Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Electoral College Breakdown

Here's my Electoral College Breakdown, with predictions, best and worst case scenarios and thoughts. Infinite thanks go to dalythoughts.com, easily the best EC tracking site on the web, and the source for most of my information and insight.

The basics:
Bush has 153 votes locked up (ID, WY, AK, NE, KY, ND, MT, IN, OK, UT, KS, AL, TX, MS, SD, TN, LA, SC, GA).
Kerry has 84 votes in the bank (DC, MA, RI, NY, VT, MD, IL).

Bush has 65 votes that are very likely to go his way (WV, VA, AR, NC, MO, AZ, NV).
Kerry has 102 votes that are very likely to be in his column (DE, CT, ME-3 of 4, WA, CA, OR, NJ).

So, before we start, we can safely assume, barring catastrophe for either candidate, that Bush will get at least 218 EVs, and Kerry 185. That leaves 135 EVs that the two candidates are fighting over. So, if everything goes Bush's way from now until Tuesday night, he wins 353-185. Conversely, if everything goes for Kerry, he wins 320-218. Translation: there will be no landslide like we saw in 1988, 1984, 1972 or 1964.

Since Bush starts with 218 in the bank, he's got more ways to win the election. He just needs to get 52 of the remaining 135 votes to win. What's more, a tied election would go to the House of Representatives, which would likely mean a Bush victory. The easiest way to get that 52 would be by winning CO, FL, IA, NM, (he's ahead in all those states, though not by a large margin) and then one of HI, WI, MN, OH, all of which are just about dead even.

Notable is this: conventional wisdom stated that whoever won two out of OH, FL and PA would win the election. There's an excellent chance that Bush could win just one of those and be elected. Theoretically, Bush could lose all three and still win the election by winning CO, IA, NM, MI and some combo of WI/MN and HI/NH. Of course, if Bush loses all three of those states, there's probably a good reason for it, and one that would prevent him from picking up much elsewhere. Michigan has been more favorable to Kerry than Ohio, Penn. and Florida for the entire campaign, so it's unlikely to make a sudden shift to the right if those states have gone for the Senator.

Kerry obviously has a tougher road to hoe, owing to the fact that he has less votes to count on. His count of 185 means that he must pick up 85 more to win the election. PA, MI and NH are slightly in his favor right now, as is Maine's 2nd district (Kerry will likely win the state, and it's first district, but the second is up for grabs). Adding those to his count of 185 gives him a total of 228. Kerry's best chance to win is to take HI, MN, WI and OH, giving him 272. If Kerry fails to win Ohio, he has to take Florida, else he will lose.

Thus, Bush can win by taking just one of the Big Three, but Kerry must take two.

My prediction, then, is this: Bush wins the election 296-242. In the end, the 2004 map looks the same as 2000, except that NH finally conforms to the rest of the northeast, while NM conforms to the rest of the Western/Great Plains states. WI goes to Bush, further muddying the midwest, which is increasingly the only region of the country that isn't completely polarized.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Uh-oh...

As I write this, the Red Sox are 9 outs from the World Series title.

On a completely unrelated note, four random travellers on pale horses just stopped at my house, asking for directions to St. Louis. They seemed nice enough, if a little creepy. I believe they introduced themselves as War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.

Now warming up in the bullpen: the Archangel Gabriel.

I Want to be a TV Writer, too!

So what's the minimum requirement for being a television writer? As far as I can tell, there are two:
1. a pulse.
2. an IQ of at least 40.

CSI has come dangerously close to "Simpsons" and "24" territory on the list of my favorite shows, but some of the writing leaves me smacking my head in disbelief. There was, for example, the time they investigated a possible homicide during a hockey game, and Det. Brass and Gil Grissom had this exchange:

Brass: Hockey's a rough game.
Grissom: Yeah. It's murder.

Oy gevalt.

Or there was the time that Grissom tried to pose as a homeless guy. His disguise consisted of turning up the collar on his $200 jacket and taking off his $50 gloves. Smooth, Gil.

But the one that absolutely took the cake was this: Grissom and Catherine Willows investigated a dead baby in a car's backseat. The baby died of extreme heat. When the CSI team showed up, a crowd of onlookers had gathered.

Grissom: I brought a blanket. I thought with all these lookie-loos here, we should treat the baby as though it's still alive.
Willows: Good thinking.
She proceeded to wrap the baby in the blanket, walk it over to a van, strap it on a stretcher and close the doors.

The doors said, in huge block letters, "CORONER".

My Long National Nightmare...

...is over.

After years of searching, I finally purchased the one throwback jersey I desperately wanted, and received it in the mail today. The jersey sported by the man who first made me a fan of the U of Miami, college football's greatest team over the last two decades. A lesser fan might have settled for the readily available Jim Kelly jersey, and believe me, I considered it. Now that he's retired, I've made my peace with Jimbo, who spoiled many a Miami Dolphin season. But not me; I went for the man who personified UM football for years. A man who was a jerk as a pro, obnoxious as a TV announcer and a complete failure as a human being. A man who admitted to freely cavorting with prostitutes, despite being married, and snorting mountains of coke. In the pros, he wore #88, but in my mind, the only number that counts is #47.

Michael Irvin, baby.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Musicians are dumb

So I'm watching TV yesterday, and U2's Bono starts his new song with "uno, dos, tres, catorce!" I'm pretty anal retentive, so I asked my wife for a second opinion on this. "Does it bother you that he just began a song by singing 'one, two, three, fourteen' as much as it bothers me?" She responded that it did seem kind of dopey and wondered why.

"Because Bono is as dumb as a shoe," I responded.
"What makes you say that?"
"Because, as a general rule, musicians are dumb unless proven otherwise."
"Well, his heart's in the right place."
"Very true. But his heart's not the issue here. His brain is. Bruce Springsteen is God, but he's also a guy with little more than a high school education."

I'm not entirely sure why this is. Actually, yes I am entirely sure. Musicians have the right, or "creative" side of their brain very well developed, frequently at the expense of the left, or "useful" side.

On an unrelated note, has anyone noticed that "Baba O'Riley" has replaced "The Star Spangled Banner" as our national anthem? It's everywhere now: it's the lead-in to CSI: New York, it's on HP ads, it's being played on ESPN highlight reels and as a lead-in to postseason baseball. I'm not complaining, mind you; "Baba O'Riley" is a great song, it's just getting a little overexposed. Then again, it seems The Who is everywhere. They're letting Fred Durst steal their stuff like a juvenile delinquent at 7-11. They're licensing their song catalog to CBS for use on every CSI series. Microsoft and beer companies are prominently using various Who tunes. I think the guys would start playing bar mitzvahs and weddings if you paid them enough.

Then again, this isn't a huge surprise. The Who made a long string of lousy business deals early in their career, and have been trying to recover ever since. In fact, most famous musicians make lousy deals, especially early in their careers. You know why?

Because musicians are dumb until proven otherwise.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

My World Series Prediction

Keeping in mind that my prognostication skills have been abysmal lately, I decided that maybe someone else in my household should make a pick. My wife would be the obvious choice, but she was sleeping at the time I wrote this, and isn't the most knowledgeable baseball fan to begin with. So, I opted for my cat, Phoebe. She chose the kitty treat on the post-it note that said "SOX" on it, and snubbed the one that said "CARDS". So there you go, the cat picked Boston to win the Series. Of course, she also picked the Panthers to win the Super Bowl last year.

Here's my World Series prediction, complete with breakdown...

Starting Pitching: Curt Schilling is the best pitcher in this series by a mile. But Schill is being held together with spit and bailing twine at this point, so much so that I wonder if his Willis Reed impression won't cause him to decline much as Reed did (he was never the same after that famous game; there's NEVER been a better example of an athlete giving his all for his team). But that's next year. After Schill, it's a crapshoot. At this point, I'm not prepared to say that Pedro Martinez is that much better than the Cards' four starters. Sounds silly, but look at the numbers. Tim Wakefield and Derek Lowe (his heroic Game 7 notwithstanding) are the two worst starters in the series, but again, not by a huge margin, given what we've seen in the postseason. Similarly, Jason Marquis and Matt Morris have been awful in the postseason, though they're better than that. If Chris Carpenter could pitch, that would be a huge help to the Cardinals, but it doesn't look like it will happen. So, one team has the best starter by a mile, and there's not a heck of a lot to separate the other 7. Gotta give the edge to the Red Sox.

Relief Pitching: Assuming Steve Kline is healthy, and he appears to be, the Cards have a real edge here. Kline and Ray King are both excellent lefties, which will come in handy considering that David Ortiz is carrying the Red Sox right now, and both he and Trot Nixon are lousy against southpaws. Johnny Damon is just bad enough to be a liability, but not bad enough to get pulled against a lefty. Foulke is a better closer than Isringhausen, but the rest of the Boston pen is definitely worse. Alan Embree and Mike Timlin are worse than Kline and Julian Tavarez, even if you never know when Tavarez is going to lose it. Bronson Arroyo and Kiko Calero are probably a wash.

Starting lineup: This will be fun to watch, since you've got two teams that win by whacking the ball around the yard. The Cards' lineup is more top heavy: Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen and Walker comprise the best Big Four that baseball has seen in a LONG time. The Red Sox are more balanced: there's not an easy out in the bunch. But for all you hear about that great lineup, they've got some stiffs. Mike Matheny is an easy out, and Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders are vastly overrated, as neither guy can get on base. Don't get me wrong, Sanders is very dangerous, and Renteria is just inconsistent enough to break loose with a huge game at any time. The Cardinals do have an advantage in that they better able to bunt and hit-and-run, and thus manufacture some runs when the big guns are struggling. In the end, a look at the numbers reveals the Sox' balance wins out: 949 runs in the regular season to 855. So, a slight edge to the Red Sox.

Defense: Boston's defense has improved a lot, but they still have liabilities at first base (when Ortiz plays) and left field (where can I buy "Manny Ramirez will make a catastrophic error" stock?), and Mark Bellhorn is subpar at second. The Cards are solid everywhere and have superstars at 3rd and CF. Shortstop is a wash, as both Cabrera and Renteria are plenty good. Matheny is probably better behind the plate than Varitek. Edge to the Cardinals.

Bench: I don't particularly like either bench. John Kerry claims to be a big Sox fan (you know, his favorite player was the legendary Red Sock Eddie Yost *snicker*), but he'd be much more comfortable with the Cardinals bench; they're all lefties. John Mabry and Ray Lankford are the two best pinch hitters, and somehow, Roger Cedeno has acquired an unjustified reputation as a weapon off the bench. Obviously I was watching a completely different player with the Mets, because the Cedeno I know is hopeless from the right side, barely adequate from the left, and is a horrible baserunner, despite good speed. The Sox have the criminally underused Dave Roberts and Doug Mirabelli, and a bunch of guys that are better as defensive subs, though Doug Mientkiewicz has come up big in the playoffs. Slight edge to the Sox, just because the Cards will have to start Mabry as a DH in Boston, while Kevin Millar comes off the bench in St. Lou.

Manager: Biggest mismatch of the series. Tony La Russa, Esq., is a Hall of Famer whenever he retires. That said, it's hard to talk too badly about any skipper who just steered his team back from a 3-0 deficit into the World Series....but I'll do it anyway. Terry Francona's bullpen decisions, in particular, defy explanation. Huge edge for the Cards.

Intangibles: NL teams usually have a slight World Series edge, in that pitchers have to hit in the NL park. That edge is increased in this series, since the Sox will have to put the defensively-inept Ortiz at first to keep his bat in the lineup. However, the Sox have an extra day of rest, and since both teams are coming off an emotionally and physically grueling series, that's enough for this to be a push.

The Pick: The Red Sox obviously have the best starting pitcher in the World Series. More often than not, that's proven to be enough. Inferior teams in recent memory that have ridden the "one best starter" to a title have included the '97 Marlins (Hernandez), '91 Twins (Morris), '88 Dodgers (Hershiser) and '87 Twins (Viola). Of course, it's debatable whether the Sox are the inferior team here. Take away Schilling, and the Cards are the better team, but not nearly to the disparity that those winners were. The '88 Dodgers, for example, didn't even belong on the same field with the A's (or the Mets, who they somehow beat in the NLCS, traumatizing me for years). The '95 Braves might be a better example; Tom Glavine was the best pitcher in the series (actually, the Braves probably had the 3 best starters in the series), but take him away, and the two teams were still pretty evenly matched.

My thinking is this: if Schilling was healthy enough to pitch so well in Game 6 against the Yankees, he's healthy enough to give Boston two good starts in the World Series. Without something to counter the big advantage that #38 gives the Sox, it's hard to pick St. Louis in this series. The Curse comes to an end. Sox in 7.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Cards or Sox?

I'm torn, I really am.

This is the first World Series since 2000 that I've had serious interest. The last three years have featured various combinations of teams I loathe (Yankees), teams that don't deserve to be World Champs (Marlins, Diamondbacks), and teams about whom I'm completely ambivalent (Giants, Angels). But the Cardinals and the Red Sox? Now THOSE are two teams you can get behind.

On the one side, the Cardinals are the National League team. As an NL fan and a hater of AL baseball, that's a big edge for them. The Cardinals also have the best fans in baseball. Yes, they do.

On the other, the Red Sox have 86 years of misery and heartbreak that anyone with a soul (i.e. not a Yankees fan) has to have some sympathy for them. They also took down the hated Yankees and have arguably the most likeable group of players in baseball.

The Cardinals haven't won a Series in 22 years, but you never hear their fans bitch like they're entitled to one. They got jobbed in '85 on Don Denkinger's call, and got sucker-punched in '87 by the Twins, quite possibly the worst team ever to win a World Series (it's almost certainly them or the '88 Dodgers).

The Sox don't have a bonehead reliever who cares so little about his team that he breaks his hand punching the clubhouse wall. Instead, they've got Curt Schilling and his 10-pound, cast-iron testicles.

The Cardinals have Tony La Russa running the show. La Russa is the "savant" to Terry Francona's "idiot".

I have several friends that are Sox fans, but just one that pulls for the Cards.

I guess we'll just see how the emotions are running with the first pitch of Game 1.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Wellington vs. Lee

It's been a lousy week any way you slice it. Last week I landed in my boss's doghouse. This week, I caught hell from HER boss. At this rate, I figure it's about a month or so until I piss off the CEO. On the plus side, on the off chance I make it to my performance review without getting fired, I can always write "got the attention of higher management".

All this, of course, was on top of working like a dog at my job(s) and helping my wife with a bunch of paperwork for her job. Yuck. Anyway, that's why this is the first blog entry of the week....on Saturday.

Anyway, my buddy Ron and I had a long exchange about a comment I made that Lee was selfish, at least compared to Wellington. I thought it was interesting, and I'm starved for some material, so here it is...

Ron:
You make a point that I would like to challenge in two parts. The second challenge is based partly on information I do not have. However, you deserve of me my best effort given certain constraints. The points in question:
1. Lee was selfish. 2. Lee was selfish in comparison to Wellington.

I challenge the logic of characterizing Lee as "selfish" in his decision NOT to lead the Army of the Potomac in your comparison between he and Wellington. Although I do not know if Wellington was *selfish* in this regard, I hold that Lee was not. Given this, I will leave room for the possibility of accuracy and appropriate shading in a statement such as, "Wellington was comparably selfless by comparison." This leaves room for both men to be selfless. However, "Lee was selfish by comparison" leaves no such room and decry's Lee as selfish.

That said, consideration some known incentives and the decisions of the actors cause me to question even the conclusion that Wellington could possibly be the more selfless of the pair. Caveat: I know of Wellington only that which you stated in your blog - Therefore, you can take that into account when considering the amount of salt that should go with this second challenge. However, Lee I know something more about and shall use what I know to provide you with some reason to doubt your insinuation that Lee was selfish in his refusal to lead the Army of the Potomac.

Wellington: Irishman that fought for England regardless of England's oppression of his people, (the Irish.)
Lee: Virginian who fought against the United States because Virginia considered itself likely to be oppressed by the United States.

Wellington: Gained much personally for fighting with the English. (I assume that his personal fortunes seemed brighter to him when deciding to side with the English instead of fighting against them.)
Lee: Lost much personally for fighting with the US. (Arlington National Cemetery is on the Lee family estate - That was well within the control of the Army of the Potomac. I assume that his personal fortunes seemed much bleaker to him when deciding to fight against the US instead of siding with them.)

Wellington: Knowing what I know of Wellington (again, admittedly little), I think that he decided to side with his people's oppressor knowing that he would be likely to gain great personal benefit. (However, I submit to your knowledge of the man. For all I know, it may have been a selfless, and comparably risky, decision on his part.)
Lee: Knowing what I know of Lee, I think that he decided to side against what he considered to be his people's likely oppressor knowing that he would bear great personal cost.

Phunwin:
My point about Lee was that he was selfish for choosing his state over his country. Of course, the Civil War was partly about states' rights vs. federal rights, so a choice that seems ludicrous today was legitimate 143 years ago.
But, since you put the argument as you do: Lee had a tremendous amount to gain from a Confederate victory, and in fact, did. If he commanded the Army of the Potomac (and chosen his country over his state), he likely would have crushed the rebellion in 1861. Remember that Confederate victories in the East from 1861-2 was largely due to inept Union generalship in comparison to Lee and Jackson. The Union had more money, more men, and more supplies. A great general like Lee would have seized upon this advantage and crushed the Confederates. Union victory with Lee as commander of the Army of the Potomac would likely have left him remembered as a fine commander, maybe a military governor, and no more. Lincoln probably doesn't get shot by J.W. Booth, and serves two terms in office, then gives way to a peacetime-type president who can heal the divide between the two sides, i.e. not Lee.
But Confederate victory with Lee at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia would have made him hero and savior to millions. He probably would have expanded his family land and wealth at the expense of the Union, through massive war reparations. And he surely would have been elected President of the Confederacy. Remember also that when we think of the Union, Lincoln is the dominant personality. On the Confederate side, it's Lee, not Jeff Davis. In valiantly leading what was probably a lost cause from the start, history also remembers Lee far more favorably. He's remembered as the greatest general of the Civil War...despite the fact that Grant whipped his ass. I don't know how much of this was on Lee's mind. But I do know that he had a lot more to gain as a Confederate general than as a Union general. So, from that POV, the choice was a selfish one.

Ron:
I would like to take issue with your points, simply as a matter of perspectives and what could have been. Particularly in terms of foresight and hindsight. Lee may have had the former, but we must rely on the latter to conclude that he knew the nature of what was to come. The points about glory and quick, non-eventful wars could have gone either way, at least as far as Lee and his Southern contemporaries could have seen it. (i.e."The North, without Generals, may not fight." OR "The South, faced with overwhelming manpower lead by Lee, may capitulate.") More land: Unlikely. At that point the war was to secede. Taking the historical perspective, at least of what I know, The South was not about to strike in order to take land. They were fixin' to hold their ground -nothing more. Lee could not have known that there was a likelihood of getting to Gettysburg, if he had even known the name (such as we do with hindsight.) Leadership and Place in History: Even then, people knew that war service got you on the front page and, if you so desire, into the Whitehouse. (e.g. Washington, Harrison with "Tippecanoe and Tyler too!", and Andrew Jackson.) If Lee wanted it, he could have had it, and he would have known it. So either way he went, he was likely to be a hero to one side or another. Continued: Lincoln as the Central Figure - He would have been overshadowed by, or at least sharing the spotlight with Lee. One of the major features of Lincoln as wartime leader is the lacking of a skilled officer corps, particularly generals. It is a very, shall we say, romantic feature of the story. Had Lee been with him, it would have been a much different story - But back to shading this with my main point, there is no way that Lee could have known that Lincoln and Lee would be the dominant figures, whether or not Lee sided with the Union. Lastly, Lee was unlikely to know for sure that the North was actually going to wage a full-scale war.

(Since this is my blog, I get the last word. That’s a nice advantage to have. I feel like Bill O’Reilly, only with manners.)
Phunwin:
I’ve got to take serious issue with the point that “The South was not about to strike in order to take land.” That completely flies in the face of what we know about Lee’s philosophy, which was, more or less, “attack, attack, and attack some more.” Lee was an extremely aggressive general, who knew that support for the war would wane in the North if Johnny Reb was marching on Union soil. Lee invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania for just this purpose, not to mention the less-recognized (and less-successful) campaign in Kentucky in 1961 and 1862 (I think Longstreet led that campaign, but can’t be sure). While the South wasn’t fighting a war of conquest, they certainly knew that popular support for the war would decline if the war was brought to Billy Yank’s doorstep.

However, I need to concede the point about Lee possibly becoming President of the U.S.A., had he led the Army of the Potomac. Though there’s a huge difference in Washington and Jackson’s victories, the fact remains that throughout the 1800’s, even generals in short campaigns gained office. My original point about Lee not gaining enough popularity and recognition for a quick Union victory fails in the face of examples like Zachary Taylor and William Harrison. Point for Ron.

Nevertheless, a victorious Confederacy surely would have been able to impose reparations on the Union, particularly if England and France intervened. They might have even gained some territory in the bargain, like Eastern Maryland, or the reunion of West Virginia to Virginia. And there can be no doubt that a lot of this would have found its way into Lee’s pockets. By contrast, Lincoln imposed no such conditions on the Confederacy after Appomattox. Grant did not come into a personal fortune because of victory.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Montgomery: overrated or underrated?

Bernard Montgomery might be the most controversial general of World War II. History has pretty much made its ruling on the other important generals. Rommel is widely regarded as a tactical genius, and rightly so. Patton is generally viewed as a sharp tactician who was a bit too full of himself. But Montgomery sparks the most divergent opinions of all. To Americans, Monty was a pompous ass whose abilities were vastly overrated. To the English, he's a national hero on the level of Lord Nelson or the Duke of Wellington. It merits mention that the Duke of Wellington was Irish. So, the greatest military hero in English history came from a brutally subjugated part of the Empire that was in a more or less constant state of rebellion for 700 years. I don't quite know what to do with that information, but it makes Robert E. Lee's refusal to command the Army of the Potomac a little selfish by comparison, don't you think? (More on that another time)

There's little doubt that Monty was, in fact, a pompous ass. And he thought the American army was just about worthless. That might explain why we Americans tend not to be fans of him. Furthermore, he moved excruciatingly slowly, and missed more than a few chances to shatter the Africa Korps. He refused to move without overwhelming superiority and almost comically detailed preparation. The idea of Montgomery travelling 100 miles in a couple days to relieve beleagured troops (as Patton did, coming to the rescue of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne) is laughable. In this regard, Monty was probably one big defeat away from being known as the George McClellan of World War II.

On the other hand, Monty was probably the best general for his troops. He was intelligent enough to understand Rommel's doctrine of concentrating tanks, and was one of the first Allied commanders to pick up on how important that was. He also understood that the English army was best equipped for a long, slug-it-out action, rather than the lightning-fast strikes the Germans would perfect. With ever-increasing advantages in men, material and supplies, Monty knew the Allies could afford a war of attrition far more than Germany could. Maybe Monty didn't gamble on chasing Rommel hither and yon because he felt he didn't HAVE to.

I'm torn about this. I tend to believe that if Monty had been more aggressive, the war might have been won sooner, and some of the catastrophes late in the war might have been averted, and thus hundreds of thousands of Jewish (and others the Germans branded as "undesirable") lives would have been spared. Not to mention many more Russian and German soldiers. Germany might have been united under Western control, and not been a divided country. However, a general's priority is to his troops, not to civilians thousands of miles away, and in any event, it's only in hindsight that Montgomery's dilatory manuvers proved to be costly. Who knows, maybe the Eighth Army would have been obliterated if Monty had moved more aggressively.

The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle. More than likely, Montgomery is a much better general than we Americans give him credit for, but probably not the St. George-esque figure of English mythology.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Our 33rd President: a short piece of historical fiction

Mr. Smith began his lecture to his 11th grade U.S. history class in the usual way. “Settle down, class,” he said. They were a reasonably well-behaved bunch, and did so. This was to be expected from honors-level students. They were attentive and interested, and so Smith had little trouble explaining some of the more detailed concepts of American history to them. For the last week and a half, they had been studying the Second World War.

“When last we left our heroes, they were planning the invasion of Normandy.” Smith tried to give an unvarnished account of the American side of the war, but with the grandparents of some of these students involved on one side, and a genocidal maniac on the other, it was hard not to infuse a little bit of subtle jingoism here and there. “At the time of the invasion of Western Europe, there were only three possible landing sites for the Allied forces. One was the Pas de Calais, the other was the Brittany coast, and the third was Normandy. The Germans felt that a landing at Calais was the most likely, since that was the closest to the jumping-off point from England. As such, they placed the bulk of their troops at that point. A much smaller force was stationed at Normandy.

“On the night of June 5, a tremendous storm rocked the Normandy coast. American paratroopers, who were supposed to be dropped behind the invasion site and secure the bridges for an advance, were dropped all over the place, and didn’t do much. What’s more, with all the drops around Normandy, without any near Pas de Calais, the Allies had given away the landing site. The Germans moved every available soldier, tank and piece of artillery to Normandy. The storm continued into the morning, rocking the high seas and making the preliminary aerial bombing and naval bombardment ineffective. This ensured that American, English and Canadian soldiers would be running headfirst into a buzzsaw. The first wave of troops to hit the shore were engineers and special forces, who were supposed to clear the mines and anti-tank traps. They were mowed down on sight. One unit, the 2d Rangers, lost every single man. As a result, most of the Allied tanks never hit the shore, and the troops that did were sitting ducks.”

“So, Mr. Smith, the troops were coming ashore and fighting tanks and artillery with rifles?”

“That’s correct. Allied casualties were immense. Because the first wave of troops was slaughtered and unable to make any headway, they had to call off the rest of the invasion. It was a spectacular failure. Remember at the beginning of this lesson how I told you that there were three American catastrophes in World War II? The first was Pearl Harbor, the second was Kasserine Pass, and Normandy was the third.”

“I hope someone got fired for that!”

“Yes, someone did get fired. That someone was Dwight Eisenhower, the commander of Allied forces in Europe. A lot of American generals had been critical of him from the beginning, so this was the icing on the cake. Eisenhower was fired, along with the rest of his top staff: Omar Bradley and Beetle Smith, and no, I don’t expect you to remember those names. I believe that England’s top commander, Harold Alexander, was re-assigned to India or some such place.”

“Who was the new American commander?”

"If you did your reading, you’d know. In any event, the new commander threw out the old plan. He reasoned that since the Germans were fighting the Soviet Union in the East, and they were prepared for another invasion in the north, an invasion from the south of France would work. It put them farther from where they wanted to be, but the commander thought they could land easier, and then sprint into the middle of Germany. To divert the German army’s attention, the Allies launched another large bombing campaign against Normandy, while they sent American troops from Algeria and Italy to the new invasion site. The gamble worked tremendously well. D-Day, the date of the invasion, was August 3, 1944, the Allies threw a huge force at the landing site and began moving northeast. By the time the Germans knew they’d been deceived, it was too late. The new commander was focused on conquering Germany. As a result, he ignored secondary objectives like liberating Paris, and concentrated on moving his tanks to Germany. The Allies didn’t meet much resistance, since so much of the German army was elsewhere.

“Remember how we talked about the invasion of France in 1940, and how the Germans concentrated on moving fast and concentrating their tanks at the important objectives? That’s what the Allies were doing in August 1944. They sent some troops northwest to occupy the Germans there, and cut off the most direct route to Berlin. But the bulk of the force was focused on a drive to the German capital. Paratroopers landed in Belgium, behind the main German force, and were able to make it a two-pronged assault. By January 1945, they were at the city gates. On January 18th, the Allies attacked Berlin, and within a week, the battle was won, with almost all the German command captured. What was left of the German government surrendered on February 1, 1945, which we remember as V-E Day.

“Why were we so focused on attacking Berlin?”

“For one, that was where the German command was located. By defeating them, the war was won. This was something the Allied commander understood; that you could go around an opposing army without attacking them, so long as you defeated their command. His predecessor, Eisenhower, didn’t think that way; he felt that you had to defeat the whole army, piece by piece. We also wanted to get to Berlin before the Soviets. The American and English occupation of Germany probably prevented the country from becoming part of the Soviet bloc, or at least divided between East and West. The American commander in Europe was openly threatening to rearm Germany and keep marching eastward. Some people think this is why the Soviets pulled their troops out of the Polish Republic and Hungary.”

With about a minute left in class, students began gathering their books and putting their pens and pencils away. Mr. Smith said, “okay, for next time, read pages 380 to 421. We’ll talk about the end of the war in Japan, and we’ll start discussing the presidency of George S. Patton.”

Saturday, October 02, 2004

An incomplete list of things that drive me nuts

So, since when did it become okay to be a complete jerk?

Seriously, is anyone else aggravated by these new McDonald’s ads? As my dad might say, these drive me right to distraction. An irritating, low-level, copy machine guy talks to himself, threatening imaginary strangers, all because he doesn’t want to share his lunch. This is supposed to make me want to buy their new product?

Of course, I’m typing this primarily for my own benefit, and being aggravated by imaginary strangers, which puts me maybe half a step above Chicken Select Guy. Nevertheless, here’s a partial list of random things that bother me:

* Corporate buzzwords like “networking”, “downsizing”, “rightsizing” and worst of all, “proactive”. I don’t know where proactive comes into it, since there’s already a word to describe the opposite of “reactive”. We call it “active”.

* The misuse of the apostrophe. My friend Jason is similarly aggravated by this one. Not every word that ends with the letter “s” requires an apostrophe! I have, however, given up all hope for the proper use of the apostrophe at the end of a noun ending with “s”. I was always taught that a column written by Bill Simmons was “Bill Simmons’s column.” But I saw a Supreme Court opinion that had it as “Simmons’”. I’m sure that’s wrong, but if Justice Scalia (or his clerk) writes it that way, it’s good enough for me.

* The NFL television policy. I can’t even discuss this without breaking things. Let’s just assume the NFL is trying to force every household in America to get Direct TV.

* Gil Grissom’s beard. Totally unnecessary, unless William Petersen is tired of being confused with brain-dead Rams coach Mike Martz. Come to think of it, maybe the beard isn’t so bad.

* Red Sox fans. “Pity whores” is a charitable term, at best. Just accept that God hates your baseball team, and move on with your life.

* Yankee fans. Obnoxious, rude, evil, more obnoxious, and frequently front-runners. “1918!” is not a particularly creative chant, by the way.

* Liberal vs. right-wing. This is one of those subtle tricks of language that people on the left side of the political spectrum like to use. “Right-wing” sounds more threatening than “conservative”. People on the right are “right-wing”. People on the left are “liberal”. It’s conservative vs. liberal, or right-wing vs. left-wing. Make a choice! Speaking of which, the other one that drives me nuts is pro-life vs. pro-choice. Most pro-lifers favor the death penalty and military action. That is, most pro-lifers are big fans of death on a large scale. Proponents of abortion on demand are no better: the “choice” of the prospective father of the child, and the parents of the mother carrying the baby are thoroughly irrelevant. Don’t even bother them with the “choice” of the unborn child; only one “choice” matters. Look, it’s pro-abortion vs. anti-abortion. Call it like it is, folks. What’s wrong with illustrating your position on the issue with clarity?

* Three football players lacking basic fundamentals. First, running backs who won’t put two hands on the ball when finishing a run. There are three guys tackling you at the same time, how much farther are you going to get with the ball? Put two hands on it, for crying out loud, before you fumble! Second, defensive backs who, after making an interception, run with the ball, carrying it as if it were a loaf of bread. You just got the ball for your team! Are you trying to give it back? Finally, any lineman (offensive or defensive, it doesn’t matter) who tries to pick up a fumble and run with it. Just fall on the damn football! Your hands are taped up so much that they look like a pair of Christmas hams! If you possessed any measure of manual dexterity, you’d be playing another position!

* People who park on busy streets and can’t limit themselves to one space. Ever happen across this one: there’s 20 feet of curb space between two driveways, and one car has managed to park in such a way that no one else can utilize it. My wife’s parents live on a busy street in Buffalo, and the people who park on the street can’t, or won’t, grasp the idea that other cars may need to park there. When I’m Czar of the World (note the use of “when”, rather than “if”; you’ve got to have goals), being rude to your fellow on-street parkers will be a death penalty offense.

* People who leave their shopping carts in the parking lot, rather than put them in the cart corrals. Actually, this doesn’t bother me, but my mother carries a .44 Magnum to dispense street justice to people who violate this tenet of decency. Okay, she doesn’t, but she’d like to.

Welcome! Bienvenido! Bienvenue! Wilkommen!

Welcome to my blog!
Without the time or desire to maintain my own web page, I needed some outlet to share my witty (*snicker*), insightful (*guffaw*) rantings and ramblings.

Visitors to my page can expect some thoughts on politics, news, sports and the occasional short story (sorry, no poetry), without any particular rhyme or reason.