Tuesday, May 31, 2011

With Thanks To Our (Almost) Nameless Site Pest

The stats counter for this blog informs me that we have just hit a new monthly high in the number of hits.

And the difference was entirely made by Rick Martinez, AKA Rodan, the one and only, the individual who keeps spamming my blog with pro-Serb genocide justification.

Thanks, buddy! I couldna dunnit withoutcha.

Understanding Derivatives - A Beery Simple Primer

Another one of those endlessly forwarded emails, source unknown.

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Buffalo.

She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.

To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

Heidi keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers' loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Buffalo.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.

Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit.

He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINK BONDS.

These "securities" then are bundled and traded on international securities markets.

Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AAA Secured Bonds" really are debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb! and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.

Snce Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Heidi's 11 employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINK BOND prices drop by 90%.

The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities.

They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.

Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the Federal government.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, nondrinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.

Now do you understand?

Monday, May 30, 2011

For Memorial Day Weekend, Day 4:
Tattered Remnants #030:
Heroes of Desert One

To the reader: the following was published about a year ago. To those who were born after 1980, it might serve as an explanation as to why so many of your elders were particularly satisfied at the recent success of our raid on Osama Bin Laden. That victory would have been impossible without the sacrifices of the Desert One expedition.

An Ignominious Glory: Heroes of the Desert One Fiasco, April 24, 1980

"Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
‘To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?"
-Thomas Babingdon, Lord Macaulay

In the course of this work I have tried to bring attention to a few individuals who have stepped into the breach, sometimes without so much as a moment's warning or a single word of encouragement, and attempted to stand up and do what was right in the face of overwhelming force, danger and resistance, tothe cost even of their own self destruction.

I've deliberately passed over whole classes of individuals in this series, and for good reason. Generally speaking, I don't talk about politicians, who seem to have endless opportunities to pat themselves on the back or at least enrich themselves even if they start out as Tattered Remnants.

Likewise, I have tried to avoid including the military in my list of Tattered Remnants, even though those entering the military profession are almost always those that have the "TR nature." Sure, there are many who go into uniform because they're young and immature and need training to become adults; many others go in (at least in the United States) for the relatively comfortable salaries, guaranteed room-and-board, and the chance to see the world. But most of those of any nation who choose to wear their nations' uniform do so out of a love of country and a desire to contribute to their peoples' well-being.

But the military life also has its distinct rewards. On the whole, the military profession makes a point of compensating its best with a public honors. In the UK, great soldiers are granted titles and knighthoods (and sometimes even the crown); here in the USA, we cover them with medals. The military hero is also recognized in many other ways, from elaborate headstones and beautiful cemeteries, to patriotic public holidays (of which we have no less than three), and, for the very rarest of honors, the song. ("To the everlasting glory of the Infantry, shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!", goes one such famous ballad.)

It would be very easy for me to use any of a number of great military heroes to show the Tattered Remnant spirit in uniform. The obvious candidates are the Few who stopped the Luftwaffe over London in 1940. But, being cheerfully American, I might rather look to those who led us to victory at D-Day, or those Navy airmen who sank four Japanese carriers at Midway, or those Army warriors who liberated any of a hundred Nazi camps, or those Marines that stopped the Hun at Belleau Woods, or perhaps those of the 20th Maine who stopped the South at Little Round Top and saved the Union.

But the well known heroes are already honored (by definition).

I could, rather, look to the honorably defeated: history remembers the 300 at Thermopylae, the defenders at the Alamo, Chinese Gordon and his men at Khartoum (albeit our sympathies these days are with the Sudanese who killed them), the 400 or so at the Warsaw ghetto--to die in defense of one's nation, even in hopelessness and defeat, is not lacking in its own glories.

But what of those who seemingly pointlessly die in fubars, snafus, and operational botches? Who die self-defeated to the great humiliation of their nation?

Could it be that even they may be worthy of remembrance?

To illustrate the spirit of military self-sacrifice at its finest--to give ones life even in disastrous defeat--let me do honor to those who are apparently the greatest military failures known to us: those who died in what was viewed, at the time, as the most humiliating, devastating and, yes, embarrassing of American defeats. They died in a military blunder far from home and far from help, doomed by poor preparation by layers of command far above their own. The mission that they went on was a fiasco by every possible measure, and they were self-defeated without the enemy even knowing that they were present.

For in so dying they brought about, in the following years, our most amazing victory, that which came over the Soviet Union. Their sacrifice lay in being a casualties to bad planning, bad equipment, and insufficient training: deficiencies which, as a result, were largely remedied in the years that followed (if only just in time).

The disaster rings down now, lo, these thirty years later. For the disaster at Desert One remains, to this day, a disgrace and an embarrassment to the United States: and yet without it, we might not have bloodlessly won the Cold War. By this defeat we saved the world from a nuclear holocaust.


A. Some History, Ancient and Modern

Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, there was a country known as "Persia", a corruption of the name "Fars," which is one of its provinces (much as the Netherlands is also known by the name "Holland"). The name Iran is, however, associated with the word "Aryan," the ancient horse-people that conquered the preliterate world; the country took this name in the 1930s, when "Aryanism" was held in respect by, er, certain countries.

The ancient Persians conquered Babylon and their great king, Cyrus, returned the People of Israel to their homeland. In the centuries that followed, the Zoroastrian/pagan Persians were the great Eastern enemies of the Roman empire and on occasion even captured Roman Emperors in battle. It was against the Persians that Marcus Crassus, the wealthy third member of the Roman First Triumvirate, fell in battle in Iraq. Later, the Persians played a major role in the spread of Islam to their east, into India and the Turkic lands of central Asia.

But sometimes empires strike out. By the early 1920s, the old Qajar dynasty of the Iranian imperial line was in its final days. The last Shah of the old dynasty was ineffective and weak, and was presently replaced in all but name by the head of his guard, one Reza Khan. Reza took the name Pahlavi, and having forced the old Shah into exile, was declared Reza Pahlavi, "Shahanshah", King of Kings, or Emperor.

The new Shah ruled, well, imperially, per his title. His goal was the modernization and development of his country. To that end, he needed funds, and to get those funds he entered into agreements with British and American oil companies. However, those oil interests became deeply entrenched, as he soon found. He turned to Germany's influence to counter that of the Western powers.

When, in 1941, the darkest days of the War against the Nazis, Shah Reza tried to expel the Westerners. This was intolerable; soon the British and the Soviets together worked to expel Shah Reza Pahlavi and replace him with his then youthful son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was in his 22nd year.

It was necessary at that time to take that step, as the railroad through Iran to Russia was vital to supplying the Soviet war effort against Nazi Germany, and suppressing Nazi influence in Iran was imperative. However, it deepened Western control over the leadership of that nation, deeply resented both by Iran's political and intellectual classes as well as by its Islamic institutions. The long term consequences of this act continue to play themselves out to this day.

In 1953, the Emperor, no longer a youth, was overthrown by the prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, who favored nationalizing the oil companies and expelling the British and Americans. Again, this was intolerable; Iran bordered Stalinist Russia and a rapprochement with them was also unacceptable. So US and British intelligence agencies arrested Mossadegh, and restored Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to his throne, where he sat secure for another quarter century.

B. The Iranian Revolution

In the late 1970s, the imperial Iranian regime was on its last legs. Although it held thousands of political prisoners, a broad coalition of opponents of the regime–including Islamic clerics, Communist intellectuals, and liberals advocating a westernized democracy–united against the Shah. Iranian university students world wide made a nuisance of themselves while massive street demonstrations in Tehran and elsewhere demonstrated the Shah's weakening hold.

Between pressure from the streets, the general weakening of Western will, the feckless Carter administration in Washington, and the Shah's own deteriorating health due to cancer, the Shah's political backing buckled and, in February 1979, he fled his country. He eventually came to the United States so that his cancer could be treated.

The new revolutionary regime in Iran took control on his departure. It was at first a coalition, but as time progressed clearly a regime of Islamist supremacists united in the desire to create a totally Islamist state was in place. The transitional regime was itself overthrown and those former revolutionaries who supported a democratic or socialist course for the country were quickly arrested.

All power was soon given over to the Grand Ayatollah, Imam Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran was now nominally a republic (resembling that of United States!--a lefthanded complement that the Iranians could never acknowledge). It was, however, a sham, created to give a figleaf of popular authority to religious autocracy, even if some of its institutions were nominally democratic.

The powers that be in the West, in particular President Jimmy Carter, could not make heads or tails out of the new regime. They looked at it through the lens of the long struggle with the Soviets and it fit none of their preconceived notions. It wasn't communistic or socialist, which pleased them somewhat; nevertheless, they had no comprehension that with the Khomeini regime a new, or perhaps a resurrected ancient, enemy of the West was arising. Every attempt by Carter and his cohorts to reach out to the new regime failed for reasons clear to us now but bewildering to them.

In short, the Iranian revolutionaries took their faith absolutely literally and made every decision on that basis. And Jimmy Carter and his crew, who only nominally understood their own Christian faith, could not understand this new Islamic mindset that confronted them.

They did not comprehend what the goals of the regime were: in short, that the Islamists who now ruled Iran wanted nothing less than the overthrow of Western style democracy everywhere and its replacement by absolutist Islamic teachings and Islamic law in the Shiite tradition.

The Iranian fundamentalists, for their part, looked at the world under the impression that God Himself wanted them to destroy the West and could not themselves understand anything about Western life that could be viewed positively, as 'freedom', to them, meant only 'freedom to sin'. This mutual lack of comprehension led to endless blundering in the days ahead.

C. The Hostage Crisis

The United States got a forewarning of what was to come during the revolution of February 1979, when students briefly occupied the US embassy. That occupation ended quickly; the students were expelled by government forces intent on keeping some sort of Western structure to their nation.

As a consequence of this incident, the US reduced its personnel footprint in Iran to an absolute minimum, but still there remained on the order of fifty or so diplomatic personnel on station in Iran. They remained in place as the Carter administration desired to have a continuous source of information and intelligence on developments in Iran–a not irrational choice, given the entirely new developments that Iran was currently undergoing. However, of the three CIA officers in place, none spoke Farsi.

On November 4, 1979, the embassy was again occupied by a mob of several hundred students. The US diplomatic personnel, as well as a handful of US citizens who were in the embassy on business, were taken hostage; many were paraded blindfolded before a mob and television cameras in what is today an indelible image of American humiliation.

Carter and his administration was already reeling from post-Vietnam self-doubt, "stagflation" (a combination of inflationary monetary policies and low growth stemming from overtaxation) and a national lassitude and loss of faith in the American mission that is now known as "The Malaise". Carter and his team were confounded by the challenge before them.

For the first few weeks following the taking of the hostages, it appeared likely that a diplomatic solution could be found. Most of the women and African American hostages were freed early on; one other was freed in July 1980 after he fell ill. The remaining 52 hostages remained in Iranian custody in various conditions of torment (at worst) or harassment and deliberate annoyance (at best) for the whole of the 444 day crisis.

A series of negotiations were undertaken, and they had a pattern: an Iranian diplomat would suggest this or that solution, Carter would agree with it, plans would move forward... and then, at the last minute, the Ayatollah Khomeini would veto the deal. Then two weeks later, the cycle would renew itself. And Carter kept falling for it, like Charlie Brown attempting to boot Lucy's football.

D. The Bear In The Woods: The Soviet Factor

There was also a general darkening of the geopolitical picture worldwide. While the American government became fixated on the Iranian difficulty, the geriatric leaders of the Soviet Union had problems of their own. In what was later seen as the beginning of the second Russian revolution, the Soviet leadership under the senescent Leonid Brezhnev, which only five years earlier had celebrated the pinnacle of its imperium when South Vietnam was conquered, itself began to crack. Its regime in Afghanistan began to totter and the extremists in power there seemed to be on the verge of being overthrown.

As a result, the Soviets, on December 21, 1979–-only weeks after the embassy was taken in Tehran–-took over Afghanistan and executed its president for incompetence, placing a puppet regime in power. A long, cruel war followed in which up to one million Afghans died over the next nine years. In the US, it was feared that the Soviet thrust into Afghanistan was preparatory to a possible lunge into Iran and thence to the oil fields in the Middle East.

But Afghanistan was not the only troubled area that confronted the Soviet leadership. In Poland, the Solidarity trade union movement presented Eastern Europe with its first challenge to Soviet authority since the Czechoslovakian invasion of 1968. In Britain, The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, took power and presented the Soviets with the first British leader since Churchill who understood that strength, not weakness, was necessary when confronting Soviet aggression. At the same time, the newly elected Polish pope, Karol Woytila, John Paul II, confronted the Soviets with a spiritual force, radically different than that of the Ayatollahs, that it could not easily contain.

Thus the Soviets were facing unprecedented internal challenges to their authority which made them extremely dangerous. And President Carter, after years of naive acceptance of Soviet good intentions, imposed sanctions on the Soviets. Following the Afghan invasion, he embargoed the sale of American grain to the Soviets; furthermore, he boycotted the Moscow Olympics, cut cultural ties, and started the military buildup which in later years would be called the "Reagan Buildup."

The world was sliding toward conflict, and the continued hostage crisis could not long be borne. It was in this atmosphere that the plan to rescue the hostages began to take form.

E. Operation Eagle Claw: The Rescue Operation

As the winter of 1979 melted into the spring of 1980, Carter's standing nationwide dropped dramatically. He hid out in the White House while his hold even on the Democratic nomination for president slipped. Opponents to his weak willed administration coalesced around Edward Kennedy; only Teddy's ineffectual defense of his ambition before a television interviewer saved the United States from another Kennedy Administration.

In the face of this, Carter decided that only a heroic rescue of the hostages could allay doubts as to his leadership and abilities to lead the Western World. He therefore gave the order for the United States military to assemble a strike team to penetrate deep into Iraq, free the 53 hostages, and bring them home again. Had he accomplished this, he would have very likely been reelected, and the entire history of the end of the 20th Century would have been dramatically changed.

But there was much to be overcome. Where the Iranians did not necessarily have day to day surveillance over the American fleet that had gathered in the Gulf, the Soviets did, through trawlers that shadowed the American fleet. They saw that American aircraft carriers held helicopters topside–the identities of which were known by sight by any analyst worth his salt. We knew this--and this caused our first blunder.

For the helicopters topside on American aircraft carriers were RH-53D Navy minesweeping helicopters, intended not for long range missions–but for close-in surveillance. This range limitation was caused by a simple fact: the RH-53D were incapable of in flight refuelling. But replacing the helicopters with something that could have been refueled in flight would have alerted the Soviet trawlers–and through them, the Iranians–that a rescue mission was offing.

The plans, therefore, required that the copters stop somewhere between the aircraft carriers and the rescue points in Tehran to be refueled. They chose a spot in the middle of the South Iranian desert; this spot would be given the name Desert One.

The second mistake grew from interservice rivalry stemming from the prestige of the mission. All who participated in the planning process knew that, if it were successful, it would rank with the great Western military triumphs of the 20th Century: the liberation of the Entebbe raid on July 4, 1976; the American landings at Inchon, Korea in 1950; even the American invasion of D-Day.

Accordingly, all the different services wanted a piece of the action, and one of the medals that would no doubt be awarded to all and sundry once the hostages returned in triumph. Therefore, every service had to have a place in the picture. And it was this mutual competitiveness for glory, medals and Defense budget funding in future years that engendered a cross-hatched command structure that degraded planning and operations tremendously.

The third mistake that was made was overly tight secrecy. The plan was so secret that nobody below the four-star level had the slightest clue as to what was really going on. As such, as each section of the team was separately trained, the parts were expected to mesh together perfectly when nobody had had a chance to rehearse as a team prior to the launching of the mission itself. As it developed, the rescue team trained separately from the pilots, who trained separately from the mechanics, who trained... etc. As things went forward, the fact that nobody had worked together prior to the commencement of the mission doomed it from the very beginning.

The fourth and final mistake was made at the highest levels, by President Carter himself. Out of either caution in the face of Soviet expansionism or, what can (charitably) be called an undue aversion to the use of force, he decreed that the unit sent to rescue the hostages must be no larger than the absolute bare minimum required for success. Given that 50 or more hostages were held, they required six helicopters to carry out the mission, for fewer were unable to carry the men and women held by the Iranians. But President Carter would only allow a maximum of eight copters, allowing for a cushion of two for the mission to go forward. More copters would have made the mission a possible success, but would have required more refuelling craft.

Teams scouted out areas forward to prepare the way. Desert One was identified by CIA officers on the ground; a second landing zone, designated Desert Two, was also chosen outside of Tehran proper for the hostages to join the copters once they were extracted from the embassy by a hidden team of warriors secreted in place on the ground. Other well-laid plans were in place using ground agents of the CIA and other organizations, awaiting the arrival of the eight helicopters.

F. The Fateful Day: April 24, 1980

Early in the morning of that fateful day, the rescue force took off from their respective starting points: four fix-winged aircraft left from Egypt, followed by eight helicopters leaving the U.S.S. Nimitz and other carriers in the Persian Gulf.

The first helicopter went down two hours into the mission when an indicator light showed a malfunction with the blades. Rather than risk continuing the mission in an incapable aircraft, a second copter landed with the troubled craft and took the crew on board. The eight copters were now down to seven.

Secondly, a low level 'haboob' – a sandstorm, the existence of which was unknown to the copter pilots – caused an electrical malfunction to another copter, which abandoned the mission and returned to the Nimitz. The mission was now down to the bare minimum of six helicopters. One more and the mission would have to be abandoned.

The six helicopters rendezvoused with the four fix winged aircraft. Two of them carried out refuelling functions and per plan left Desert One for Egypt. During preflight inspections, however, one of the remaining six helicopters displayed a bad indicator light, showing that that helicopter was not fit for the remaining flight to the rescue point at Desert Two. The ground commander determined that the mission could not possibly go forward with five helicopters and the mission was scrubbed. Word was transmitted back to the White House, which responded immediately, affirming the scrub order. Word went down for the mission to be abandoned.

Then the crowning disaster struck. One of the helicopters, changing positions prior to departure, moved forward and then crashed into a C-130 refuelling craft on the ground. Eight men were killed instantly in the conflagration. The survivors left, leaving the corpses of the dead and the wreckage of the destroyed aircraft on the ground.

It seemed at that time that it was the end of the military pretensions of the United States. Eight burned corpses, three burned aircraft, and half-destroyed abandoned helicopters holding classified documents identifying American CIA operatives and sympathizers in Iran were left behind in the sands of Desert One. Eight Americans and, accidentally, one Iranian civilian, lay dead in the sand.

G. Aftermath of the Disaster

The corpses of the dead were taken to Tehran and put on display by the Revolutionary Government of Iran.

The American national humiliation that followed caused a side effect that was most unexpected: the revival and return to respectability of both American patriotism in popular culture and of the United States military, which, in the five years following the fall of Saigon, had been an object of derision and loathing among most young Americans of those days.

Prior to the Iranian disaster, to 'wind up in the Army' was the booby prize of American youth culture; a military career was to be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, Vietnam veterans faced a national shunning that even included employment discrimination–eventually requiring Federal legal action to prevent.

But in the days that immediately followed the Iran disaster, military service began once more to be seen as a fundamentally good thing, a way to contribute, not merely a place to spend one's career for lack of anything better to do. The quality of those enlisting shot up dramatically and shortfalls in enlistments, endemic in those days, began to abate.

The national aversion to patriotic displays also began to abate as well. In the late 1970s, again as a result of the Vietnam experience, Americans, and especially young Americans, tended to stifle any patriotic displays in public. Such ceremonies such as the Pledge of Allegiance had largely disappeared from classrooms, and events such as Memorial Day parades saw their attendance drop. When Superman (The Movie) was released in 1978, in the scene where he told Lois Lane that "I am here to fight for truth.... justice... and the American way!" loud snickers were heard in the audience.

After the Iran debacle, the combination of national shame and rage at the Iranian clerics caused a backlash. At first, the displays of the new patriotism were crude; there was a sudden appearance of Mickey Mouse t-shirts with Mickey displaying his middle finger with one hand and holding an American flag with another. A general aversion to things Iranian followed--not Islamic, but Iranian–which showed America's fundamental misunderstanding as to the nature of the new difficulty facing us.

However, the most important development lay in the new, general cultural acceptance of a need for a military buildup. Only seven years after the end of the draft, the Carter administration laid the groundwork for a new draft. Registration was now being required for those turning 18 in 1979. This requirement was accepted without a qualm as millions of young American males filled out their draft registrations in the spring of 1980. Only half a decade after Vietnam, there were no draft protests.

As the spring progressed it was generally seen that the Jimmy Carter brand of 'Detente' in the face of Soviet aggression and weakness in the face of a new fascism was unacceptable to the American people, and they turned to the Republican candidate for President: the self-same Ronald Reagan who had been derisively mocked at Woodstock as "Ronald Ray-Gun (zap)". In November 1980, Reagan decisively beat Carter in the Presidential election and a new era commenced.

The Iranian fascination with taunting Jimmy Carter, however, was itself distracted by historical developments. In mid-1980, Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, decided that he saw military weakness in his larger neighbor and, in September, ordered an invasion into the western provinces of Iran. The Iranians, now facing a major land war from a neighbor, decided that the United States was less important a threat than the Iraqis, and they turned away from the "hostage crisis."

The election of Reagan in November 1980 was noticed in Iran and both sides saw an opportunity to put an end to the whole affair. As a "goodwill gesture," the 52 remaining American hostages and the bodies of the dead American soldiers from Desert One were released and returned to the United States as Reagan took his oath of office. The "Hostage Crisis" was over after 444 days.


Eight men died in the Desert One fiasco. Their names were:

Major Richard L. Bakke, USAF, born 13 May 1948
Sergeant John D. Harvey, USMC, born 30 May 1958
Corporal George N. Holmes, Jr., USMC, born 20 July 1957
Staff Sergeant Dewey L. Johnson, USMC, born 26 May 1948
Major Harold L. Lewis Jr., USAF, born 26 February 1945
Technical Sergeant Joel C. Mayo, USAF, born 26 October 1945
Major Lyn D. McIntosh, USAF, born 11 October 1946
Captain Charles T. McMillan, USAF, born October 4, 1951

A headstone stands today at Arlington National Cemetery in memory of their sacrifice:


It's a very small monument, not much, really.

They deserve better. There is a very real chance that, in sacrificing their lives, these men, and the band of brothers who served with them, made possible American victory in the Cold War, as their loss highlighted the paper tiger that was the American military in 1980.

It might even be said that lives brought about the election of an American President who was able to bring the Cold War to a victorious end. (The thought of Jimmy Carter facing off against the wily and evil Yuri Andropov, the butcher of Budapest, does not bear thinking about.)

Churchill's honoring of the Few can now, in retrospect, be given to the eight who died--as well as to the others who served in a futile and disasterous mission, made glorious now only with thirty years' perspective.

God rest and remember them all.


Although America remembers 9/11 as the gravest insult that America ever suffered since Pearl Harbor, there was one event associated with the rescue attempt that still stinks in the nostrils among those who remember that time. For after the disaster, ayatollahs of Iran showed a vengeful barbarism unmatched these thousand years.

The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered that the wreckage left behind by the American hostage rescue attempt be used to humiliate the United States; he understood the particular care and affection that Americans have for their deceased soldiers. So he ordered his subordinates, foremost among them the "Hanging Ayatollah," Ayatollah Sadagh Khalkhali, to desecrate the American casualties.

Khalkhali was a man of remarkable vengeance and bitter hatreds. He was the point man for the ayatollas' dirty work; he it was that executed large numbers of 'enemies' of the Islamist regime. He also destroyed many public monuments, including the tomb of the Shah's father. Wikipedia tells the following story about him:

Khalkhali is famous for ordering the executions of Amir Abbas Hoveida, the Shah's long time prime minister ..... according to one report, after sentencing Hoveida to death, "pleas for clemency poured in from all over the world and it was said that Khalkhali was told by telephone to stay the execution. Khalkhali replied that he would go and see what was happening. He then went to Hoveida and either shot him himself or instructed a minion to do the deed. 'I'm sorry,' he told the person at the other end of the telephone, 'the sentence has already been carried out.'"
After the rescue mission, Khalkhali ordered the corpses of the dead American servicemen be brought to Tehran; before television cameras he reached into the canvas body bags and extracted burned limbs and skulls of the good men who died trying to rescue their fellow Americans. He gloated as he displayed these dead things: the lifeless limbs of honorable men who died in the best of causes, even if inexpertly carried out; each one, even the lowest ranking, far greater a man than he could ever be.

Americans remember with rage and pain the insult of 9/11. Furthermore, history is replete with barbarians displaying the corpses of their enemies. But there is something particularly dark, even Satanic, about the behavior of these Men of God on this occasion.

And yes, they were Men of God of a sort, which actually damns them deeper. Ayatollahs are the "archbishops" of Shiite Islam; they are men, according to their own beliefs, annointed by God to bring their people closer to Him through better observance of the Islamic faith. And yet they committed what can only be called an act of self-befoulment in this display, waving around charred limbs and skulls in an act of savagely primitive triumphalism.

In the written history of man, this clerical abomination has only one parallel: the so-called Synodus Horridus, the Cadaver Synod of the deceased Pope Formosus, carried out in 897 AD by Pope Stephen, seventh of that name, Formosus' immediate successor but one. In the course of the trial, Stephen placed the corpse of the dead pope on a throne for the entirety of the proceeding--probably the darkest and most depraved act in the history of mediaeval Christianity. This is the level to which the Ayatollahs had sunk.

Americans surely wish the names of these two men be erased, but then we are biased.

History, however, has its own way of making its judgment known.

In 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died, and at what is, in Iran, euphemistically called his "first funeral", a deranged mob dragged his corpse from his coffin and trampled it underfoot.

The Ayatollah Khalkhali lived until 2003, dying at last in the holy city of Qom; the cause of death, a diseased heart.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

For Memorial Day Weekend, Day 3:
Tattered Remnants, #033:
The Citizens Of Flight 93

Todd Beamer, one of the heroes of United Flight 93

Citizen Militia: The Crew and Passengers of United Flight 93, September 11, 2001

The following is a direct quote, page for page and line for line, from the 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, pp 10-14. Nothing I can possibly write on the subject can improve on it: non sum dignis, domine.

The Battle for United 93

At 8:42, United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport bound for San Francisco. The aircraft was piloted by Captain Jason Dahl and First Officer Leroy Homer, and there were five flight attendants. Thirty-seven passengers, including the hijackers, boarded the plane. Scheduled to depart the gate at 8:00, the Boeing 757's takeoff was delayed because of the airport's typically heavy morning traffic.

The hijackers had planned to take flights scheduled to depart at 7:45 (American 11), 8:00 (United 175 and United 93), and 8:10 (American 77). Three of the flights had actually taken off within 10 to 15 minutes of their planned departure times. United 93 would ordinarily have taken off about 15 minutes after pulling away from the gate. When it left the ground at 8:42, the flight was running more than 25 minutes late.

As United 93 left Newark, the flight's crew members were unaware of the hijacking of American 11.Around 9:00, the FAA, American, and United were facing the staggering realization of apparent multiple hijackings. At 9:03, they would see another aircraft strike the World Trade Center. Crisis managers at the FAA and the airlines did not yet act to warn other aircraft. At the same time, Boston Center realized that a message transmitted just before 8:25 by the hijacker pilot of American 11 included the phrase, "We have some planes."

No one at the FAA or the airlines that day had ever dealt with multiple hijackings. Such a plot had not been carried out anywhere in the world in more than 30 years, and never in the United States. As news of the hijackings filtered through the FAA and the airlines, it does not seem to have occurred to their leadership that they needed to alert other aircraft in the air that they too might be at risk.

United 175 was hijacked between 8:42 and 8:46, and awareness of that hijacking began to spread after 8:51. American 77 was hijacked between 8:51 and 8:54. By 9:00, FAA and airline officials began to comprehend that attackers were going after multiple aircraft. American Airlines' nationwide ground stop between 9:05 and 9:10 was followed by a United Airlines ground stop. FAA controllers at Boston Center, which had tracked the first two hijackings, requested at 9:07 that Herndon Command Center "get messages to airborne aircraft to increase security for the cockpit." There is no evidence that Herndon took such action. Boston Center immediately began speculating about other aircraft that might be in danger, leading them to worry about a transcontinental flight-Delta 1989-that in fact was not hijacked. At 9:19, the FAA's New England regional office called Herndon and asked that Cleveland Center advise Delta 1989 to use extra cockpit security.

... United's first decisive action to notify its airborne aircraft to take defensive action did not come until 9:19, when a United flight dispatcher, Ed Ballinger, took the initiative to begin transmitting warnings to his 16 transcontinental flights: "Beware any cockpit intrusion- Two a/c [aircraft] hit World Trade Center." One of the flights that received the warning was United 93. Because Ballinger was still responsible for his other flights as well as Flight 175, his warning message was not transmitted to Flight 93 until 9:23.

By all accounts, the first 46 minutes of Flight 93's cross-country trip proceeded routinely. Radio communications from the plane were normal. Heading, speed, and altitude ran according to plan. At 9:24, Ballinger's warning to United 93 was received in the cockpit. Within two minutes, at 9:26, the pilot, Jason Dahl, responded with a note of puzzlement: "Ed, confirm latest mssg plz-Jason."

The hijackers attacked at 9:28. While traveling 35,000 feet above eastern Ohio, United 93 suddenly dropped 700 feet. Eleven seconds into the descent, the FAA's air traffic control center in Cleveland received the first of two radio transmissions from the aircraft. During the first broadcast, the captain or first officer could be heard declaring "Mayday" amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit. The second radio transmission, 35 seconds later, indicated that the fight was continuing. The captain or first officer could be heard shouting:" Hey get out of here-get out of here-get out of here."

On the morning of 9/11, there were only 37 passengers on United 93-33 in addition to the 4 hijackers. This was below the norm for Tuesday mornings during the summer of 2001. But there is no evidence that the hijackers manipulated passenger levels or purchased additional seats to facilitate their operation.

The terrorists who hijacked three other commercial flights on 9/11 operated in five-man teams. They initiated their cockpit takeover within 30 minutes of takeoff. On Flight 93, however, the takeover took place 46 minutes after takeoff and there were only four hijackers. The operative likely intended to round out the team for this flight, Mohamed al Kahtani, had been refused entry by a suspicious immigration inspector at Florida's Orlando International Airport in August.

Because several passengers on United 93 described three hijackers on the plane, not four, some have wondered whether one of the hijackers had been able to use the cockpit jump seat from the outset of the flight. FAA rules allow use of this seat by documented and approved individuals, usually air carrier or FAA personnel. We have found no evidence indicating that one of the hijackers, or anyone else, sat there on this flight. All the hijackers had assigned seats in first class, and they seem to have used them. We believe it is more likely that Jarrah, the crucial pilot-trained member of their team, remained seated and inconspicuous until after the cockpit was seized; and once inside, he would not have been visible to the passengers.

At 9:32, a hijacker, probably Jarrah, made or attempted to make the following announcement to the passengers of Flight 93:"Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit." The flight data recorder (also recovered) indicates that Jarrah then instructed the plane's autopilot to turn the aircraft around and head east.

The cockpit voice recorder data indicate that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.

Shortly thereafter, the passengers and flight crew began a series of calls from GTE airphones and cellular phones. These calls between family, friends, and colleagues took place until the end of the flight and provided those on the ground with firsthand accounts. They enabled the passengers to gain critical information, including the news that two aircraft had slammed into the World Trade Center.

At 9:39, the FAA's Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center overheard a second announcement indicating that there was a bomb on board, that the plane was returning to the airport, and that they should remain seated. While it apparently was not heard by the passengers, this announcement, like those on Flight 11 and Flight 77, was intended to deceive them. Jarrah, like Atta earlier, may have inadvertently broadcast the message because he did not know how to operate the radio and the intercom. To our knowledge none of them had ever flown an actual airliner before.

At least two callers from the flight reported that the hijackers knew that passengers were making calls but did not seem to care. It is quite possible Jarrah knew of the success of the assault on the World Trade Center. He could have learned of this from messages being sent by United Airlines to the cockpits of its transcontinental flights, including Flight 93, warning of cockpit intrusion and telling of the New York attacks. But even without them, he would certainly have understood that the attacks on the World Trade Center would already have unfolded, given Flight 93's tardy departure from Newark. If Jarrah did know that the passengers were making calls, it might not have occurred to him that they were certain to learn what had happened in New York, thereby defeating his attempts at deception.

Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, CeeCee Lyles, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett (Source: Newsweek)

At least ten passengers and two crew members shared vital information with family, friends, colleagues, or others on the ground. All understood the plane had been hijacked. They said the hijackers wielded knives and claimed to have a bomb. The hijackers were wearing red bandanas, and they forced the passengers to the back of the aircraft.

Callers reported that a passenger had been stabbed and that two people were lying on the floor of the cabin, injured or dead-possibly the captain and first officer. One caller reported that a flight attendant had been killed.

One of the callers from United 93 also reported that he thought the hijackers might possess a gun. But none of the other callers reported the presence of a firearm. One recipient of a call from the aircraft recounted specifically asking her caller whether the hijackers had guns. The passenger replied that he did not see one. No evidence of firearms or of their identifiable remains was found at the aircraft's crash site, and the cockpit voice recorder gives no indication of a gun being fired or mentioned at any time. We believe that if the hijackers had possessed a gun, they would have used it in the flight's last minutes as the passengers fought back.

Passengers on three flights reported the hijackers' claim of having a bomb. The FBI told us they found no trace of explosives at the crash sites. One of the passengers who mentioned a bomb expressed his belief that it was not real. Lacking any evidence that the hijackers attempted to smuggle such illegal items past the security screening checkpoints, we believe the bombs were probably fake.

During at least five of the passengers' phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted.

The Wikipedia Account of the Revolt

Passengers and crew began making phone calls to officials and family members starting at 09:30 using GTE airphones and mobile phones. Altogether, the passengers and crew made 35 airphone calls and two cell phone calls from the flight. Ten passengers and two crew members were able to successfully connect, providing information to family, friends, and others on the ground. Tom Burnett made several phone calls to his wife beginning at 09:30:32 from rows 24 and 25, though he was assigned a seat in row four. Burnett explained that the plane had been hijacked by men claiming to have a bomb. He also said that a passenger had been knifed and that he believed the bomb threat was a ruse to control the passengers. During one of Tom Burnett's calls, his wife informed him of the attacks on the World Trade Center and he replied that the hijackers were "talking about crashing this plane ... Oh my God. It's a suicide mission." He ended his last call by saying, "Don't worry, we're going to do something."

An unknown flight attendant attempted to contact the United Airlines maintenance facility at 09:32:29. The call lasted 95 seconds, but was not received as it may have been in queue. Flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw called the maintenance facility at 09:35:40 from row 33. She reported the flight had been hijacked by men with knives who were in the cabin and flight deck and had stabbed another flight attendant.

"Jack, pick up sweetie, can you hear me? Okay. I just want to tell you, there's a little problem with the plane. I'm fine. I'm totally fine. I just want to tell you how much I love you." - Message left by passenger Lauren Grandcolas at 09:39:21.

Mark Bingham called his mother at 09:37:03 from row 25. He reported that the plane had been hijacked by three men who claimed to have a bomb. Jeremy Glick called his wife at 09:37:41 from row 27 and told her the flight was hijacked by three dark-skinned men that looked "Iranian", wearing red bandanas and wielding knives. Glick remained connected until the end of the flight. He reported that the passengers voted whether to "rush" the hijackers. .... Joseph DeLuca called his father at 09:43:03 from row 26 to inform him the flight had been hijacked. ....

After United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked, Todd Beamer and other passengers communicated with people on the ground via in-plane and cell phones, and learned that the World Trade Center had been attacked using hijacked airplanes. Beamer tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat but was routed to a customer-service representative instead, who passed him on to GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Beamer reported that one passenger was killed and, later, that a flight attendant had told him the pilot and co-pilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded. He was also on the phone when the plane made its turn in a southeasterly direction, a move that had him briefly panicking. Later, he told the operator that some of the plane's passengers were planning to "jump on" the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground before the hijackers' plan could be followed through. *

A United employee in San Francisco, California, sent an ACARS message to the flight at 09:46: "Heard report of incident. Plz confirm all is normal." Linda Gronlund called her sister, Elsa Strong, at 09:46:05 and left her a message saying there were "men with a bomb".

Flight attendant CeeCee Lyles called her husband at 09:47:57 and left him a message saying the plane had been hijacked. Marion Britton called her friend, Fred Fiumano, at 09:49:12. Fiumano recalled, "she said, 'We’re gonna. They’re gonna kill us, you know, We’re gonna die.’ And I told her, 'Don’t worry, they hijacked the plane, they’re gonna take you for a ride, you go to their country, and you come back. You stay there for vacation.' You don’t know what to say—what are you gonna say? I kept on saying the same things, ‘Be calm.’ And she was crying and—you know—more or less crying and screaming and yelling."

Flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw called her husband at 09:50:04 and told him she was preparing scalding water to throw at the hijackers. Passenger Lauren Grandcolas called her husband twice, once before take off and once during the hijacking. He missed both of her calls. She then passed her phone to Honor Elizabeth Wainio. Wainio called her stepmother at 09:53:43 and concluded, four and a half minutes later, by saying, "I have to go. They're breaking into the cockpit. I love you." Jarrah dialed in the VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) frequency for the VOR navigational aid at Reagan National Airport at 9:55:11 to direct the plane toward Washington, D.C. Bradshaw, on the phone with her husband, said "Everyone is running up to first class. I've got to go. Bye."

According to Jefferson, Beamer's last audible words were "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."*

*From the Wikipedia article on Todd Beamer

From the 9/11 Report:

At 9:57, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows: "Everyone's running up to first class. I've got to go. Bye."

The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.

In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates. At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane.

Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" A hijacker responded, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off." The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down. At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, "Roll it!" Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!" He then asked another hijacker in the cock-pit, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" to which the other replied, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."

The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest." With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.

Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White House.

He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.


Todd Beamer left a widow, Lisa, sons David and Drew, and an daughter as yet unborn when this photo was taken.

Some called what happened on that flight "The American Unorganized Militia," and they hail the passengers as volunteer paramilitary heroes who lacked only uniforms.

They were that. But they were far more than that.

They saw that they were likely doomed themselves: but they acted in a thoughtful, wise and organized manner. They knew that other aircraft had been turned into horror weapons, but having a few minutes to compose themselves, they chose to resist evil. They acted in a manner most quintessentially in keeping with the spirit of the Tattered Remnant.

They thought. They voted. They chose. They acted.

In military terms, they went from reaction to intelligence gathering to planning to execution to success--on their own, in less than 20 minutes, with no training or even preparation for their mission. Not a single passenger is known to have had even the slightest military experience. But they acted with an alacrity and a decisiveness that would have done our special forces proud.

And they succeeded on that blackest of days and showed, in a decision taking but a few minutes, what can be accomplished by those who are willing to give their lives for the preservation of others.

And they inspired a nation, a world.

And finally, it is possible that they have given an example that at last puts the threat of air piracy to an end. Passengers now know that in order to live it may be their responsibility, personally, to immediately physically overcome any incipient attempt to hijack or destroy an aircraft--as both Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Underpants Bomber, both found out to, ironically, their relief. An alert populace of air passengers now know: if you want to live, attack without hesitation.

And we have the citizens of United 93 to thank for this.

May their names be ever remembered and may light perpetual shine upon them:




We should note also those who acted on the spirit of the citizens of United 93:

In 2001, when Shoe Bomber Reid attempted to blow up his flight, two flight attendants, Hermis Moutardier and Cristina Jones, fought with Reid as he attempted to light the fuse on his shoe-bomb; both were small women but were able to prevent the 6'4'' Reid from acting; thereupon, other passengers, identities, unknown, then tackled him, secured him with duct tape, and a tranquilizer administered by a physician.

Again, in 2009, when Abdulmullab tried essentially the same thing, passenger Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch film director, jumped on Abdulmutallab and subdued him as flight attendants used fire extinguishers to douse the flames.

These brave men and women deserve salutes as well. And let it be a warning to Qaida and others like them that the days of aircraft hijackings have perhaps at last come to an end.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

For Memorial Day Weekend, Day 2:
Tattered Remnants #011:
Jacob Chestnut, John Gibson, Stephen Johns

THE GUARDIANS THEMSELVES: Jacob Chestnut, John Gibson, Stephen T. Johns

Note: The following was written in 2009.

Two millennia ago, the satirist Juvenal wrote of two men, prominent Romans, on a long trip away from the city. The first one lamented leaving his wife alone at home, as he feared she might not be faithful to him. The second boastfully stated that he had already provided for that difficulty by hiring a guardian to watch his wife and ensure proper behavior on her part. The first man looked at the second and laughed: "Who shall guard, then, the guardians themselves?"

That phrase (and a good one it is) raises the question of who can be entrusted with power.

But then, we must also take note of a second meaning to the phrase: who protects those who protect us?

Like most Americans, I usually view most public-security personnel as something between fixtures at best and annoying droids at worst. Who are these people who tell us to take our shoes off before we get into an aircraft? Why should I subject my computer to close inspection before I so much as enter the federal building? Do I really need to empty the change from my pockets before I walk through the metal detector? And (my pet peeve) why should I take my belt off of my ill fitting suit before I walk into a courtroom?

Security guards are the bottom of the public safety totem pole. They don't get no respect. They don't go on adventures with cool equipment like soldiers; they don't have the glamor and babe-attraction qualities of cops. We usually ignore them. We often get annoyed at them. We decry their necessity as fundamentally anti-freedom.

And yet, once in a while, not often (thank God) we are given reason to remember them and be thankful that they're there. They're the white corpuscles of the public immune system, and sometimes, they go from fixture to hero, and we ask ourselves why we never appreciated them before. Their heroism is instantaneous and comes and goes in a flash, and we ask ourselves why we never saw it before.

We never saw it before because they were the very definition of The Tattered Remnant: silent, dutiful, often bored, but ready to act in an instant when called for, and in so doing, showing the hidden gold within.


In the summer of 1998, I was working on Capitol Hill, in its grungiest, most out-of-the-way attic: the top floor of the "O'Neill House Office Building", located at 2nd and C Street, down the road a block from RNC Headquarters and well separated (like plague bacilli) from the rest of the Hill.

At the time, I had just graduated from law school, and was working for Subcommittee on the Census, helping (I thought) maintain a constitutional, head-count-derived census for the upcoming apportionment cycle and looking forward to a long, successful, money-making career as a Very Important Person.

The O'Neill Building was a dump. It was an ancient building, built originally as a hotel for Congressmen to stay in when they were in town (this was back the days of yore, before elected Members bought homes with mortgages in DC and their home districts). Later on, the building was bought by the House of Representatives outright to serve as extra office space, and to serve as a home for the high-school-aged Congressional Pages (who, I should add, were extremely well guarded and closely watched).

The offices of the Subcommittee on the Census was on the highest, and crappiest, floor of the building; the furniture we were provided looked like they came from an Anacostia garage sale. The Census Subcommittee was on its ten year cyclical uptick of staffing, as the 2000 Census was then fast approaching; but since it was only important two years a decade, they never got any decent diggings.

My office mates were an interesting crew. The Committee Chief was a sixtysomething demographics expert, a wizard well versed in the ancient and dark art of redistricting. His assistant was a porcine, sly, self-important, Machiavellian political operative whose self-opinion far exceeded any of his nominal talents.

The chief counsel--i.e., head lawyer--was the very attractive brunette wife of a senior GOP fundraiser; her assistant, a squat, ugly bottle-blonde with a foul mouth who I think was the model of J.K. Rowling's Dolores Umbridge. This woman owed her position to the fact that her older brother was high in the House staff leadership, working for Tom DeLay, The Hammer, then the third most powerful man in the House.

The mapmaker was a tightlipped, angular Boston Irishman, a true computer geek (in the best sense of the word) who did not say more than five words in the two years I knew him. Our press secretary was the sad, slightly boozy, soon-to-be-ex-wife of a prominent New York neoconservative scion whom I am sure you've heard of; her press assistant was a very-light-in-the-loafers gladhander with a Sinatra fetish. There was a rotating stream of volunteers and interns, mostly young, blonde, and very pretty; one was a flower of New Orleans who we all called "Beeee-yeth."

Then there was myself, probably well out of my geekish element, with an overly long staff title and too little to do. But this was a good thing as it gave me the opportunity to study for the upcoming bar exam without too much difficulty.

Working on the Hill was cool. I got to shake Newt Gingrich's hand once, and later met Dennis Hastert. Important "Members" (the official title of sitting Congressmen) came in and out of our office every day and we learned to know them on sight. Occasionally major fund contributors would come into the office for High Level Meetings With The Honcho, to which I might occasionally be invited.

I used to pat myself on my back for being in such important company. I hardly gave the guys at the front door gate, the poor rentacops in the cheesy uniforms, a second thought.

On July 24, 1998, I was at home, preparing for the Bar Exam, which was only six days off; it was not going well. I was desperately reviewing my very expensive and overpriced Bar Bri Bar Review Materials, and trying to memorize the difference between the Rule Against Perpetuities and The Rule in Shelly's Case (neither of which, BTW, I have ever had occasion to use once in the course of my legal career).

At about 3:45 in the afternoon, and suddenly, without warning, I felt my heart race. Something was wrong. Something had just popped up... and I didn't know what it was. I walked outside. I walked back in. I called my wife on her cel phone, to make sure she was alright (she was). I called my mom–ditto. I went inside again, sat in front of my Windows 3.1, DOS-driven computer with the Laserjet III printer and the $2000 scanner, and stared at it, playing with two floppy disks.

I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't work. Something was wrong.

I turned on the radio, which I kept tuned to WTOP-FM, the All-News, All-the-Time Talk Radio Station.

"Shooting at the Capitol!" the voice shouted. "The Capitol Building and all Capitol Hill buildings on the House Side have been shut down following a shooting on the grounds. At least one is dead, two wounded. Stay tuned to WTOP for this developing story!"

It appears that a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia thought that he needed to express his opinion to the individuals behind the voices in his head. Driving straight through from Montana to Washington in a day and a half, he tried to enter the Capitol Building's main structure through the Documents Entrance, a staff-only entrance on street level. On entering, when asked to walk through a metal detector, he immediately drew a weapon and shot Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut, a twenty year veteran of the force. He died instantly. The man then charged for the nearest official looking corridor on the first floor.

He chose the main office area for the Majority Leadership of the House. The exact door he barged through was that of the Majority Whip, Tom DeLay.

There he met Detective John Gibson, whose gun was already drawn.

They exchanged pistol fire. The man put multiple rounds into Detective Gibson, wounding him fatally but not instantly. Gibson responded, hitting his target with every round, gravely wounding the gunman and rendering him (as they say) "ineffective." The shooting was over in less than a minute.

Officer Chestnut gave his life with practically no warning or preparation. However, his life was not lost in vain. The sounds of the shots that killed him gave Gibson an opportunity to draw and charge his weapon, so when the man entered into his area, he was able to respond instantly. He disabled the shooter, and subsequently died of his wounds.

Behind the main door guarded by Detective Gibson were Whip DeLay and a dozen or so staffers, who, following proper procedure, dropped behind their desks to avoid being targets. None were hurt. Among those dozen was the elder brother of the girl in my office.

It was like 9/11 in the sense that it was one of those moments where the ordinary are revealed to be extraordinary. The security people, Capitol policemen, and others responsible for maintaining security went from zeroes (in the estimation of those working on the Hill) to heroes overnight.

Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson lay "in honor" (not "in state", but practically the same thing) in the Capitol rotunda, a gesture never before given to the non elected. Furthermore, Jacob Chestnut was the first African American to be granted this privilege.

The day of the funeral, thousands of people, including yours truly plus almost all of those working on the Hill at the time, stood at attention as the motorcade drove their flag-wrapped coffins from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery, where they were buried with military honors.

I certainly never met Detective Gibson; he was assigned to the VIP detail and the area he worked I only entered once, long after the incident. On the other hand, I am sure I probably saw Officer Chestnut at the O'Neill on one occasion or another. However, I don't remember having done so. So much the worse for me.

The shooter was never charged; a mad man, he was consigned for life to a Federal facility for the criminally insane. He remains there to this day. This is justice; paranoid schizophrenia I would not wish on my worst enemy. Let him never be free, but let him not be punished.


I look back now, lo! these ten years later, with wonder.

They're all gone, now.

All those Very Important Persons ... all the powerful I knew ... dust in the wind.

Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert are "former Speakers." Tom DeLay was forced to resign by a means of an faux scandal for which he was never prosecuted, only indicted (which is enough if you're a Republican, alas).

Our chief was forced out after Newt Gingrich's resignation as Speaker. His assistant, who engineered his removal, found himself back in the pack of the House staff, denied his former boss's job. He haunts the Hill to this day, ineffective in the minority, still waiting for a second chance that will probably never come.

The fundraising husband of our chief counsel was convicted and sent to prison because of his connection to the Jack Abramoff scandals. The brother of her assistant, he who hid in Tom DeLay's office during the shootings, was also convicted in connection with Abramoff and as of this writing awaits sentencing. Both ladies are gone as well. Nobody loves you when you're down and out.

Last I heard, only Bee-yeth survives and thrives on the Hill; she is now RNC Chief Counsel at 34.

Oh, yes, and somewhere in there I lost my Hill job too. (Cue best Ms. Piggy falsetto: "Bit-ter? Moi?")

Even the O'Neill House Office Building is gone; it was demolished in 2002. They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.

Sic transit gloria mundi–-

Today, it's all Democrats, all the time, on Capitol Hill. All of them are so important, now, you know. Things will never change. They'll always be in power, now, and forever, amen.



Yet somewhere in a quiet spot near the Documents Entrance of the House of Representatives there stands a plaque, in memory of two quiet heroes, Tattered Remnants who gave their lives for those far less worthy of honor than they are.


Forgive me for leaving Mr. Johns as almost an afterthought. He deserves better.

Let me say this of his sacrifice, which was much like Gibson's and Chestnut's.

On June 12, 2009, an evil old man, a black-hearted racist and Jew-hater of the lowest sort, tried to invade the United States Holocaust Museum. (I forget his name.) The man, who was 88, decided to commit 'suicide by cop'. He brought a rifle to the front foyer of the Museum and tried to blast his way inside.

The shooter was met straight up by a half-dozen security personnel. He shot and killed Stephen Tyrone Johns before the other guards (who were, alas that it is needful, heavily armed) responded and shot the man, disarming him. The man survived and awaits trial for murder. [Note: the man died awaiting trial abut 11 months later. - RLK]

Stephen Tyrone Johns died later at a hospital. He was 38, and left behind a wife and son.

Like Gibson and Chestnut, he gave his life for the peace and good order of the United States, protecting a building that has become, of its own, a shrine worthy of the highest respect. And like Chestnut, his sacrifice allowed his comrades-in-arms to bring this armed invader down before he was able to harm a visitor.

Thank you, Stephen Tyrone Johns.

Thank you, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson.

And thank you to everyone who ever had to stand on their feet for a full eight-hour watch being sneered at by the muggles that they protect.


My good friend The Legendary Stef makes the following very salient observation:
I'd like to add Richard Jewell, the security guard at Centennial Park during the Atlanta Olympics, whose quick recognition of the danger posed by a particular unattended package likely saved lives when that package later detonated. Sadly, ...Mr. Jewell's life and career were nearly ruined when he was erroneously considered a suspect in the bombing. (BTW, Eric Rudolph turned out to be the criminal responsible.) Mr. Jewell has since died, but the memory of his competence and heroism shines on this Memorial Day.


Friday, May 27, 2011

For Memorial Day Weekend, Day 1:
Tattered Remnants #008: Sullivan Ballou,
2nd Rhode Island Infantry Regiment


The introduction to this series can be found here.

His parents died when he was a small child. He managed to educate himself well: Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, Brown University for undergraduate work, National Law School in New York. He was called to the bar in 1853 at the age of 24.

He was elected to the Rhode Island legislature and eventually served, briefly, as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was a strong Republican and aligned himself closely with the cause of emancipation and of Lincoln. When the war broke out, he signed up for service with an infantry regiment and was in Washington, DC, in July of 1861, where his unit prepared for deployment–the First Battle of Bull Run.

Ballou is famous for his last letter to his wife, which was movingly read in The Civil War, the 1990 Ken Burns history series.

The letter, given here in full with spelling as the original, best transmits the profound ambivalence of one of the Tattered Remnant who must choose between the love of his life and the fulfillment of his duty.

Cue Ashokan Farewell here:

July 14, 1861.
Camp Clark, Washington

My Very Dear Sarah,

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. Our movements may be of a few days duration and full of pleasure — and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine, O God be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battle field for my Country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this Government and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys, I lay down nearly all of your’s, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows, when after having eaten for long years the bitter fruits of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children, is it weak or dishonorable, that while the banner of my forefathers floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, underneath my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children should struggle in fierce, though useless contest with my love of Country.

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm Summer Sabbath night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying perhaps the last sleep before that of death while I am suspicious that Death is creeping around me with his fatal dart, as I sit communing with God, my Country and thee. I have sought most closely and diligently and often in my heart for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I love, and I could find none. A pure love of my Country and of the principles I have so often advocated before the people — ‘the name of honor, that I love more than I fear death,’ has called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables, that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly on with all those chains, to the battle field.

The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you, come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and you that I have enjoyed them so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our boys grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears, every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortunes of this world to shield you, and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the Spirit-land and hover near you, while you buffit the storm, with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience, till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladest days and the darkest nights, advised to your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours, always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air cools your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys — they will grow up as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long — and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters, and feel that God will bless you in your holy work.

Tell my two Mothers I call God’s blessings upon them new. O! Sarah I wait for you there; come to me, and lead thither my children.


"Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the First Battle of Bull Run."

It must be noted: after its burial, his body was dug up and desecrated by Georgia troops who wanted a Yankee officer's skull as a souvenir. What they left behind–charred bones, a blanket, and a shirt–were returned to Rhode Island. They were given burial with the highest state honors.

Sarah never remarried. She lived to the age of 80 and now lies in the grave next to his at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, RI.

They left no living descendants.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ratko Mladic arrested!

This is wonderful news.

The barbarian war criminal Ratko Mladic, whose hate and brutality caused the murders of more than 5000 helpless prisoners and the butchery of 3000 fleeing, unarmed men at Srebrenica has finally, finally, been arrested in Serbia.

In July 1995, more than five thousand men in the mountain town of Srebrenica were captured, and then killed with their hands tied behind their backs and blindfolds on their heads. The rest died on the run, unarmed, attempting to flee a captivity that would have ended in precisely the same way.

And this is the man who, along with Radovan Karadzic, now on trial at the Hague, was primarily responsible for the massacre both through direct volition and through command responsibility.

This man gave the orders that led directly to the greatest act of genocide in Europe since the end of WWII and he gleefully presided over same with full knowledge of what he was doing.

He killed more than twice the number of people who died on 9/11. Bin Laden was a piker compared to this man.

His hatred and rigidity not only caused those crimes but even led to the suicide of his own daughter during the war. Her fiance' was drafted into the war in order to show that there were no favorites in the Serbian draft system. After he died in combat, Mladic's daughter committed suicide, using his ceremonial general's pistol.

If anybody seeks an example of what a REAL political assassin looks like, look no further.

God give him justice. In its purest form.


I offer and request you, the reader, to take an hour or so out of your life and watch the following TV documentary on the Srebrenica Massacre. It is entitled A Cry From The Grave, and it is in 11 parts.

I urge you to watch it and learn the truth of what happened at Srebrenica. Warning: Not Safe for Work and not for the squeamish.

Part 1 is below.

The other parts follow:
Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Assassin Loughner Not Competent To Stand Trial

It's official. He was and is completely nuts.

During his hearing, two marshals forcibly removed Loughner from the courtroom after an outburst in which one reporter heard him say, "Thank you for the freak show. She died right in front of me," and "You're changing ..."


A 52-page evaluation by psychologist Christina Pietz and a 43-page evaluation by psychiatrist Matthew Carroll both concluded that Loughner isn't fit for trial because he cannot assist in his defense due to mental illness. Both evaluations were recorded, but they weren't shown in court.

Burns said he agreed with Carroll's evaluation that said Loughner is "clearly illogical and confused." The judge said Loughner wasn't masquerading a mental illness and noted that he had been acting bizarrely for the past two years.

The judge also said that Loughner doesn't like being labeled mentally ill. "He scoffs at the idea," Burns said.

In other words, connecting this man to the Tea Party, or to any other political movement, is a lie.

He was a nutbag with a gun, and there was absolutely no political meaning to the shootings whatsoever. And anybody who holds otherwise should be called out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Favorite Rerun

A picker-upper if you're feeling low. Worth the watch. (And it's from an excellent movie.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You

Hokay. This should be amusing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Looks Like We're Still Here.....

HT: Kristin Martin Duus

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The theme today is the End of the World.

Okay. The world didn't end today. But it gotcha thinkin' about it, dinnit?

REM. Smart guys. For 5/21/2011.

Letter from Rome, May 21, 2011

I got one of those endlessly forwarded internet Emails....from a "friend of a friend."


Boy, I wish I spoke more Italian. So I got an unexpected business stopover in Rome for two days, and I figured, great I'll check out the Vatican, etc. I checked into a nice little hotel right next to the Vatican, and took a nap before sight-seeing this afternoon.

At first I thought, "this is great." Must be some sort of holiday I didn't know about. No lines, no tickets needed. But no curators? No security? I always heard about how they even made sure you were dressed moderately. The art was fantastically beautiful, but I expected guides?

I wandered around for an hour or so, loving the art, but it just seemed too creepy to enjoy myself, just how desolately empty everything was. There's a few other people, but they seem as confused as I am. I got back to my hotel, and there's a few tourists about. Unfortunately, they don't speak English, either.

So does anyone know, is May 21 some sort of national holiday in Italy, or what? I couldn't find anything on Wikipedia.

Oh, wait, never mind. I think I see Cardinal Law. I'll go ask him....

Six Flags Over Ozymandias

A brilliant photographic tour of an abandoned amusement park in New Orleans, drowned and rotting lo these past six years.

"Look upon my works, Ye Mighty, and despair!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Beautiful Tribute to The Orthodox Victims of Communism

A traditional Russian Orthodox prayer of Eternal Memory (Vesnaya Pamyat) to commemorate those Orthodox faithful who were destroyed by the Communists, starting with the Royal Family--Tsar Nicholai, Tsarina Alexandra, Tsarevich Alexei, and his sisters Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, followed by those bishops, archbishops, and other Orthodox ordained killed by the CPSU over its 75 year reign of terror.

Rest and Eternal Memory to them all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From the Internets: "He Musta Fallen, Ossifer!"

....a number of times.


....for a few days.

I'll be back when busy-ness decreases.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Secret of Happiness Is.....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Classic Trek Like You Have Never Seen It (Thank God)

In keeping with the spirit of yesterday's Dancing Godzilla, we offer this... curious... Classic Trek Ep.

Friday, May 13, 2011

It's the end of a particularly annoying week.

For which we therefore present you with....

The Godzilla Overture.

Have a nice weekend.

And if that is not enough you can always click here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happily ever after......?

Cinderella, Prince Charming*....

...and the two evil step sisters.

(*or Sergeant Pepper. Your call.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"In London There Was Such A Man."

Seventy one years ago, today, May 10, 1940.

William Manchester put it best:

The French had collapsed. The Dutch had been overwhelmed. The Belgians had surrendered. The British army, trapped, fought free and fell back toward the Channel ports, converging on a fishing town whose name was then spelled Dunkerque.

Behind them lay the sea.

It was England's greatest crisis since the Norman conquest....

.....In this new exigency, confronted by the mightiest conqueror Europe had ever known, England looked for another Alfred, a figure cast in a mode which, by the time of the Dunkirk deliverance, seemed to have been forever lost.

England's new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England's decent, civilized Establishment had rejected. They viewed Adolf Hitler as the product of complex social and historical forces. Their successor would have to be a passionate Manichean who saw the world as a medieval struggle to the death between the powers of good and the powers of evil, who held that individuals are responsible for their actions and that the German dictator was therefore wicked. A believer in martial glory was required, one who saw splendor in the ancient parades of victorious legions through Persepolis and could rally the nation to brave the coming German fury. An embodiment of fading Victorian standards was wanted: a tribute for honor, loyalty, duty, and the supreme virtue of action; one who would never compromise with iniquity, one who could create a sublime mood and thus give men heroic visions of what they were and might become. Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people, a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martyrdom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it o them like great hunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it was "equally good to live or to die" – who would, if necessary, be just as cruel, just as cunning, and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations, or preaching supernaturalism, or foisting off myths of his infallibility, or destroying, or even warping, the libertarian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England's last chance.

In London there was such a man.

-- William Manchester, The Last Lion, pp. 3-4.