Tuesday, June 28, 2011

History You Might Have Missed

The commander of the carrier group had decided to attack on Sunday morning because he knew that the officers slept late at Pearl Harbor. He had been running with no lights and in radio silence in heavy seas. Before sunup he launched 152 planes from his carriers.

About an hour later, they appeared in the sunny skies over Pearl Harbor, dropping 20 tons of bombs on the airfields and anchored ships while the fighter planes strafed the airfields destroying the planes on the ground. Not a single fighter got off the ground to defend against the attackers.

Twenty-four hours later, the carriers had still not been located by the defenders. It was a rout for the attackers. The defenders later tried to claim that they had hit 45 of the attacking planes with anti-aircraft fire, which they had not.

In typical government fashion, a report was filed on the incident stating: "...it is doubtful if air attacks can be launched against Oahu in the face of strong defensive aviation without subjecting the attacking carriers to the danger of material damage and consequent great losses in the attack air force."

Japanese agents apparently didn't agree with the navy report and forwarded a report of their own to Tokyo regarding Admiral Harry Ervin Yarnell's February 7, 1932 attack. Nine years later, the Japanese proved that an air attack could be launched against Oahu with real bombs (instead of flour sacks), real torpedoes and bullets. Yarnell had shown the way, but was ignored because the Navy was dominated by battleship admirals.

If you don't remember spending much time studying about Admiral Yarnell, don't feel left out, I don't remember any mention of him either. The first mention I ever saw of him was in a book called Pearl Harbor: The Story of The Secret War by George Morgenstern.

If you went to school recently, surely your civics or political science class would have spent quite a bit of time studying Operation Northwoods, but in case the details are a little murky here's a brief thumbnail outline.

Operation Northwoods was a plan to cook up a pretext for starting a war with Cuba. As stated on the face of the document:

Subject: Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (TS)

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the attached Memorandum for the Chief of Operations, Cuba Project, which responds to a request of that office for brief but precise description of pretexts which would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.

Further on:

5....World opinion, and the United Nations forum should be favorably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere.

(Three follows five because the numbering sequence changes between pages. See PDF at link above)

3. This plan, incorporating projects selected from the attached suggestions, or from other sources, should be developed to focus all efforts on a specific ultimate objective which would provide adequate justification for US military intervention. Such a plan would enable a logical build-up of incidents to be combined with other seemingly unrelated events to camouflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and irresponsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries as well as the United States....this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.

The plan goes on to describe several scenarios in the government's bag of tricks, such as having friendly Cubans in uniform stage an attack on Guantanamo, start rumors using clandestine radio, capture Cuban saboteurs (friendly) inside the base, start riots near base main gate (friendly Cubans), sabotage ship in harbor, sink ship near harbor entrance and conduct funerals for mock victims.

One that I really like because it harkens back to another war is:

3. A "Remember the Maine" incident could be arranged in several forms:
a. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba
b. We could blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel anywhere in Cuban waters. . . . .The US would follow up with an air/sea operation covered by US fighters to "evacuate" remaining members of the non-existent crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.

The ever imaginative public servants thought of several more provocations such as sinking a boatload of Cubans (real or imagined) enroute to Florida and shooting Cuban refugees in Florida. Another one that the Dominicans probably wouldn't like was burning the cane crops in the Dominican Republic with Soviet Bloc incendiaries from planes made to look like Cuban aircraft and "intercepting" arms shipments to Communists in the Dominican Republic.

Probably the most ambitious plan was blowing up a passenger plane (drone) loaded with "students" and recovering debris off Cuba. The plane would send mayday signals before being blown up to make it seem more legitimate.

If you were in school prior to 1998, you wouldn't have studied this since it was classified until November 1997, but I'm sure they spend several hours going over this in government-run day prisons today. The next time you hear that some rogue nation is picking on poor little Uncle Sam, print out a copy of Operation Northwoods and read it. Keep it handy as a refresher course in government marketing of its programs.

Operation Northwoods was never implemented because John Kennedy apparently would not approve it, but how many similar plans have been approved and implemented?

If a 1960s version of Daniel Ellsberg or Bradley Manning had exposed Operation Northwoods to the public, would he have been a hero or a villain?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homosexual "Marriage"

The upcoming race for president has reignited interest in homosexual marriage. Some think that marriage is a subject for government regulation while others think that it is strictly a religious matter and government should have no more say in the matter than it does in baptism or confession.

People have started speaking of "traditional marriage" as though there is some other kind. This is akin to speaking of "traditional arithmetic" or physics or biology. If the federal government is to have any power over marriage, it seems to me that it can be specified that for tax purposes a marriage is a union between one man and one woman; there is no need for any kind of amendment and none is desirable. It makes no sense to try to amend the constitution to cure all social ills.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to anybody - if it has, I haven't heard about it - that the battle to preserve heterosexual marriage was lost eighty-one years ago at the Lambeth Conference. At that conference in 1930, the Anglican church approved the use of artificial contraception, thus being the first Christian denomination in almost 2000 years to do so.

Here is the 1930 resolution. Link

Resolutions from 1930

Resolution 15
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.
Voting: For 193; Against 67.

By 1958 any reservations about birth control were gone. Resolution 115 made it strictly a matter of conscience. What this has to do with homosexual relations might not be so clear to modern people since there are very few if any that remember the events of 1930. The import of this is that it made sterile sexual activity. or "Onanism" acceptable and eventually the norm. Once this is the case, what (other than aesthetics) are the arguments against homosexual activity? If heterosexuals can engage in sterile sex, why not homosexuals?

Attempting to suppress homosexual unions and abortion while ignoring the taproot of the problem is like trying to put out a fire that has an inexhaustible supply of fuel and oxygen by lighting back-fires or spraying water on it. Cut off the fuel source and the fire will take care of itself.

Many in the pro-life industry try to fight abortion without ever mentioning contraception. The few groups that do bring up contraception are probably genuine, while many of the others are probably worried that if abortion is ever ended, they'll have to look for another job.

Several years ago, a woman I know who is very smart and opinionated was yapping at me about the dangers of homosexual marriage and how we had to fight it, blah, blah, blah. In order to shut her up I told her that "as long as you have contraception you're going to have homosexual marriage." I wasn't expecting her to agree, but she stopped abruptly and took on a very shocked look and said, "You're right."

I don't know what the remedy is since Protestants - other than a very few - have accepted contraception as though it were approved from Mt. Sinai, and most Catholic priests never mention it because they don't want any trouble. In a few instances, I have heard of priests being told by their bishops to stop preaching on the subject because they get too many complaints.

Passing laws is not the answer. The Catholic Church did not conquer and absorb the Roman Empire by passing laws. It is true that by the time of Theodosius the Church was in a privileged position, but this was after a long struggle against persecution. A step in the right direction would be to abolish any licensing requirements for marriage and return it to a strictly religious/sacramental institution.

C.S. Lewis suggested somewhere that there should be two kinds of marriage, a religious  one and a secular one. If you want to have your marriage witnessed by the clergy you could do so, and if you wanted to be "married" by the government you could do that too, but the Church would not require a marriage license to perform the ceremony.

The old saying that "You can't fool Mother Nature" keeps showing its validity all the time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Colt 1911 Turns 100

March 29, 2011 marked the hundredth anniversary of the adoption of the Colt 1911 .45 Auto pistol as the official sidearm of the U.S. Army. This might not seem significant except that it would be hard to find any other mechanical contrivance that has been around for 100 years without significant alterations. John Browning first patented a similar gun in 1897, later producing a 1905 model that fired the ".45  Rimless Smokeless" cartridge.

The government bought about 400 of these and Colt kept refining the design until it became the 1911 of today and a hundred years ago. Browning had the good sense to license his patents instead of selling them outright as he had done with Winchester.

There have been many new designs in operation, but most never caught on. Remington produced a semi-auto pocket pistol designed by John Pedersen that was a fine design, but died during the depression. John Browning once told Maj. Gen. Julian Hatcher (of Hatcher's Notebook fame) that Pedersen "was the greatest gun designer in the world." High praise indeed, but most gun fanciers today, if they know anything about him at all, it's for his invention of the "Pedersen Device", that turned a bolt action Springfield into a semi-auto. Browning's design pretty much rendered obsolete knee type "toggle" actions such as the Luger and Borchardt designs used or the sliding bolt of the Mauser "Broomhandle" of 1896. There were also attempts at innovation that make you wonder what the designer was trying to accomplish, such as the L.E.S. P18 gas delay action. There was also the MBA Gyrojet, but it at least has the excuse of firing a rocket projectile instead of a conventional metallic cartridge.

Although a revolver and not a semi-auto, the Dardick pistol with its "trounds" was another weird "innovation."
Webley and Scott sold a so-called "automatic revolver" called the Webley-Fosbery in .455 Webley and .38 A.C.P.. from 1901 to 1915, but it would probably not have lasted even without competition from Browning designs because it was heavy, complicated and prone to stoppages.

Something that probably will eventually revolutionize semi-autos was marketed for a short time in the '60s by Daisy as the .22 VL (Van Langenhoven) and fired a caseless .22 round. It does away with the problem of ejecting the empty case, but it has drawbacks also, such as fragility and not protecting the powder. These drawbacks will probably be overcome eventually. Years ago, I read that the VL was killed by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms because Daisy did not have a license to produce firearms, but only air guns and BB guns. Since the powder charge was ignited by compressed air and not by a conventional primer, it was contended that it wasn't a firearm. This may be a lot of malarkey, but it has the ring of truth.

One of the reasons for the 1911's longevity is that it is about as reliable as any machine can be made and it has good stopping power for a handgun. In one of the tests it was subjected to before adoption, it was fired 6000 rounds without a malfunction. During the war in the Philippines, it was found that many of the Moros could not be stopped effectively with the .38 Long Colt, so the Army brought some old .45 Single Actions out of mothballs to serve the purpose. After the war, the War Department commissioned some tests that were conducted by Col. John Taliaferro Thompson and Major Louis Anatole LaGarde which involved shooting cadavers and measuring the arc of the swing - they were suspended by a rope - caused by bullet impact. Cattle were also shot by various calibers and the length of time it took to kill the animals was recorded. As might be expected, the tests concluded that bigger bullets worked better than small ones. These tests are usually referred to as the Thompson-LaGarde Tests. About 20 years ago, I tried to get my hands on a copy, but could never find it even after enlisting the help of the Library of Congress. Louis LaGarde wrote a book called Gunshot Injuries, in which he describes some of the conclusions, but doesn't reproduce the full text. Similar tests were done in France in the 1880s and perhaps elsewhere.

If you tried to run a race with an engine designed in 1911 against modern engines, you wouldn't win too many races, but you can still win combat matches using the hundred-year-old Colt. Most of the refinements have to do with "improving" (and not always improving) the existing parts, such as extended safeties and slide releases , beaver-tail grip safeties, different hammers, ambidextrous safeties. better sights, better grips, beveled magazine wells, polishing various parts and enlarging the ejection port. The gun is still so popular after 100 years that many companies offer them in versions already "tricked out." None of this has anything to do with the basic design of the gun; it's as though you bought a car and put some custom wheels, driving lights, great sound system, different gear ratio, etc.on it. You still have the same mechanical arrangement that you started out with. This is a great gun, but it is not to say that you should rush out and buy one if you are not a shooter.

If you want a gun just for protection, you don't need anything all that great; just something reliable that you can shoot passably well. I hate to see non-shooters buy semi-autos. Most people would do better to buy a serviceable revolver in .38 Special such as a Charter Arms or Iver Johnson, or if you really want to get extravagant; a Smith & Wesson or Colt. The best gun to have is one that you'll have with you.

Somebody once wrote to Jeff Cooper with the question, what would he rather have in a gunfight; a .25 ACP or a .32? Neither is what anybody would want in a crisis, but Cooper answered, "The first one I can get my hands on."  There are some pretty good small revolvers in large calibers, such as the .44 Bulldog, made by Charter Arms. I had one of these and it was fine for its purpose, but isn't what you would call and enthusiast's gun.

A Military 1911 Manufactured by Remington UMC
Over the years, lots of companies have manufactured the 1911 and 1911 A1s, Colt's, Springfield Armory, North American Arms of Canada, Remington UMC, Singer Sewing Machine, Union Switch & Signal Co., Remington Rand, Ithaca and many more. If guns are still using metallic cartridges in 100 years, I think the 1911 will still be around and in use then.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vatican Sold

Mendax News Service

Word has leaked out recently from confidential sources that a deal is being finalized on the sale of the Vatican and all its buildings, artworks, real estate, vehicles, office equipment and all other real property.

The deal is expected to bring in several billion euros with which the Church can help the poor for several years and still have money to build a modest facility in the Australian Outback.

Wild rumors have circulated that the buyer is Gates, Buffet, Slim, Trump, or even a member of the Saudi royal family. It has been learned from informed sources that a prominent architectural firm has been hired to explore the feasibility of converting St. Peter's Basilica into a mosque or synagogue: hence the Saudi connection.

Supposedly,  the plan is to keep all the property intact, but turn it into a private theme park that would generate billions of euros per year on admission to the various museums, libraries and former churches. The various cemeteries in the catechombs would remain as would those in the churches, but St. Peter's tomb would probably be moved to the new headquarters in the Outback.

There is fear that if the sale is to a Muslim that he will destroy all the artworks in a recrudescence of iconoclasm, but if to a Jew; all the Christian themes will be destroyed or sold. Once the deal is consummated, it is believed that any prior restrictions will be unenforceable, so it is being urged that the property be kept in Christian hands.

Vatican spokesmen have denied any impending sale, but a long-time Vatican watcher at Radio Roma tells Mendax that the Church has finally decided to heed the advice of those who have said for years that the church should sell off Her property and help the poor. Civic officials in Rome worry that tourism will suffer if visitors to the Vatican have to pay to visit all the historic sites. Insurance companies are licking their chops because the Church has never insured any of the artwork for more than one euro, whereas they are sure that a private collector will want to insure the works for full value and charge accordingly.

Critics are complaining that the Church is thinking only of money and should keep and maintain all the artworks for the enjoyment of everybody without charge. It is feared that if the sale goes through, only the wealthy will be able to afford to see more than a small fraction of the "collection" as it is being now called.

Charles Hitcher, a constant critic of the Church and religion in general has said the deal shows that the church "maintains a meretricious relationship with the wealthy and cares nothing for the poor." When reminded that most of the money from the sale would go to help the poor he countered that, "the poor you will always have with you." Hitcher claims that the money from the sale will soon be spent and the fantastic artworks and buildings will be in private hands and will be sold off piecemeal. Others have said that the property is not the Church's to sell, but the common patrimony of all mankind that it is the Church's responsibility to maintain and make available to all without charge.

One visitor leaving the Sistine Chapel was asked his thoughts on the possible sale of the Vatican. He told Mendax that it isn't right for the Church to sell any of its property because people didn't donate it just so it could be sold later. "I'm like, thinking that it's really sad that the Church is so mercenary. Why can't they keep this stuff and make it available for everybody? Why is it that they always think only of money? I think they should be like, prohibited from selling any of this stuff." he said. Another visitor leaving St. Peter's said she thought "it's typical of organized religion that all they think about is money. All the money they get from the sale will be used up very quickly and we won't get to see any of this stuff without paying; it's just not right. The Catholic church is so greedy."