Archive | November 2016

The Somme in All Its Gory – Monday Map

Brilliant Detective Work at 4D Somme

Cartographers use the scarred landscape of France, World War I maps, and satellite imagery to plot the battlefield in stunning detail

somme-overlay

The website 4D Somme is dedicated to the British units raised in Ireland and Ulster, who saw considerable action during the battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916, and ended nearly 5 months later, on November 18th.

But the overall imagery provided covers the entire battlefield.

somme-lines-july-november

Above, the British lines at the start and end of the battle.

Hundreds of thousands died to move the front about 7 miles – over one million casualties in total among the British, French, and German forces fated to take part in arguably the most savage and costly battle in human history.

The satellite maps and the overlays taken from actual WWI strategic mapping can be zoomed into down to the individual village, trench, or observation post.

somme-air

Above, actual reconnaissance photographs lined up perfectly where they were actually taken from aircraft similar to those operated by my maternal grandfather, who flew for the American forces father south near the end of the Great War.

While other sites go into greater detail about the people who fought and died along the River Somme in 1916, this site is entirely engrossing and highly recommended.

The 4D Somme full url is

http://queensub.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=f0629347d5dc4d6987686f876eec5649

 

 

Remembering the Somme 100 Years On

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the ending of the Battle of the Somme

World War I veteran memories reveal the horror and humanity, and lessons that need relearned, however painful

Forty years ago, author Martin Middlebrook collected eye-witness accounts for his seminal work on the most horrific battle known in human history. But most of them remained hidden until only a few months ago, when they were turned over the Imperial War Museum, in London.

Many of them have now been made available to the public.

Please check out these podcasts and interesting short articles at the museum’s website.

And this article about them at the BBC’s website.

The battle began on July 1, 1916, when over 58,000 British soldiers were lost, with a third of them killed outright. Compare that to the American loses on D-Day (4,697,) at Gettysburg (23,049 over three days) and it will help put things into perspective.

The Somme lasted nearly five months, resulting in over 1 million causalities.

At a time when a new and popular video game, Battlefield 1, is focusing on the combat that took place during the First World War, it is sobering to learn of the real life experiences of actual veterans, many of whom could not bring themselves to speak of their combat experiences until near the end of their lives.

But it is even more important that such stark reality be exhibited before the minds of anyone advocating the use of military force and sending the young men and women of today into harm’s way in the name of  “our national interests” or “national defense.”

somme-satellite-map

source: 4D Somme

A Most Dishonorable Result

We get the government we deserve

Such quotes give scant comfort in an era when integrity means so little

During the first State of the Union Address given by President Barak Obama, when he stated that health care reform would not cover illegal immigrants, Joe Wilson, Republican Representative from South Carolina, shouted from his seat, “You lie!”

The President stopped his speech long enough to reply, “That’s not true.” But too few Americans could tell the difference between the two statements.

Social media was filled with commentary about the incident, with many saying things like “What’s the big deal? Democrats have booed Republican presidents during their addresses too.”

I knew then that if relatively literate, educated Americans do not understand how partisan booing of a President’s policies differed from a serving member of Congress declaring before the nation and the world that the President of the United States is a dishonest and dishonorable man, we were in serious trouble.

But I completely underestimated just how bad it has become.

Now, seven year later, the minority of Americans who actually vote have elected someone to the Presidency who has repeatedly proven, in absolutely verifiable ways, that he is serially dishonest and egregiously dishonorable, and they voted for him anyway.

Like so many, I failed to heed the dire warnings of Carl Sagan at the end of the last century, as he predicted how the American people might sign away their very liberty, if education in this country so deteriorated that voters were unable to distinguish fear mongering from inconvenient truths, and propaganda from reasonable assertion and argument supported by empirical evidence and verifiable fact.

But even such a brilliant wise man as Dr. Sagan could not have envisioned an American electorate unable to see the difference between the baseless character-smearing of the expert career bureaucrat proven to be the most truthful Presidential candidate in this past election cycle, and the overwhelming documentary evidence proving that the rank amateur who won the Presidency is a truly dishonest and dishonorable man unfit to serve on even a PTA board.

Like many a successful shyster, he convinced them to vote against someone else. I realize that a lot of these voters were simply unaware of what they were actually voting for.

Facts Forgotten

The Trump campaign won in part by using the technique where you accuse someone of something terrible, which cannot be disproved, and then say it louder and louder and over and over until the masses believe it must be true.

Trump’s increasing declaration that no one has ever been more corrupt than Hillary Clinton was nothing more than an outrageous insult to hurl at an opponent. It can’t even be considered an opinion, as it has no basis in fact, and was put forth and repeated without a shred of evidence presented to back up his claims.

This technique is known as “the Big Lie” and it has worked very well for many people like Trump, since Adolf Hitler published the concept in Mein Kampf in 1925.

That is not to say Trump is a Nazi. He isn’t.

Fascism doesn’t mean “Nazis.” It means “the merger between the corporation and the state.”

That is the definition of Fascism according to Giovanni Gentile, the man who invented it.

And that is exactly what the American people voted for; even if most of them didn’t even know it, including Donald Trump.

All they know is they voted for the tough-talking outsider who is going to shake up Washington – by voting into power the very corruption they thought they were voting against.

They just handed the White House and Congress to the Oil Companies whose profits are soaring but pay no taxes, the Insurance Companies that will deny them healthcare or skyrocket their premiums once the ACA is repealed, the Pharmaceutical Companies who will continue to charge them many times more for drugs than what people pay in other countries, and the shadowy firms who make most of the weapons of mass destruction in the world and grow fat by eating up more than half of every tax dollar that should be going to repair our schools, bridges, roads, and affordable healthcare in the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have it.

In case you think such statements are soft on “national defense,” you may have not noticed that the USA’s military is larger and more powerful than THE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED.

A Safe Place

At 3:30 AM, after drinking more scotch than at any time my life, I posted on social media my sincere disappointment with the results of the most important election in my lifetime, and my disgust for those who would knowingly vote for Institutionalized Intolerance, Bigotry, and Brutality, which Donald Trump embraces and encouraged.

I received a private message in response to my election night reaction, asking “Do you need a blankie and a safe place?”

My impromptu reply included the following:

Oh my.

You could not be more wrong.

I have spent far too many years in a very safe place on an island off the coast of America, in the only cosmopolitan city on the continent.

From here I could feel sorry for working class women in places like Texas, who could not access safe and affordable healthcare, or even a textbook on history or science that presented the world to young minds as it really is, rather than sustaining the precious but false beliefs of those empowered to ban books and even ideas.

But my own life was relatively untouched by such things, and I grew complacent and comfortable and on the sideline far too long.

While I could be tempted to emigrate from America to the civilized world – a place that is, around the globe, horrified at what happened here on the 8th of November – that would be deserting my homeland on the brink of its worst crisis since the Civil War.

Only, this time, the winning forces belong to the bigotry-based aristocracy that grow ever richer on the masses of ignorant laborers, because they vote against their own better interests, if they vote at all.

A little over a decade ago, representatives from around the world, who really know what they are talking about, took part in a poll that named North Korea as the worst threat to world peace and global stability.

The United States of America came in second.

The Obama Administration went a long way toward repairing the severe damage to our credibility brought about by the last Republican administration, as well as overseeing an historic and remarkable domestic economic recovery from the calamity that happened during the Bush Administration, and all despite disgraceful obstructionism on the part of a hostile Congress, the like of which having never before existed in U.S. history.

So yeah, I am distraught to the point of despair that the United States of America is now going to backslide from all of that progress and set the world back decades if not a century, when very real threats like Climate Change cannot wait, rather than leading the world into a brighter future, as it once did.

As a white Anglo-Saxon male with health insurance, most any election result hardly touches my own life.

Yet I grieve for my fellow Americans who will suffer mightily as a result of this election. And that includes those who brought it upon themselves.

Well, some of them anyway.

But I grieve most for those in this once great nation that was built upon principals of enlightenment and justice for all, whose civil rights and human rights are threatened, denied, or abused, now that the Ugly Americanism of ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, brutality, and persecution have been given a green light and the reigns of power, and in many cases will almost certainly be legislated into law.

Tolerance Has Its Limits

I have never been particularly political, except in cases of notable social injustice. My life has been built upon tolerance, even for the most intolerant, who I tended to pity if not as much as their victims, except in cases of overt bigotry. But no longer.

With very few exceptions for the genuinely ignorant or those of misguided religious principals, I simply will never forgive anyone who voted for Donald Trump in knowing opposition to raising the minimum wage so families with two full-time working parents do not live in poverty, protecting Social Security and Medicare, science education standards based on actual science rather than denial or mythology, true environmental protection, truly equal civil rights and protection under the law for all Americans including equal pay for equal work and national healthcare, stopping criminals from buying firearms without a waiting period in some states to use for crimes in other states, and forcing corporations and the extremely wealthy to pay taxes equal to their income.

Those are all things you voted against if you voted for Trump.

And for those who voted thus out of concern only for their own personal greed at the expense of their fellow citizens, just so they can pay fewer taxes in a country with one of the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world, I have lost any respect I might have held for you as a human being – permanently.