A Short Rant…

Episode Eight | The Vietnam War

I was channel surfing earlier this afternoon and stumbled across Ken Burns’ Ep 8 of his Vietnam War series on a local PBS channel.

And while I have seen the series through a couple times and have spent 45+ years studying and researching this era, the scenes in this documentary and the sounds and the music never fail to bring me to tears.

I remember this era well, even though I was a bit too young to participate fully. I remember my older brother and his friends being nervous and worried about these events (’68-’69). I remember watching Cronkite on the evening news with my parents and my brother. I remember the scenes of the fighting (America’s 1st televised war). I remember the fear, anger, sorrow.

I remember it all. Do you? Those of you who were the members of this truly fucked (and maybe a bit blessed) generation (b. ’45 – ’55 or so)…

DO YOU REMEMBER?

I’m pretty sure you do. It’s a difficult thing to forget. I’ve studied this era so deeply over the decades because it has always amazed me how it came about, what transpired, how poorly the U.S. dealt with this. Even after all this time, it still completely astounds me how this happened.

And sadly, I continue to see these same mistakes being made by my country over the years since this time. I still see young men and women going to places thousands of miles from home to fight and kill and die… for what? For noble causes? To protect our allies? Because we were attacked in our own country? I don’t think so.

Look around you today… right this minute and ask yourself:

Is it any different now? Have we made any progress? Or is it just same shit – different day/era? When are we going to finally wake up and realize that this is all such BULLSHIT? Of course, being a student of military history, which basically means human history, I can’t see any improvements other than those which have provided the means to bullshit the masses with more ease and kill the “enemies” with more precision and effect.

It’s a sad fuckin’ state of affairs, folks. It really is.

/rant off

Four dead in Ohio ~Neil Young – Ohio

Greed KILLS!

On tonight’s 60 Minutes (12 April 2020) they interviewed a doctor and a nurse working up close and personal in an NYC hospital right now. The fact that the U.S. cannot supply its own healthcare workers and citizens with necessary medical supplies and medications is the fault of GREED, plain and simple.

BIG CORP aided by greasing the palms of Senators and Representatives of the U.S. Congress and others in high places, have managed over the last 25-35 years or so to move nearly ALL production of consumer goods to overseas manufacturers who use slave labor and tyrannical oversight to provide the U.S. with cheap, low-quality goods.

This country needs to learn a lesson from this. The U.S. needs to bring manufacturing back to this country; particularly for necessary items for our health, safety, and security. The citizens of this once-great country need to RISE UP and DEMAND that this trend is reversed and corrected. However, we’ve all become addicted to cheap shit in our stores, so what’s the solution here? I wish I knew…

I’m ANGRY! YOU damned well ought to be, too.

GREED IS KILLING US ALL…

… while enriching beyond their wildest dreams those 1% motherfuckers who control 99% of this country’s wealth. Think about this. Think about it well the next time you support these companies (and the men who control them) that stock their shelves with cheap imported garbage. We are part of the problem. Sadly, when you work your asses off for chicken shit wages, the cheap imported shit is all you can afford. It’s a vicious cycle. There was a reason unions became popular. Unfortunately, many of those unions also became corrupt and forgot their prime directive: helping the workers to not be abused and misused.

And it’s NOT a Republican/Democrat thing. They’re all thieving, lying bastards. It’s OUR fault ultimately; the people governed by these toadies of the oligarchs and plutocrats in control of this country.

I find myself saying this more and more often:

WAKE THE FUCK UP, AMERICA!

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Johnny Got His GunJohnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read many books in my life, as most of you reading this have. I can honestly say here that this particular book was probably the most unique story and style of writing that I’ve seen.

As far as what this book was about… Well, I’ll ask you couple questions:

  • Do you feel that wars serve a noble purpose?
  • Do you think that young men and women should lose their lives for noble purposes like freedom, liberty, mankind, $$$ for the #MIC, pride of corps, oil, etc.?

Well, you need to read this book and then see how your opinions might change.

Oh, and have some tissues handy.

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The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli – a Review

The Order of TimeThe Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me begin this review by saying a couple things…

Firstly, I’ve been interested in Physics since I was a wee lad in the ’60s. My neighbor, who was also my godfather, had a Ph.D. in Physics. He was also a career teacher. He was always spinning yarns about Einstein, Newton and the amazing current events going on in Physics and Cosmology back then. He gave me a copy of Sagan’s Cosmos when I was about 17 years old. He had also given me a few other books on stars, planets, etc. when I was a child. This spurred my lifelong interest in Physics and related sciences.

That being said, throughout my studies of Physics all these years, there is one thing that has always astounded and amazed me; that is the concept of time. I’ve read many books and papers on past and current theories purporting to explain the phenomenon of time; none were definitive, all were very interesting, though.

On the back of the edition that I’m reading there are some remarks from reviewers here and there. One that really is accurate is this one:

Some physicists, mind you, not many of them, are physicists-poets. They see the world or, more adequately, physical reality, as a lyrical narrative written in some hidden code that the human mind can decipher. Carlo Rovelli, the Italian physicist and author, is one of them. –NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos & Culture

I could not agree more with this statement. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Even if it had been about horse racing or organic farming, I believe I would have enjoyed it because of Rovelli’s manner of writing. He may be a physicist, but he could easily have made a living, probably a better one, as an artist, writer, performer, etc.

This is a small book, but it has a lot to say. It will definitely make you think… or rethink your ideas about time. Rovelli briefly explains the current status of Physics’ views on time and then, in the second part of the book, he gently explains his view. The book is not a jumble of calculus and geometry. He writes for the everyday man/woman in this one. If you have a modicum of reading abilities and a little basis in high school science, you will be able to follow along just fine.

When I closed the back cover on this book, I was a bit surprise to experience the same regret (that it had ended) and joy that I often experience with the closing of the back cover on a really good novel. I think you’ll enjoy reading this book. If you have the slightest interest in the mystery of time on our plane of existence, I believe you will listen intently to what this man has to say. The 5-star rating I gave this one is as much a result of the quality of the writing as it is of the content.

I hope you’ll give this one a go.

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Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell – a brief review

Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted PlacesVisit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting read. The author’s rather wry sense of humor also added to the reading experience. As a “tourist” in some of the most polluted, destroyed, and/or radiated places on the planet, Blackwell still manages to see a bit of good in the humanity still inhabiting or working in these places.

This book is a bit of science, a bit of humor, and a good dollop of philosophy on life, human behavior, love, beauty, and feces. Read it. You’ll probably get a kick out of it. I’d actually like to meet this fellow Blackwell and sit down for a dinner and a few drinks with him. I’m pretty sure the conversation would be quite interesting.

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Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson – a review

Einstein: His Life and UniverseEinstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a remarkably well-written and well-researched biography of a truly remarkable man. I thought I knew Einstein pretty well from all the mini-bios in Physics books that I’ve read over the last 45 years or so, but no. There’s much, much more to the man behind E=MC2.

Isaacson will tell you an amazing story of this man’s life, loves, accomplishments, failures and foibles. Everyone knows who Einstein is; reading this book will let you peak into his world in a very intimate fashion. He was truly one-of-a-kind. It may be two or three more centuries before we see someone like him again.

Stephen Hawking, another remarkable man, edited a compendium called On the Shoulders of Giants: The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy. While Einstein did utilize these shoulders in his search for answers to the mysteries of the Universe, he reached a point where his view was unobstructed by fellow climbers on those shoulders. Einstein is now one of those Giants whose shoulders younger Physicists are scaling.

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Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age – a Review

Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear AgeFallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age by Fred Pearce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over the decades, I’ve read and studied much on the topic of nuclear weapons, nuclear power generation, and all the foibles and mishaps that have come with it. And yet, it STILL amazes me the absolute insanity and stupidity displayed by supposed intelligent human beings in governments, military organizations, and the sciences with regards to these things. It crosses all boundaries and borders; this tiresome tendency for humanity to either destroy itself or make a damned profit off something.

Read this book. You’ll learn a lot. You’ll be amazed. You’ll be shocked. You be disheartened.

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Atomic Accidents by James Mahaffey – a review

Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to FukushimaAtomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima by James Mahaffey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a surprisingly excellent read!

The author, while obviously extremely knowledgeable about nuclear Physics, also has a wry, satirical sense of humor that made me laugh out loud numerous times while reading this not-so-funny compendium of some of humanity’s greatest fuck-ups.

If you have any interest in these kind of events and the stories from the “nuclear age”, I cannot more strongly recommend this book. The science is worth the read alone, actually. I learned quite a bit more about nuclear power generation and weaponry than I previously knew. The author simplifies these highly technical aspects very well.

This is also a scary book; scary due to the possibilities. The ramifications of human error can often be a serious bitch to deal with. When you learn about the errors committed in these stories and realize that all this is still going on pretty much everywhere these days, it’s disconcerting. I’m not sure humans have learned their lessons yet.

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Stalin As Revolutionary/Stalin In Power – by Robt. C. Tucker, a review (2 books)

Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879 1929; A Study in History and PersonalityStalin as Revolutionary, 1879 1929; A Study in History and Personality by Robert C. Tucker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a very well researched and written history of Stalin’s initial years and involvement in the Revolution led by Lenin. If you have any interest in Stalin and the Marxist/Leninist movement of the early 20th century, this is a book you’ll want to read.

Sadly, the author planned a three volume series, but did not live long enough to publish the third volume.

Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 by Robert C. Tucker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone over 40 years old has probably heard of ol’ Joe Stalin, but do you really know him? Do you really know what kind of a man he was? For many years after WWII, no one outside of the U.S.S.R. really knew the true Stalin. And sadly, the majority within the U.S.S.R. didn’t know him either, really.

This book and its predecessor will lead you down the rabbit hole and into the surreal labyrinth of Stalin’s mind. It will show you how this man thought of himself and what motivated him to be one of history’s greatest monsters; rivaling, if not surpassing Hitler in his vile and vengeful narcissistic exploits.

We all know “Uncle Joe” was not the mellow, pipe-smoking benevolent Socialist leader that photographs often show. He was a psychopath of the 1st Order. Robt. C. Tucker will enlighten you with regards to Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili. You will see a true monster come to life in these pages.

Some of Stalin’s “accomplishments”:

– He managed to totally upend Lenin’s interpretation of Engels’ and Marx’ philosophy regarding Socialism and usurp it to his own ends as perceived by his twisted mind.

– In the process, he, through fear and intimidation (not directly, but through his minions) managed to gain total autocratic power in the U.S.S.R by the 1930s.

– Having attained unquestioned supremacy, he then went about seeking vengeance against any and all who had ever in any way offended his sterling heroic sense of self.

– In The Great Purge (AKA Stalin’s Reign of Terror) of the 1930s (peaking in ’39), Stalin managed to eliminate millions of Soviet citizens; mostly old Bolshevik cohorts, top government officials, top military officials, and countless friends, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances of the aforementioned.

– While the purging went on, Stalin even managed to remain blameless. The lower classes (peasants, laborers, etc.) still thought of him as Lenin’s disciple and the man who brought Russia and the other Soviets together in one harmonious socialist dream world.

– In later years, Stalin made sure, often by writing/editing them himself, that all the histories and his biographies of the Revolution, Russia, and Stalin were exactly as he saw them in his own mind. He influenced education, literature, dramatic arts, movie making, and general culture of the U.S.S.R. to reflect his vision… his dream… his twisted version of history and his part in it.

It’s truly difficult to understand how Stalin managed to do this. Fear is a very, very serious motivator. I’m not talking fear of a spider or fear of catching the flu. I’m talking about absolute dread; the ultimate fear for your life and the lives of all those you love. This is what motivated many, many prisoners in Stalin’s NKVD headquarters to confess to outrageous crimes against the State. This is what motivated these same prisoners to denounce friends and coworkers by the millions as being conspirators in these crimes. It’s truly mind blowing how this all occurred.

If you have any interest in history and understand George Santayana’s oft-quoted warning, you should read these books by Tucker. I assure you that you will learn a thing or two and scratch your head quite often in wonder. You might even see parallels in our current world.

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Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg – a Review

This was previously published on GoodReads…

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon PapersSecrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As many of you know from reading my reviews, I have an affinity for historical books from the Vietnam War era. This is because this was “my” war. This was the terrifying event that was happening on the evening news when I was a kid. This is because of the fear my parents had regarding my draft-age brother in 1969. It was these and many other things that make it “my” war; including the excellent music from that era. Rock & Roll had something to say. It said it LOUDLY! What it was saying was that this war SUCKED. It was WRONG. I agreed then and I still do.

As I’ve aged and gained that experience and wisdom that you usually don’t manage to get till you’re too old to use it, I’ve learned just how wrong and insanely stupid this war really was. I’ve also learned how government run amok can get a country into a wasted effort such as this and continue to maintain that country’s presence on the battlefields along with all the useless death that entails.

The man who wrote this book I’m reviewing here is nothing less than a National Hero. I hope history is kind to him and convinces everyone that what I state is true. This man decided that he had to stop this inane war even if it caused harm to his family, friends, future job prospects; even if it put him behind bars for life. He realized just how wrong this war was and how terribly wrong those in the government were for using all means legal or not to continue the useless killing of U.S. soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, etc.; how wrong it was to continue the killing of many innocent civilians in South and North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

If you’re the least bit curious how government works behind closed doors, or the least bit curious how Donald Trump’s White House may be handling foreign affairs and even domestic ones, then you should read this book. Ellsberg was a deep insider for many years as a consultant with the Rand Corp. and as an actual government employee at times. He knows how government works; particularly how the Executive Branch of this government (the U.S.) lies, manipulates, threatens, and sucks up in order to get its agenda pushed through to fruition.

You’ll learn about how the Eisenhower administration did it. You see how the Kennedy administration continued down the same paths. You’ll see how Johnson was just a further continuation of the previous two administrations. You’ll see how an opposing president (Nixon – Republican) did everything in what he assumed was his vast kingly powers to continue down the same road the three previous Democratic administrations had trod. You’ll be amazed at all these administrations’ lack of compassion or regrets regarding all the dead, wounded, and maimed (physically and mentally) that they created by pursuing their goals in this unbelievably complex war in a small Southeast Asian country.

Ellsberg did not feel that presidents should have unlimited powers to engage a country in wars such as this without the knowledge of that country’s own elected officials (Congress) or, more importantly, it’s own citizens. Yet, this is exactly what happened during that era; through four separate administrations. The deceit and secretiveness of those pursuing these goals was criminal. And sadly, I believe this still goes on today, 50 years later.

Read this book. It’s as pertinent to current times as it was for the Vietnam War era. It will make you think. This is its purpose. It may also make you think about others who’ve tried to raise the alarm in recent years… WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden. I believe their day of vindication is coming.

The U.S. Constitution starts by saying,

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Notice first three words in bold type. It does NOT say we the Executive Branch or we the Congress or we the Justice Department. It says We the People. The insidious creeping that has robbed the People of their government and country should be reversed and forever erased. Only We the People can make this happen. Wake up!

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