Before the 2008 crash, Spain was running a surplus, news that too frequently comes as a surprise to austerians. But it, like many other countries, was experiencing a housing bubble. That bubble was caused by many of the same bankers who are now insisting that Spain “take its medicine.” What should happen instead is that those bankers should take their medicine, including an outright scalping on their bond holdings. The Spanish people didn’t cause this problem, and visiting unnecessary pain and poverty on Spaniards will not get Spain out of this problem. If both economics and history are any guide, it’s more likely to lead to bankers dangling from lampposts than to economic prosperity in Spain. But nobody, not even bankers, believes that bankers act in their own best long-term interests all the time, mainly because they don’t. So here we are. Well, here the Spaniards are. And if the Republicans got their way, here we would be as well.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:10 pm
Monday, November 19, 2012 6:15 am
Berkeley economist and World War II student J. Bradford DeLong:
And so, 70 years ago [today], the million-soldier reserve of the Red Army was transferred to General Nikolai Vatutin’s Southwestern Front, Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky’s Don Front, and Marshal Andrei Yeremenko’s Stalingrad Front. They went on to spring the trap of Operation Uranus, the code name for the planned encirclement and annihilation of the German Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army. They would fight, die, win, and thus destroy the Nazi hope of dominating Eurasia for even one more year – let alone of establishing Hitler’s 1,000-year Reich.
Together, these 1.2 million Red Army soldiers, the workers who armed them, and the peasants who fed them turned the Battle of Stalingrad into the fight that, of any battle in human history, has made the greatest positive difference for humanity.
The Allies probably would have eventually won World War II even had the Nazis conquered Stalingrad, redistributed their spearhead forces as mobile reserves, repelled the Red Army’s subsequent winter 1942 offensive, and seized the Caucasus oil fields, thus depriving the Red Army of 90% of its motor fuel. But any Allied victory would have required the large-scale use of nuclear weapons, and a death toll in Europe that would most likely have been twice the actual World War II death toll of perhaps 40 million.
May there never be another such battle. May we never need another one.
The battle had been engaged a month previously, when 200,000 Red Army soldiers crossed the Volga River at Stalingrad under heavy artillery and aircraft attack (a scene rendered quite faithfully in the movie “Enemy at the Gate”) and met the Wehrmacht head-on. Of those initial 200,000, more than 80 percent died. (In fact, of the roughly 40 million who died in the European theater during World War II, 20 million were Soviet. For comparison, perhaps 450,000 U.S. service members were killed in action in all theaters in the entire war.) The fighting wasn’t just house-to-house, it was room-to-room, with houses and rooms frequently changing hands multiple times. One Soviet regimental commander, finding his unit surrounded by the Germans, fought until his unit ran out of ammunition, then called in artillery fire on his own position.
From the standpoint of today, knowing as we do what transpired in the Soviet Union under 70 years of Communist rule and knowing as we do (thanks in part to my sister-in-law) what transpired on the Eastern Front during World War II, it is easy to say there were no good guys. But much of the good we and millions of other people on every continent of the world enjoy today was made possible by some of the bad guys at Stalingrad. Such are the ironies of history.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 4:44 pm
What it boils down to is: What kind of country are we going to be — the kind people want to live in, or not?
When a disaster strikes I want big government, small government, medium-sized government. I want all the government ever. I want the neighbors and the charities and the churches and the families and the friends, too. Every crack in the plaster needs to be patched and every problem needs to be solved, and I want as many people putting that puzzle together as possible. All hands on the [expletive] deck. Here’s a bucket. Start bailing the water out.
I want everybody to be figuring out how to do more, instead of fighting over the best way to do less without looking like too much of an [expletive] about it.
And you know, I think the majority of Americans want this, too. It’s just that for the past 40 years we’ve had this constant drumbeat of no we can’t, it’s too hard, we can’t afford it, everybody fends for themselves, there’s no help for anybody, let’s all just go home and if you have to step over a homeless dude to get to your car then do it because that’s the price of doing business. People deserve to have their homes submerged and their shops wiped out and their lives ruined because of where they live or what they do or who they are, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, because only government is big enough to solve this problem and we all know government isn’t the answer to anything anymore.
But deep down we’ve still got that nagging feeling that somebody somewhere ought to be on top of [stuff] that most of the time people don’t deserve what they get (and thank God for that, by the way, she says while conducting the express train to hell), that we are better and bigger and stronger than this, and we’re just straining against the goddamn harness to do something. And disaster preparedness and emergency management are some of the most basic things government can do to prevent us from tearing ourselves apart when something [awful] happens, to take that instinct and direct it outward instead of inward.
To make us help, rather than letting us hurt.
I made the mistake earlier today of getting into an argument on Facebook with a couple of wingnuts. They argued that “compulsory charity” — which, for reasons that escape logic and which they declined to explain, they defined strictly as “government” charity; guys, go tell it to the LDS Church — is always wrong. (They also argued that abortion is the biggest sin there is, but then consistency is seldom a hallmark of wingnuts.)
Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s. The implication, often offered up by wingnuts as stone fact, is that the two differ. And certainly they frequently do. But there’s no practical or metaphysical reason why the two couldn’t overlap from time to time, as in, say, stopping the Nazi genocide machine.
Or helping our fellow Americans, our family, our friends, our neighbors to get their lives back in order after an unparalleled natural disaster.
No one with a lick of sense will claim that he knows what Mitt Romney believes, but it is a matter of public record that Romney has said that private interests ought to be responsible for disaster recovery. Given that mutant weather alone is likely to become an important aspect of our new normal in this century, that claim alone disqualifies him from any role in government. And yet somewhere around 50 percent of Americans say they are ready and willing to make him president, as if, in this “Christian” nation, the Golden Rule and the Second Great Commandment were tiny codicils in the articles of incorporation for a company that Bain Capital long ago acquired, stripped of its assets and steered into Chapter 7.
Monday, October 29, 2012 7:12 pm
As I write, I imagine that all kinds of hell is breaking loose in the Northeast, the kinds of hell that, among other things, make it difficult to report in real time on what kinds of hell are breaking loose. I’ve covered hurricanes before, and believe me when I tell you that it is No Damn Fun, from getting sandblasted by what used to be that dune over there to living on Lance Toastchees and bottled water from your trunk for four days while wearing the same clothes and being unable to bathe to trying to navigate a car that don’t float when half or more of the bridges are underwater. People, including myself, joke about the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore as the Angel of Death, but I’ve done Cantore’s job (albeit for a different news outlet), and I would have to think very, very hard before doing it again, for love or money.
It’s bad enough in any one location. But when all hell breaks loose in a huge region, and when that region is the most heavily populated of its size in the country … well, we have no precedent for this. And when it happens a week before a presidential election, the potential for feces to hit the fan is shattering the glass on every meter in the boiler room.
And yet there also is likely to be an enormous point of clarity coming out of this event, as Charlie Pierce explains:
However, as to the campaign itself, and taking as axiomatic that almost anything can “impact” an election as close as this one apparently is shaping up to be, there’s absolutely no telling what the effect of massive four-day weather event in the middle of this week will have on the events of the middle of next week. Certainly, in situations like this, the president has several trump cards he can play simply by virtue of being the incumbent. He can act as president. He can engage FEMA and the rest of the federal disaster apparatus to help those governors, Republican and Democratic, who are in the path of the storm. (He just might be in more pictures with Chris Christie over the next week than with Joe Biden.) He can demonstrate, top to bottom, by example, why “leaving it to the states” and, worse, “the private sector can do it better” are empty platitudes. The storm is hitting 12 states. This is something we need to do as one country. …
The problem, of course, is that a good piece of the political opposition doesn’t recognize this president as president when the sun’s shining. The people who will tell you that disaster relief is best left to the states, or to the private sector, are going be howling at the White House if some cat isn’t brought down from a tree in Cape May in less than five minutes. There are a thousand things that can go unavoidably wrong in a situation like this. It is the most fertile environment imaginable for unpredictability. The good news for the president is that he’s in charge. The bad news for the president is that he’s in charge, and the opposition is still truthless, and demented.
(Pardon this interruption from your host for this illustration of just how demented that opposition is:)
(We now return you to Pierce:)
Here’s the last thing that I’d like to throw out there before we all go 1856 all over for a while. This entire campaign has been fought out over the issue of whether or not we are all members of a viable political commonwealth with implicit mutual obligations to act through our government — a self-government that is, or ought to be, the purest creative project of that commonwealth — for the common good, or whether that government is some sort of alien entity repressing our fundamental entrepreneurial energy. Over the next few days, I believe, we are going to see that argument brought to the sharpest point possible. If you want to see how this event will “impact the election,” look to what answer to that question emerges from the storm. It will tell us a lot about the election, and about ourselves.
When the Framers put the phrase “general welfare” into the preamble to the Constitution, things like Sandy were what they had in mind. And whether we remember that fact over the next week and more will determine whether we keep, and whether we deserve to keep, the “Republic, if you can keep it” that Benjamin Franklin and his compatriots bestowed upon us when that document was signed.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:53 pm
The cruelty of the winter, its savagery towards German and Russian alike, was gruesomely illustrated for a rearguard of 3rd Rifle Regiment on the fourth Sunday in Advent of 1941. It happened at Ozarovo. Through his binoculars the second lieutenant spotted a group of horses and troops standing on a gentle slope in the deep snow. Cautiously the German troops approached. There was a strange silence. The Soviet group seemed terrifyingly motionless in the flickering light of the snowy waste. And suddenly the lieutenant grasped the incredible-horses and men, pressed closely together and standing waist-deep in the snow, were dead. They were standing there, just as they had been ordered to halt for a rest, frozen to death and stiff, a shocking monument to the war.
Over on one side was a soldier, leaning against the flank of his horse. Next to him a wounded man in the saddle, one leg in a splint, his eyes wide open under iced-up eyebrows, his right hand still gripping the dishevelled mane of his mount. The second lieutenant and the sergeant slumped forward in their saddles, their clenched fists still gripping their reins. Wedged in between two horses were three soldiers: evidently they had tried to keep warm against the animals’ bodies. The horses themselves were like the horses on the plinths of equestrian statues-heads held high, eyes closed, their skin covered with ice, their tails whipped by the wind, but frozen into immobility. The frozen breath of eternity.
When Lance-corporal Tietz tried to photograph the shocking monument the view-finder froze over with his tears, and the shutter refused to work. The shutter release was frozen up. The god of war was holding his hand over the infernal picture: it was not to become a memento for others. …
On 20th December 1941 a very worried Guderian flew to East Prussia to see Hitler at his headquarters. He wanted to persuade him to take the German front line back to more favourable positions, if necessary over a considerable distance.
The five-hour interview was of historic importance. It showed the Fuehrer irritable, tormented by anxiety, but resolved to fight fanatically; it revealed a powerless and obsequious High Command, resembling courtiers in uniforms; and it showed Guderian, alone but courageous, passionately arguing his case and fearlessly giving Hitler his frank opinion on the situation at the front.
The first time the word retreat was mentioned Hitler exploded. The word seemed to sting him like the bite of an adder. It conjured up for him the spectre of the Napoleonic disaster of 1812. Anything but retreat!
Passionately Hitler tried to convince Guderian: “Once I’ve authorized a retreat there won’t be any holding them. The troops will just run. And with the frost and the deep snow and the icy roads that means that the heavy weapons will be the first to be abandoned, and the light ones next, and then the rifles will be thrown away, and in the end there’ll be nothing left. No. The defensive positions must be held. Transport junctions and supply centres must be defended like fortresses. The troops must dig their nails into the ground; they must dig in, and not yield an inch.”
Guderian rejoined: “My Fuehrer, the ground in Russia at present is frozen solid to a depth of four feet. No one can dig in there.”
“Then you must get the mortars to fire at the ground to make shell-craters,” Hitler retorted. “That’s what we did in Flanders in the first war.”
Guderian again had to put Hitler right on his facts. “In Flanders the ground was soft. But in Russia the shells now produce holes no more than four inches deep and the size of a wash-basin-the soil is as hard as iron. Besides, the divisions have neither enough mortars nor, what’s more important, any shells to spare for that kind of experiment. I myself have only four heavy howitzers left to each division, and none of them has more than 50 rounds. And that is for a front sector of 20 miles.”
Before Hitler could interrupt him Guderian continued: “Positional warfare in this unsuitable terrain will lead to battles of material as in the First World War. We shall lose the flower of our Officers Corps and NCOs Corps; we shall suffer gigantic losses without gaining any advantage. And these losses will be irreplaceable.”
There was deathly silence in the Fuehrer’s bunker at the Wolfsschanze. Hitler too was silent. Then he stepped up close to Guderian and in an imploring voice said, “Do you believe Frederick the Great’s grenadiers died gladly? And yet the King was justified in demanding of them the sacrifice of their lives. I too consider myself justified in demanding of each German soldier that he should sacrifice his life.”
Guderian realized at once that with this bombastic comparison Hitler was merely trying to evade the issue. What Guderian was talking about was not sacrifice as such, but useless sacrifice. He therefore said calmly, “Our soldiers have proved that they are prepared to sacrifice their lives. But this sacrifice ought only to be demanded when the end justifies it. And I see no such justification, my Fuehrer!”
From the horrified expressions on the faces of the officers present it was clear that they expected Hitler to explode. But he did not. He said almost softly, “I know all about your personal effort, and how you lead your troops from in front. But for this reason you are in danger of seeing things too much at close quarters. You are hamstrung by too much compassion for your men. Things look clearer from a greater distance. In order to hold the front no sacrifice can be too great. For if we do not hold it the Armies of Army Group Centre are lost.”
The argument continued for several hours. When Guderian left the situation room in the Fuehrer’s bunker late at night he overheard Hitler saying to Keitel, “There goes a man whom I have not been able to convince.”
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 8:12 pm
… a 100-foot-wide, 200-foot-deep sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City and swallowed a three-story building. Blame Tropical Storm Agatha and ancient drainage systems.
It’s not like our own infrastructure is in such great shape that we can point fingers, either.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:43 am
If the blowout-control device on this well 36 miles off the Louisiana coast doesn’t control the leaking, currently about 42,000 gallons per day, the leak may continue for months.
I am not completely opposed to drilling off the N.C. coast, but even one accident of this scale, particularly closer in, would have devastating effects on two key industries, fishing and tourism, as well as spoiling an area of the state that is as much a part of me now as the mountains and the place where I live.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 9:31 pm
Two friends escaped serious injury in vehicular mishaps today — one walked away from a rear-ender with no apparent injury, the other just missed being T-boned by another car blowing through a red light.
Lots of people around the world were not so lucky, including a third friend whose wife is suddenly, gravely ill. But I’ll take what I got for today and thank God for it.
Friday, February 12, 2010 9:30 pm
Snowpocalyzzard!; or, Snow on the ground/Snow on the ground/Lookin’ like a fool with your/Snow on the ground
Someone set up a Nikon still camera to shoot a new frame every 5 minutes for 27 hours. The result is a 27-second time-lapse video of this week’s 27-hour blizzard in D.C. Pretty cool.
Meanwhile, my friend and former N&R colleague John Cochran, now with CQ in Washington, was featured all over the country after a shooter from the Syracuse Post-Standard caught him shoveling snow … off the roof of his front porch. If you look closely, you can see his son and daughter locking the windows behind him so they can watch TV in peace. (OK, I just made up that last part.)
And everyone’s a critic: The Awl, in effect, says to John, “Ur not doin’ it rite, n00b. PWN3D!”
We’re supposed to get more snow tonight. Hooper’s Pinewood Derby race is tomorrow, but worst case, we can walk there.
And, finally, apparently there’s a chance that we may wake up tomorrow with snow on the ground somewhere in all 50 states at once. (Yes, even Hawaii; some of the volcano peaks top 12,000 feet.) Wonder when the last time was that that happened.
Monday, January 18, 2010 8:53 pm
Memo from the NY Times to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Public hearings are good, but subpoenaing documents is better. Yup. Banksters committed fraud on a massive scale. This commission isn’t a law-enforcement agency, but what it finds can help Justice and SEC investigators do their jobs. In fact, it may force them to do their jobs, which a mere sense of duty has not, so far, sufficed to do.
More from the FCIC: The head securities regulator for the state of Texas testifies about how the feds have kneecapped state investigators/investigations, not because they would do a better job but to protect the very people they’re supposed to be regulating. Biggest. Fraud. In. History.
Memo to right-wing nuts (and anyone else, although I suspect only the wingnuts would be stupid enough to try this): Do not invite journalists into your home, sit for an interview and then demand their tapes at gunpoint, because your ass will go to prison and your wallet will go to the journalists. Having once covered the Klan, I’m taking particular satisfaction in the outcome of this case.
The Fed elides oversight and political meddling because it thinks you and I are too stupid to know the difference. Stupid Fed.
Darrell Issa wants Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson to testify about the AIG bailout. So do I, but Issa has a little more leverage than I do. Uh, Democrats, that slamming sound you hear is Issa walking out the back door with your populist mandate for 2010.
More fraud uncovered: This time, short-sale fraud. And wonder of wonders, it’s CNBC that has uncovered it. Memo to Mary Schapiro: When CNBC looks both more honest and more industrious than the SEC, then you are officially Teh Suck.
For once, J.P. Morgan outperforms Goldman Sachs … if, by “outperform,” you mean, “directs an even more inexcusably large percentage of its total revenues to banker bonuses” — 64 percent of revenues. Not of profits, of revenues. Remember, Morgan, like the other 37 banks reviewed by the WSJ, has significant amounts of crap disguised as assets on its balance sheets, and even more crap off the sheets that soon will have to be moved onto the sheets. And are the banks setting aside capital to cover the inevitable write-downs? No, they’re buying helicopters and Hamptons houses.
If voters could vote on Obama’s financial appointments they way they can vote on Chris Dodd, Obama would be paging a lot of empty offices. For good reason.
Who killed Pat Robertson? Why, it was Lily Coyle, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2nd letter down), with a clue.
Freedom’s just another word for no one left to screw: Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd could be scrapping the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency before he goes.
Well, it’s a step: The U.S. releases the names of 645 detainees at Bagram. Good. But some of those people have been held for years without even being told why. Not good.
PhrMA theatens to blow up health-care reform. A friend of mine has proposed that any attempt to make a profit off health care should be made a crime. I think that’s extreme, but when stuff like this happens, I understand the anger that gives rise to such suggestions.
Dawn Johnsen might say torture is illegal. Therefore, she cannot possibly be allowed to run Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, or else the terrorists win.
Memo to special prosecutor John Durham: In the marathon investigation of the destruction of CIA torture videos, the DFHs are eating your lunch. Bet they aren’t charging the government as much as you, too.
All of a sudden, “conservatives” are in favor of privacy. And it’s interesting how the kind of privacy they favor dovetails neatly with protecting them from being held accountable for their actions. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
If you’re following Perez v. Schwarzenegger and it sounds awfully like Dover v. Kitzmiller, well, there’s a reason for that: In both cases, science is/was under siege. Science won in Dover. Let’s see what happens in Perez.
Republicans, having fed off the productive among us for so long, are now simply outraged that one of their own is doing it to them. More specifically, their cynical selection of Michael Steele as national chairman to try to appeal to African American voters now means that even though he needs firing and is daring them to fire him, they can’t do it.
Why does Rush Limbaugh hate the troops? And why do the troops continue to air him on Armed Forces Radio when he hates them?
More map pr0n! Geocurrents has created a map blog tied to news events.
Thought for the day: Requiring drug tests for welfare recipients makes sense only if we also drug-test recipients of federal earthquake relief, tax credits and bank bailouts. Despite what you may have been told, your odds of getting into Heaven do NOT increase in direct proportion to the number of times you kick poor people.
“Never (annoy) a walrus.” Because if you do, the bucket is the least of your problems.
Friday, January 15, 2010 7:15 pm
The Fort Hood Shootings: DOD’s official report, out today. Haven’t had time to read it.
But Fox News is cracking down on inaccuracy! Really!: The author of a study that Fox claims proves we’re entering a “mini ice age” says, “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.”
Relatedly, global-warming denialism is becoming (surprise!) big business.
The Politico has a scoop! “GOP leaders have privately settled on a strategy to win back the House by putting the vast majority of their money and energy into attacking Democrats — and turning this election into a national referendum on the party in power.” Because Wow! They’ve never done that before! [headdesk]
“I want uninterrupted expertise.” Who cares what the public thinks?
For God’s sake, no one tell David Broder: The public thinks bipartisanship is less important than principles. Richard Burr gets this. Does Kay Hagan?
The National Center for Counterterrorism? Has serious problems.
Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Plan: The Pentagon is preparing for the likelihood that DADT will be repealed. Good. Whether they like it or not, Obama certainly campaigned on repeal, so they at least ought to be prepared.
If Joe Lieberman doesn’t like being called “untrustworthy,” maybe he should stop acting, you know, untrustworthy. Because otherwise, a blog not predisposed to liking Joe very much might throw an impromptu contest to see who can come up with the best synonym for “untrustworthy” (oh, so NSFW), and that would be simply awful.
“The costs of imprecision” are staggering and growing.
One of history’s biggest arguments, settled. (I win.) (h/t: Fred)
ZOMG! Real-life “Calvin & Hobbes” snowmen!
Reason No. 4,298 why I love FailBlog (h/t Jill, who had to be a student in sex-ed classes taught by her mom at both school AND church, which must be, like, a preadolescent’s worst nightmare):
Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:57 pm
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 8:31 pm
You may or may not know the name of Ahmed Fadaam from his work with WUNC-FM’s “The Story.”
I decided to apply [for refugee status] for myself and then, and after my application is approved, I could ask to be reunited with my family. But the big surprise was that none of the immigration lawyers I met knew anything about this special visa program, and if I want to apply for refugee status, then I had to do it just like any other alien who has entered the States and wants to stay. If I wanted to make use of the special resettlement program, then I had to do it from outside the States. And this didn’t make any sense.
The lawyer also told me that it will take me at least three to five months after filing my application to get a temporary working permit, and maybe another six to eight months before my application is approved. Then I can ask for a reunion with my family and that could take another year.
This meant that I could not work or make a living. I had already spent a year away from my family and, according to the lawyer, it would take me another year or two before I can get to see them again. My financial resources are limited and I will not last for long here considering that I’m supporting myself and my family, too.
So the best way for me to make a living and be with my family is to get back home, go back to the war zone, and live under continued threat.
But how long will it take before I am spotted again? How long will I have before I get killed? Either way, I risk being apart from my wife and kids — by living in the States away from them or by going back to Iraq and getting killed. At least this way, I will get to see them before I die.
I have worked with a U.S. media outlet, hoping to tell the truth to the American people about the war and what really happened, and I was helped by the American people to get to the States, but I didn’t get any help from the American government or the American system.
And he is just one of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Iraqis who have put their lives on the line to help the U.S. in that country.
What, if anything, do we owe them? Must we help? Or should we just chalk it all up to the fact that freedom’s untidy?
Monday, January 12, 2009 10:45 pm
This one is sort of unusual, though: It appears to contain the remains of roughly 1,800 German men, women and children killed during the Red Army’s attack toward Berlin in 1944-45. Germans in the area had been ordered to evacuate ahead of the Soviet advance, but some never got the word and others simply couldn’t get out in time. (The site, now part of Poland, was part of Germany during World War II.)
At least 100 of the corpses had bullet holes in the skulls. It’s unclear how the rest might have died, although many could have been victims of a heavy Soviet artillery bombardment.
As it happens, one of the books I got for Christmas was Antony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945. One point it made repeatedly was that the Soviet Army committed many atrocities, including murder and rape, not only against Germans but also against Poles as Stalin plotted to solidify his western flank. Part of the reason was that the Soviets were seeking revenge for the way the Germans had treated the Soviet Union during their earlier attack on that country. And part of the reason was that the Red Army was just damnably undisciplined, containing large numbers of soldiers who would have committed atrocities even without the German example as a motivator.
The bigger picture is that the Berlin campaign was among the most savage in a war overflowing with savagery. I recall reading that somewhere between 16 million and 20 million soldiers were killed worldwide … and that the number of civilians killed was larger still. Entire regions, not just towns and cities, were reduced to rubble. Those of us who have grown up with Vietnam and the Gulf as the wars we can remember probably can scarcely imagine what that kind of total war was like.
Beevor is a good, if not flashy, writer. He appears to have written a number of books on World War II history, and after reading this one, the one I most want to read next is the one on Stalingrad.
Saturday, November 15, 2008 3:43 pm
I have a cousin about my age who is lucky several times over to be alive. For reasons that will become clear in a minute, I’m not going to identify him. But he’s in the hospital recovering from his latest brush with death. I talked to him for about 40 minutes last night, and for someone who has been in the hospital for five weeks and is likely to stay there about five more, he was in remarkably good spirits. You can be in remarkably good spirits when you darned near died. I know; it once happened to me. But that’s a story for another time.
My cousin might have been involved in earlier death-defying incidents, but the first one I recall took place the summer I was 14 and he was 15, just before I came up for a monthlong visit. He was messing around with firecrackers and had a big one — a big one — that wouldn’t light and wouldn’t light and wouldn’t light … until it went off right in his face. Some of the packing found its way into his eye, and he also had some bad burns. They thought at first he might lose the sight in the eye, but he got it back.
My cousin was a fairly accomplished scuba diver. So accomplished, in fact, that he wanted to dive in the deepest part of a (small) lake. The deepest part, of course, is near the dam. So he went near the dam. So near that he got sucked through the outlet, scuba gear and all, and went butt over teakettle into the rocky stream below. Amazingly, he wasn’t injured. He could have gotten stuck and drowned.
Then there was the time he was at a ski slope and decided to drive his Subaru down the expert course late one night. I can’t remember whether he ever told me why. Maybe he just wanted to see if he could do it. Long story short, he hit a tree (even 4-wheel-drive Subarus can lose traction). Luckily, he wasn’t going quite fast enough to be seriously injured.
Then there’s the current incident. He was up on his roof blowing leaves out of the gutter, something he had done dozens of times before. He needed a little more slack on the cord, which had gotten kind of stuck around one of the corners of the roof. So he gave it a little whip to try to get it unstuck. It got unstuck, but the whip that came back up the cord caused him to lose his balance.
“I thought two things,” he told me last night. “The first thing was, ‘This is not good.’ And the second thing was, ‘This is gonna hurt.’ And that was before I’d even cleared the eaves.”
He fell two stories to his asphalt driveway, shattering both heels and breaking both legs, an arm and a rib. His cell phone undamaged, he called 911. The same volunteer fire department of which he has been a member for more than 30 years was dispatched to help him. After 14 hours in the ER, he went to a room, where he has been since. The heels are the big problem: He can’t put any weight on them at all until they mend. And they take longer to mend than other bones. So there he lies with his feet in the air. He has had several surgeries, including two to deal with postoperative infections. Amazingly, he’s expected to recover fully and resume his active lifestyle.
Meanwhile, friends and family have stopped by and called, his next-door neighbor is keeping an eye on his house, he has his computer and the hospital has wifi, and he has more books than he’ll ever get to before discharge. He still has to pee into a bedpan, but the way he sees it (and the way I see it), things could be a heck of a lot worse. As he put it, “I could have been paralyzed. Or an organ donor.”
His sister told me she wondered if he had a death wish. I pondered that question, too. I think the answer is no, particularly in light of this latest incident, which strikes me as purely accidental.
But his case reminds me in a way of my brother Frank, who had the lousiest luck as a kid. Fifteen of us would be sliding down a muddy bank, and it would be his butt that found the buried pitchfork. We and all our friends played sandlot football; Frank was the one who broke a collarbone twice in six weeks. That kind of thing.
But in terms of cheating death, my cousin has him way beat. So now I’m wondering 1) whether his number is finally up, or 2) I need to get him to buy me a lottery ticket.
Friday, December 22, 2006 8:35 am
Before your next trip to the water fountain, or the sink, or to that little spout in your refrigerator door, just read this.
Thursday, November 23, 2006 11:21 pm
If not, this will give you at least two good reasons: the quality and character of our military, and the fact that, in all likelihood, your entire family hasn’t been assassinated by insurgents.
Saturday, November 11, 2006 5:42 pm
Monday, August 22, 2005 3:16 pm
Jesse Kornbluth at Belief.net, who has spent a great deal of time with parents who have lost children, has an opinion (scroll down to “On Losing a Child: How Should We Feel About Cindy Sheehan?”):
If you have a shred of imagination and compassion, you realize that Mrs. Sheehan is in the middle of a trauma that will last all the days of her life, and you will be glad that you are going to sleep in the comfort of your own bed tonight instead of a motel room in Texas. Which is to say: You will cut her some slack. How much? All you have to give. Because she’s in the grip of emotions that are off the charts. She hurts more than — please God — you will ever know.Cindy Sheehan is a Compassion Test. Your willingness to support her in her grief — whatever your opinion of her politics — says volumes about your tolerance for people in pain who don’t remind you of yourself. Me, I think she can be strident. And, sometimes, wrong.
But, dammit, I admire her guts. …
When Jesus was crucified, Mary had a unique reason to grieve. So does Cindy Sheehan. So do all the mothers — on every side — who have lost children in this war. Give them respect. Stand aside. Lower your eyes. And if you have a tear left, for God’s sake and yours, shed it for these poor people who gave all and will get nothing back.
For better or worse, I see Cindy Sheehan as one citizen trying to ask the guy who ostensibly works for her the most important question anyone in America can ask anyone who works in government these days. It’s not only constitutional and legal, it is, in form at least, admirable. You don’t have to like her politics. (If you don’t, simply recall that Paula Jones took on Bill Clinton in much the same way.) Anything else that happens — the media feeding frenzy, the involvement of Michael Moore/MoveOn.org/invaders from Mars — is irrelevant to the merits of what she is trying to do.
And remember this: Even in a slow-news August, if anyone had had a good answer to her question, this story would have gone away quietly a long time ago.
Monday, December 27, 2004 11:15 pm
Sometimes — not often, sometimes not for years at a stretch, but sometimes — I think we Americans are the shallowest people on the planet.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004 12:18 pm
… because if you think you’ve got problems, you haven’t seen this.
Friday, August 6, 2004 9:49 pm
Rick “Super Freak” James, whose “Street Songs” album is surpassed only by certain P-Funk selections among the greatest funk albums of all time, is dead. What’s surprising is that he apparently died of natural causes. The man’s appetite for cocaine and its derivatives made Steve Tyler and Joe Perry look like Donnie and Marie.
Friday, June 11, 2004 9:41 pm
How in the hell did I miss this?
Rage over a zoning dispute turned to cold, calculated revenge as a Granby (Colo.) man in an armor-plated bulldozer went on a rampage of destruction in the town Friday afternoon that left 13 buildings damaged or destroyed and himself dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.Marvin Heemeyer, 52, the former owner of the Mountain View Muffler shop on the west side of Granby, took out his revenge over a longstanding dispute over the construction of the Mountain Parks Concrete batch plant. The town of Granby had approved its construction three years ago despite Heemeyer’s vehement objections and a failed lawsuit against the town over it.
In a 90-minute rampage, Heemeyer left a path of destruction through town Friday with a homemade “tank” that he had constructed from a D9 bulldozer. Heemeyer had secretly built his improvised “tank” in a metal shed adjacent to his muffler shop.
Such scenes usually are played for laughs in the movies. (I think “ER” had an episode this past season about a guy in a bulldozer, but I didn’t see it and don’t know how it was played.) But this guy was deadly serious — and it’s only luck or the grace of God that he didn’t kill anybody. In fact, if he’d set off a bomb or walked into one of the buildings and started shooting, instead, the outcome would’ve been much worse.
One of the guy’s targets was the newspaper office, which he’d have knocked down completely if he hadn’t run into the corner where the printing press was bolted to the floor. Apparently he was angry about critical articles the paper had published about him.
Friday, April 23, 2004 1:30 pm
A friend writes: “Because some friend of [my daughter's] backed out at the last minute, I’m stuck with a $60 ticket to Kenny Chesney. Because I’m too freakin’ cheap to waste it means I’m going to Kenny Chesney tonight.
“Tell me again your evidence that God exists.”
Thursday, April 22, 2004 8:50 pm
Earlier this week was the fifth anniversary of the mass killing at Columbine High School in Colorado by two teens, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the worst school shooting in history.
We “learned” a lot about them and the crime in the weeks and months afterward … most of which, it now seems, was wrong. In particular, Dave Cullen writes in this scary, fascinating article on Slate, we know these important things:
- The shooting was never intended to be the worst “school shooting” in history. In fact, it was intended to be, and almost became, among the biggest mass murders in history.
- The killers were not depressed outcasts, taking revenge for the abuse inflicted upon them by their social betters. In fact, Eric Harris was a psychopath (the term, unfortunately, is never defined in one place in the article, but it’s discussed enough to make clear that the meaning probably isn’t what you think) who probably bullied the more depressed but also more empathic Klebold into joining him in what he saw as self-aggrandizement via slaughter: “Harris was not a wayward boy who could have been rescued. Harris, [psychologists on the case] believe, was irretrievable. He was a brilliant killer without a conscience, searching for the most diabolical scheme imaginable.”
The case contains only the grimmest of silver linings: “If [Harris] had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.”
It’s unpleasant, but probably essential, reading.
Sunday, April 11, 2004 9:20 pm
One of the many reasons I’ve stayed a Christian my whole life is that I’m all for a deity Who, despite provocation, refuses to judge you only by your mistakes.
Thursday, April 1, 2004 6:03 pm
I remember the day Chernobyl happened.
I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in April of 1986. I had come home close to 11 p.m. after a day that began at 5 a.m., and I had nothing more on my mind than mixing myself a screwdriver, reading for a few minutes to wind down and then going to bed. But the glass half-gallon bottle of orange juice slipped out of my hands. I got my hands under it, which turned out to be a mistake because just as it hit my hands, my hands hit the floor, and the force was enough to shatter the bottle. This had two results: My palms were filled with dozens of fragments of glass, and stinging orange juice immediately got into the wounds.
The pain was sublime. The only pain I can recall that was worse was in eighth grade, when stitches were being removed from the places on the first three fingers of my left hand where my nails used to be. I nearly fainted during that. Anyway.
I gingerly wrapped a clean rag around each hand and drove myself to the emergency room, steering mostly, and not too precisely, with my elbows and forearms. When I got there I learned that a gunshot victim and a couple of wreck victims had gotten there ahead of me and that I should have a seat and make myself comfortable.
So to speak.
So I’m sitting in the ER, looking up at the TV, and “Nightline” comes on and it’s all about Chernobyl. Gee, I remember thinking, if we’re all gonna die maybe I shouldn’t even bother getting stitched up.
Of course, I did, and after not all that much time I and pretty much everyone else forgot about Chernobyl. Well, everyone except the people who have to live with it, one of whom recently took a motorcycle ride through the area and posted a bunch of photos and commentary. It’s pretty sobering.
(Thanks to Tony for the link.)
Thursday, December 25, 2003 10:57 am
After delivering the goodies and consuming the cookies and milk left for him, Santa — or at least the one who delivered the toys at our house — had to get up at 3 a.m. to take some antacids. When he returned, he found, to his mild annoyance, that both children had gotten into bed with him and Mrs. Claus. But there was nothing to be done for it.
The toys were big hits this morning. H. loves his Thomas the Tank Engine set — indeed, so much so that I no longer suspect him of having ADHD, because he has been enraptured with it for nigh on four straight hours now. V. was enthusiastic about her baby-doll bath/bed/feeding set, but she seemed just as enthusiastic about digging out from under the tree the present she had made for Mommy and Daddy, a piece of handmade Christmas artwork. Mrs. Claus was pretty darned enthused about her own gift — the second season of “Star Trek: Next Gen” on DVD.
We’ll be doing a roast for dinner — we’re pretty much turkeyed out — and then it’s back to the salt mines tomorrow for at least one of us. But today is a good Christmas, a delightful Christmas, in our house. Would that it were everywhere else.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003 8:10 pm
Not being a regular on Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s campaign blog, I didn’t know Dean had a brother named Charlie who’d been missing in Laos since 1974. But he does, and apparently Charlie’s remains have been found and soon will be returned to the U.S.
I hope and trust that that is of at least some small comfort to the Dean family, and I wish similar comfort to the families of all who remain missing.
Sunday, August 31, 2003 7:55 pm
You know, I try very hard not to be the white-trash Southern stereotype, but sometimes there’s just no escapin’ your roots
I’m sitting at the dinner table this evening, eating pork chops (Well, OK, pork tenderloin. Still.), fried apples and corn on the cob and I look up to see that my son has shut himself in the pantry, my daughter’s trying to blow up the microwave and my mother-in-law is eating leather.