Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Old Fashioned Blogging

In the dark ages before computers, people actually wrote on paper with pen and ink. Most journals were probably just diaries that nobody but their author ever read. The nice thing about such a journal is that paper survives power outages, hard drive crashes and sorts of other catastrophes that affect digital words. Sure, a notebook can be lost in a fire, but it takes a heck of a fire to actually burn a book up completely. Try it sometime; you'll be surprised at how long a book can be in a fire and still be readable. Only if it's closed tightly, though.

After meaning to do it for most of my 40 years, I've decided to finally try to keep a journal or diary and towards that end I have discovered Moleskine notebooks. I chose one of these rather than a cheaper made in China alternative, partially because I don't want to buy any more from China than I have to and partially because I don't expect to get any sort of quality out of any thing mass produced in China.

I did find a funny article talking about the proper pronunciation of the name. I think it really doesn't matter what you call it.

Why did I finally decide to get started on this after so long? I read an article in Tin House magazine about a fellow by the name of Lee Meriwether. As a young man he went to Europe on a shoestring budget and wrote about it in a book called A Tramp Trip: How to See Europe on Fifty Cents a Day. Besides the fact that Mr. Meriwether was such an interesting person throughout his entire life, his travel journal is simply interesting. It shows how interesting a simple daily report of events can be over a century later. Hopefully someone will be interested to read my journals someday.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Lesson of Vietnam

The other day I was driving to work listening to some reporters on the radio talking about Iraq. Of course the usual subjects were being covered: The false pretenses for the war; Washington politics; The costs of the war; The comparisons with the Vietnam War. It was that last one that put me into a white-hot anger, and that is why I am writing this a couple of weeks later because I didn't want to write mad.

The particular point that angered me was that one of the speakers was opining about what event might be analogous to Vietnam's Tet Offensive as the point at which the war became unwinnable. Let me be very clear: The Tet Offensive was the moment in Vietnam when the media lost the Vietnam war. Despite how it is remembered, the Tet Offensive was one of the most spectacular military victories in American history which was squandered away as a lost opportunity.

Tet, or Tết Nguyên Đán, "is the is the most important and popular and festival in Vietnam". The Tet Offensive was timed to start on the night of January 30-31, 1968. Due to the importance of this holiday, it was believed that the chances for any significant NVA or VC attacks during this time were minute, so much of ARVN was on leave and even U.S. military forces were at a low level of alert. The attacks were a total surprise as earlier hints of the attacks were dismissed by intelligence agencies as disinformation. Despite this, within only a few days, most of the attacks had been repulsed and the North suffered heavy losses.

By the end of the offensive, the VC was all but obliterated. Formerly secret operatives had exposed themselves during the attack and were then captured or killed. The NVA also suffered heavy losses. Some sources quote northern losses at nearly fifty times that of American losses. All military parts of the planned offensive failed. Even the hot spots at Hue and Khe Sanh were finished a few weeks after the offensive started.

The North's plans included a general uprising by the population which never occurred. According to several captured VC commanders, most mid-level VC commanders didn't expect any uprising in their area to occur, but they said nothing and followed through with the plan on hopes that it would occur in someone else's area. Apparently the North was blinded by its own communist ideology. I'm sure the widespread atrocities committed by the North did nothing to help foment this expected rebellion.

The true genius of General Giap wasn't his military plan, but rather his shrewd reckoning that a major attack would sway American public opinion against the war. He may have been more successful in this than he expected as he received a huge help in this way from Walter Cronkite and his "Cronkite Moment" when Mr. Cronkite declared the war unwinnable and stated that America must leave Vietnam. I belive Mr. Cronkite owes me and every other American an apology. I grew up in the 1970s thinking that the Tet Offensive was a huge military defeat for U.S. and allied forces until I became interested in history just before my teenage years and eventually learned the truth about Tet.

And now we have reporters looking for an Iraqi Tet, or perhaps more accurately, an Iraqi "Cronkite Moment". All we hear from the media is how horrible it is that America is in Iraq. We hear terms such as "civil war", yet the Iraqi coalition government is still in place with all major Iraqi ethnicities participating. We hear that American forces are taking a beating in Iraq despite the fact that we have never lost an engagement that involves a unit of platoon size or larger. We hear about every bad thing that a soldier does, but we seldom hear of how any American soldier has helped or befriended anyone.

And what about those the U.S. is fighting? Christians are terrorized routinely all over the muslim world, insurgents behead children, insurgents have children beheading people, all in the name of Allah. Where is the media outrage over these sorts of events? These are not the sort of people you can have a dialogue with. These people simply have to be killed because they are a threat to everyone.

The media needs to stop trying to teach what they believe is the lesson of Vietnam, and learn the real lesson themselves. That lesson is that they are the ones who lost the war and they are trying very hard to do it again.

Give 'Em Surrender Harry Finds His Tet Offensive
Is 'Cronkite Moment' Just a Media Myth?
The Tet Offensive at Wikipedia
The Tet Offensive at Digger History
The Tet Offensive at Ashbrook Center
More About the 1968 Tet Offensive
The Tet Offensive at Vets With a Mission

Monday, February 12, 2007


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." -- Upton Sinclair

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

College Sports is Entertainment, Not Academics

On the way to work today, I heard an editorial by Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated. He explains that worrying about money spent on college sports was pointless because it's not going to stop. The better way to look at college sports is that they are entertainment, not academics and should all be moved to a new Department of Entertainment.

I couldn't agree more. College sports are big money entertainment and have nothing to do with academics. Certainly they have money spent on them well beyond their intrinsic value, but it's unclear if this money really takes away from what is available for academia. It may, but then again, it's quite possible that such money would only go to some other form of big entertainment if big name college sports didn't exist. If the commercial sports entertainment programs at colleges were distanced from academia, it might be possible for academic budgets to operate without any question of effect from sports.

The World is Insane

How can we ever have a rational, safe, functional world when, in the 21st century, people are murdered for practicing sorcery? And how is it that some people seem to think that a tortured confession is worth something?