the (Patton's) Third Army's greatest assets was American ingenuity. American soldiers were creating new instruments of war on the spot to overcome new problems encountered day after day.

Third Army had an excellent command structure. Each level of command had a special job and each did the best job they could. The planners who told the soldiers what to do also made every effort to help them do it.  - Charles M. Province

"Liberated a day earlier by American soldiers, he remembers their rage at what they saw. And even if he lives to be a very old man, he will always be grateful to them for that rage, and also for their compassion. Though he did not understand their language, their eyes told him what he needed to know -- that they, too, would remember, and bear witness." - Elie Wiesel

"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." - Isoroku Yamamoto

"Always use a piledriver to crack a nut. The piledriver doesn't take much damage, and the nut stays cracked." -- USMC maxim

" imperfect plan implemented immediately and violently will always succeed better than a perfect plan." -- Gen. George S. Patton

"In my experience, the most useful command that can ever be given by a junior officer is "Carry on Sergant" -- 2 Lt. Andrew Moffatt-Vallance

"Most armies are in fact run by their sergeants -- the officers are there just to give things a bit of tone and prevent warfare becoming a mere lower-class brawl." -- Terry Pratchett

"The Third Army gave a new meaning to fluid warfare. The Third had only one general order from Patton; "Seek out the enemy, trap him, and destroy him." The Germans never knew what to expect from Patton. His methods of operation were very different from British General Montgomery and the more conventional American generals. Patton's Third Army tore open the German lines of defense and trapped thousands of German soldiers. Most of them were either killed or they surrendered. The history of the Third Army is a story of constant attack. They drove on in fair weather or foul, across favorable terrain or across mud, ice, and snow." - Charles M. Province

"U.S. trainers often experience frustration obtaining a decision from an Arab counterpart, not realizing that the Arab officer lacks the authority to make the decision - a frustration amplified by the Arab’s understandable reluctance to admit that he lacks that authority. This author has several times seen decisions that could have been made at the battalion level concerning such matters as class meeting times and locations referred for approval to the ministry of defense. All of which has led American trainers to develop a rule of thumb: a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army has as much authority as a colonel in an Arab army." -- Norvell B. De Atkine 

"We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last 100 years and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in." - Secretary of State Colin Powell
"The United States military is now evolving geometrically as it gains experience from near-constant fighting and grafts new technology daily. Indeed, it seems to be doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling its lethality every few years. And the result is that we are outdistancing not merely the capabilities of our enemies but our allies as well - many of whom who have not fought in decades - at such a dizzying pace that our sheer destructive power makes it hard to work with others in joint operations." -- Victor Davis Hanson

"Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it were some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshipping their Commandant almost as if he were a god, and making weird animal noises like a band of savages. They'll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockest sons of bitches I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man's normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, the United States Marines I've come in contact with are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have ever had the pleasure to meet." -- An Anonymous Canadian Citizen

"There is one tactical principal which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wounds, death and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time." -- General George S. Patton Jr.

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." -- George Washington 1790

"We're paratroopers. We're supposed to be surrounded." -- Lt. Richard “Dick” Winters, Easy Company 

"You know the world is going to Hell when your last "honorable" enemies were the Nazis" -- Uncle Bob

"To most Iraqis, the Iraqi police and soldiers are now seen as the good guys, and the terrorists as the bad guys. The Americans are a bunch of foreigners who help out the good guys and give out candy to the kids." - Unknown soldier

"It is worth remembering too that in the reconstruction of Japan there were no insurgents, no Japanese roadside bombs killing our soldiers. One reason is that the United States had shown, in the clearest possible terms, our willingness to wage total war against our enemies. Our military strategists in Iraq could learn from those who, sixty years ago, decided to spare no means in bringing the Japanese nation to its knees." -- Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute 

"The word "martyr" is just another name for "crappy fighter" - Unknown sergeant

"The easy way to tell the true power of an army is to see how much authority and power it gives to its sergeants. The more they are trusted and the more authority they have, the better the army and the more dangerous it will be in war." - US Army officer (name withheld because he wanted to someday be promoted to general)

"The United States started to go downhill when its military changed (ammunition) from a round designed to kill the enemies of America to one designed to piss them off." -- John Ringo

To our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and other military and veterans, we thank you and honor your sacrifice on our behalf.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rednecks in Space - The Next Milestone in Commercial Spaceflight?

Dragon X docking with the ISS
Commercial spaceflight marked a new first this week when the Dragon X capsule docked with the International Space Station and unloaded a half ton of groceries and stuff.  It cost less to launch than a similar NASA or Russian designed space hauler, is recoverable and can be made into a crew carrier to replace the shuttle in just another year or so. 

There is even a project going with Space X and Bigelow Aerospace to launch an inflatable space hotel in low Earth Orbit.  How cool is that?. Meanwhile Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic are experimenting with piggy-back launch vehicles and both airstrip and tail first landings. California's XCOR has cut Branson's per passenger ticket price by half alread as competition pushes the development of commercial spaceflight forward at breath-taking pace. And despite the nay-sayers, there appears to be plenty of room for everybody in the market.

I figure after the first manned commercial orbital mission, the next milestone will be when we see this....

Not sure whether it'll be Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the controls, but I'm a Ford guy, so it'll depend on they sponsor as to who I root for.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Politics, Organizational Management and The Brazil Nut Effect

© 2012 by Tom King
License: some rights reserved by Melchior

There is an odd phenomenon to be found in a bowl of mixed nuts called the Brazil nut effect. Some unknown physical property of a bowl of nuts makes big nuts rise to the surface and smaller ones to sink. What does that have to do with organizational management, politics and practically any endeavor involving groups of people? I’m glad you asked.

Any time you collect a large group of people, leaders of men (and women) are faced with a curious phenomenon. It always seems, in any crowd, that the more, shall we say, “colorful” characters in the group tend to vie for a place at the crowd’s center.

When I was in college, the president of the college hosted a beautiful testimony service one fine Sabbath afternoon. Dozens of students and visitors took turns standing up front describing how God had blessed them in one way or another. I noticed a slight disturbance down front as Elder L., the college president got up to close the meeting.

It was Erma (not her real name)!

Erma was an odd little woman who wandered around town in her own private world conducting some business none of us could ever quite figure out. She dressed in bag lady clothes and sometimes pushed a little cart. I think she lived with her elderly mother. She was quite religious and attended church every week which often led to incidents like this one.

Erma insisted she be allowed to testify! She had a message for the congregation of 2,000 some odd college students and local families. Elder L. looked pale, but he was also a very kind-hearted man and couldn’t say, “No,” to her without being mean about it.

Erma mounted the stage, and took her place behind the mike. Stand there in her faded brown dress with her long stringy hair, grandma boots and wild eyes, she solemnly announced, “I know what’s wrong with me.”

The audience drew its collective breath. You could hear it – a kind of choral gasp.

Erma proceeded to explain that for years she’s had this terrible problem and she finally had figured out what caused it.

“It was spices!” she said in deadly earnest scanning the auditorium with a stern gaze. The crowd was holding it’s breath.

“They make me sexy!”

The place erupted in what can only be described as a choral snort. The noise of 2000 people trying their best not to laugh is excruciating. The student body president nearly fell off his pew. He buried his head in his jacket and began to shake violently, emitting pathetic little hooting noises.

The reverant atmosphere that had earlier pervaded the meeting now shattered, Elder L. thanked her politely for her words and a couple of deacons gently helped her down off the rostrum and guided her to her seat. Elder L.'s closing prayer for God to give us all strength was completely heartfelt and shared by the entire congregation..

You may have noticed at parties or get-togethers that if you set out a bowl of mixed nuts and shake it a few times, pretty soon the Brazil nuts all seem to be sitting atop the pile. No one really knows why, but if you pile up any assortment of things of varying sizes, be they nuts, nails or dirt and rocks, the big stuff in the mix always rises to the top. That seems counter-intuitive because big things are usually heavier than smaller things and you would think they would sink to the bottom. No one has yet quite demonstrated why, rather than sinking to the bottom, Brazil nuts, big brass buttons, Doritos or boulders gradually work their way to the top of the heap.

License: Some rights reserved by s58y
It’s why, for no matter how many centuries the Irish have tilled their fields relentlessly removing literally tons of rocks over the generations, new stones keep popping up out of the dirt every year. It’s why you reach into a bowl of mixed nuts and always lay hands on the Brazil nuts first. If you come later, there's only peanuts and filberts at the bottom. No one’s ever successfully explained why this is so.

I think that the Brazil nut effect must also apply to groups of people. I do notice that the people with the most “gravity”, the obnoxious, overbearing or embarrassing among us don’t sink out of sight in groups. They tend to rise to the top and dominate the proceedings.The biggest, most "colorful" or the most seriously mentally disturbed individuals in any nation's political ruling class seem to inevitably rise to the top spot. Look at the glorious collection of megalomaniacs, eccentrics and downright lunatics that have dominated the top spots in government after government. The Brazil Nuts of history stick out like big old sore thumbs - Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, Nero, Caligula, Nebuchadnezzar (who spent seven years crawling around in a field eating grass), Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and King George III to name a few of the more spectacular individuals. There were also some decent sorts of larger-than-life individuals who also set their mark upon history; gentlemen like the great George Washington, eccentrics like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, odd-ducks like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt and unlikely characters like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Ghandi.

Jesus said, the meek (that's the small unobtrusive nuts) will inherit the earth. Does that mean the big old Brazil nuts among us will be left behind - plucked from the top of the bowl and cast aside?

Perhaps, so, though I don't think every Big Nut will necessarily be winnowed from amongst the chosen. God seems to like colorful characters. He picked an awful lot of unusually colorful  men and women for his service over the centuries. The disciples were rag-tag lot of hard-living rough-talking fishermen, terrorists and tax-collecters. God may, however, hone the bigger of us nuts down to size in order to insure the peace and safety of the New Earth. If that's the case, I suspect that the Good Lord will need to work me over with a rasp to whittle my ego down to proper size.
Living in hope,

Tom King  
UPDATE 2016:  Once again the principle is demonstrated that, if you shake a bowl of mixed nuts, the biggest nuts will always rise to the top. Given that "The Donald" is leading the 2016 Republican presidential race and that the Dems can't make up their minds whether to go with Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, it seems that the Brazil Nut Effect is still influencing American Politics.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Music Returns to My House

It's been a rough week for us, but sometimes after the storm, the birds sing. I heard my sweetie singing downstairs as she's been cleaning. The disease she's fighting is cruel and one of the things it took from her these past few years is her music. When I heard here sweet voice singing our old lullabies and folk songs, I had one of those misty moments guys aren't supposed to get. Pretty soon we were singing the songs together and when she sings with me, it makes me sound so much better.

She has a beautiful voice and perfect pitch.  I have a weak voice and require the use of a bushel basket to carry any kind of a tune. My choir director at Valley Grande stood me between a strong bass and a baritone hoping they would influence me in the direction of the tune. Oh, I wanted to sing in the worst way, but I soon realized I just didn't get the gift.  Mr. LeBard let me in the choir, I think, mostly because he hoped I'd be a good influence on the bass section.

Sheila and I couldn't remember some of the old tunes, so I looked a few of them up as I was sitting at the computer. Then I dug out a few tunes on Youtube. After a while I fired up my favorite music machine - Pandora.  Now this isn't exactly a commercial for Pandora, but whoever came up with the idea for is a genius. I don't listen to the radio anymore. I literally cannot find a station I like.

With Pandora you can build a personalized radio station around a favorite genre, a favorite artist or even a favorite song.  To give you an idea, the station I'm listening to has the following search criteria:  The Roy Rogers song, "Happy Trails", "Pearly Shells" by Burl Ives, "Aloha Oe", and Danny Kaye. What's come up is everything from Sons of the Pioneers to several beautiful Hawaiian slack guitar pieces, some country folk pieces, Glenn Miller's "In the Mood", a Jimmy Durante piece and a duet with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.  If stuff comes up I don't like, I hit the "thumbs down" button and it jumps to the next song and learns what I like and dislike. If I want to hear something again on that station, I hit the "thumbs up" button and it will show up again in the mix.

Earlier, I was listening to a video of Doc and Festus from "Gunsmoke" talking philosophy.  Doc said, "A man only gets three things in his life if he's lucky, a good horse, a good dog and a good woman."

I'm lucky, I've had all three.  I rode a beautiful little red quarter horse named Cinammon for two years when I started the Odyssey Harbor Equestrian program for emotionally disturbed kids. She and I learned to ride together. I hated leaving her behind when I left Odyssey Harbor. She was a great horse.

I cut several miles of new riding trails back through the woods on her back. I'd cut limbs with a machete, like a cavalry officer swinging a sword.  She never jumped or reared. She'd have been a great war horse. She was half-broke when we got her. I read a book on horse training and as I learned she did. She was a very forgiving animal.
Me and Daisy
My dog, Daisy, is with us now. She was a gift from God and the best dog I've ever had. She practically house-broke herself. She's obedient and she's the only one in the house that believes that I am the alpha dog around here. I just hard down love this dog.

She and I walk 3 to 5 miles a day. She is the first dog I've ever had that enjoys playing fetch. Sometimes, I think she understands English. She's fiercely loyal, protective of us and has very sharp teeth and a bite so powerful, she reduces bones and hard rawhide chew treats to flinders in a matter of minutes. She loves everybody (except UPS guys and the postman). She has a fan club among the kids in the neighborhood and never met a person she didn't like if they'd scratch her behind her ears.

As to the good woman, I've been married to her for 38 years and counting and as she came through a couple of minutes ago, I swept her up in my arms and twirled her around the floor while Jimmy Durante sang "I'll Be Seeing You".

It was just a moment, but life is good because of those moments.  The vacuum cleaner is going again and my sweetie is making the place smell good.  Louis Armstrong is singing "La Vie En Rose" on Pandora and my good dog Daisy is scratching my leg to tell me she needs to go outside.

I think maybe a man needs a good radio station too and that's pretty much it.  My life is complete, I guess.

Thanks Pandora, Daisy, Sheila and Cinnamon....